Jurassic Tech: Toshiba T1000 As the MacBook Air of 1987

Todd Ogasawara says his Toshiba T1000 was the MacBook Air of 1987 — almost a quarter century ago.

Toshiba T1000 (1987) & MacBook Air (2010).

The desire for the thinnest, lightest possible portable computer is a whole lot older than Apple’s MacBook Air. In 1987, nearly 25 years ago, my Toshiba T1000 was as light, portable and affordable as you could get.

At 6.4 pounds, the T1000 was a bit heavy by today’s standards. It included a 4.77MHz 8088 processor, 512K RAM, monochrome display, CGA graphics tech (320×240 resolution) for an external CGA monitor and a single 720K floppy drive.

But it booted so fast. That fast booting ability came from a unique design feature: MS-DOS 2.11 was installed in and booted from ROM. The system also let you store frequently used files in a small virtual drive in RAM.

The T1000 was one of the first clamshell notebook designs — and it had a retail price of $1000. Although it looks gigantic compared to today’s slim notebooks, it was as portable as you could get at the time. And though its specs pale today next to, say, an iPod Nano, it was a screamer in 1987.

Toshiba T1000 (bottom). MacBook Air (top).

The T1000 provided a full complement of ports: Serial, parallel, external floppy drive, CGA out, composite video out and external numeric keypad. It also had a carrying handle you could pulled from a slot on the bottom of the case. Unlike many of today’s notebooks, the T1000 had a keyboard that felt like.

Sure the T1000’s tiny display looks archaic next to the modern MacBook Air.But it sure served road warriors like me well. As you can tell from my photos, my LCD broke and leaked — that’s how much I used it.

Toshiba T1000 rear (bottom). MacBook Air rear (top).

Toshiba T1000 keyboard.

Toshiba T1000 LCD (damaged).

Toshiba T1000 handle in case bottom.

Toshiba T1000 right side with floppy drive.

Toshiba T1000 serial port, floppy drive port, and printer port.

Toshiba T1000 RGB (CGA), composite video, on/off switch, & power plug.

Toshiba T1000 external keypad port, external floppy drive switch, & LCD contrast control.

About the author

Todd Ogasawara

Based in Honolulu, Todd Ogasawara is an IT pro and senior editor focusing on mobile hardware and software for aNewDomain.net. A veteran podcaster and tech journalist, his work has appeared in BYTE, Computer Telephony, Inside Mobile Apps, Microsoft.com, MSN, O'Reilly Media, PC World, Social Times and ThinkMobile. Follow him at @ToddOgasawara. and email him at ToddO@aNewDomain.net

8 Comments

  • Great article! Love the throw back. Any chance you could post pictures of the Toshiba with a modern gaming laptop or off the shelf modern Toshiba laptop? Thickness may not be that different.

  • I love the old Toshiba laptops. Never had one myself, but a lot of my clients still have them in their closets… and they still work!

  • Just gave my T1000 to recycling last month. Didn’t realize I still had it, but there it was in a laptop case hidden in the closet. I loved that machine.

  • Great article. Your Toshiba reminds me of my first PC, an IBM convertible laptop. I was one of two people in my dorm that had a laptop. It didn’t have a lot of power compared to computers now but it got me through 4-1/2 years of college and a couple years of professional work as an engineer. I even used to bring my laptop with me on flights back and forth to college. It’s amazing that people on the plane used to stare at my laptop while I played tetris, jeopardy, or wheel of fortune and wish they had one and now almost everyone has a phone that blows my old laptop out of the water.