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Early Laptop Pioneer, John Ellenby, Dead at 73

John Ellenby, an early laptop pioneer and godfather of the modern laptop, dies at the age of 73.

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Early Laptop Pioneer, John Ellenby, Dead at 73

I spend a lot of time writing about laptops, laptop news, how to do things using your laptops, etc., etc. However, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without John Ellenby. Ellenby, unfortunately for all of us, passed away on August 17 at the age of 75, but his vision helped shape the world we live in, even if we have never heard of him.

Today we take laptops for granted. Heck almost all of us have one and new ones are released each and every day. But just a generation ago computers were new, and no one had even thought of a laptop. No one except John Ellenby, that is.

A full two years before Apple would release their first Macintosh, Ellenby and his company Grid Systems released the Compass. This clam-shell computer was radical for its time. Its screen rose from the chassis revealing a keyboard. At the time no one had ever seen anything like it before.

Sure this original design was heavy and chunky, and the monitor was so small our phones today could rival its size. It also cost a lot, running $8,150, which is over $20k today. While most consumers couldn’t afford one of these machines, it was really popular in government agencies and even some businesses who had money to burn.

Ellenby was very much ahead of his time. His vision of this portable computer took years to take hold in the market, and it wasn’t until 2005 that laptops surpassed the sales of desktop computers. But in the end he was proven right. These devices that would sit in your lap and go with you anywhere finally proved to be more valuable, and they continue to be today.

His vision never stopped, however. In the 1990s, he cofounded GeoVector. This company did extensive research into augmented reality. What is that, you ask? Augmented reality is where computers overlay information on top of what your eyes can see naturally. Have you heard of a little game called Pokemon Go? This game relies on augmented reality, yet again proving that Ellenby’s vision of technology was true.

As you sit down today and write on your laptop, or pack it up to take it with you somewhere. Pause for a moment and remember a man from Britain named John Ellenby. Without him, there is a good chance that the top rated laptop you are using could have been very different. Would somebody else come up with the idea for a laptop? I’m sure. But Ellenby did it first and in many ways did it right straight out the gate.

The world mourns the loss of another technology visionary. While he may not have had the notoriety of Steve Jobs, you cannot deny the contributions he made to the world of technology and the modern age we live in. Many thanks to you Mr. Ellenby. Without you, so many of us could have been doing something very different.

By Matt Garrett

Matt is an IT professional with over fifteen years experience supporting network infrastructure and computers. An avid gamer, Matt enjoys his time playing and writing about his experiences both in the IT world and in the gaming communities. You can find more of his writing on our sister ShopNinja sites where he enjoys talking about anything and everything tech.

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