Snapshot from the heroic era of mobile computing


Originally published at:


Ah yes, the era when walking around public spaces with a pipe dangling from one’s mouth was a sign of sophistication and class.


The twitter thread adds that this is from an undiscarded 80’s textbook found lurking on shelves in a school where the poster is working.

The only thing in that picture that will not utterly confuse grade school students of today is the man’s beard.


Isn’t that Phil Zimmermann’s friend uploading the PGP source code to Usenet?

…Kelly Goen, uploaded it to Usenet the following day, reportedly taking the extreme precaution of driving around the Bay Area and connecting to it with a laptop and an acoustic coupler modem. … prompting the government to launch an investigation of Zimmermann that lasted for five years.


It’s not pretend. I think it’s a Quasar/Panasonic hand held computer from about 1980, but I’m not certain.

The Quasar was on the cover of Byte. It used a 6502 like the Apple II, so battery life couldn’t have been good…

But there were others, some actually pocket size.

And of course in 1983 Radio Shack released the Model 100, which was a more reasonable computer, and useable, though still a small screen, and minimal ram to start with. And maybe twice as big. But there were photos of that at payphones with the acoustic coupler.

These were big advances at the time, only laughable when looking back.


off-topic but…

Wouldn’t it be cool to see a “Halt and Catch Fire” styled mini-series about the birth of PGP?


The pipe is what makes this epic.


The pipe, the beard, and the electronic doohickey. I want his life.




I think you’re correct.

But it could possibly be:

Hard to tell from the picture.


shit, that’s nothing - you guy’s should see SeamusBellamy’s case for his Microsoft Surface Go!




Yeah, the tech’s cool, but I wanna know what’s in the pipe?!


I think it’s pretty clear from the bottom row of keys that this fine gentleman is using the Panasonic. You can see the two longer keys (space bar and enter) separated by a normal-sized key. The TRS-80 has the two longer keys side-by-side.

That’s probably all the detective work I’ll be doing on early '80s portable computing this week. I assume.




The only thing in that picture that will not utterly confuse grade school students of today is the man’s beard.

Hi, it’s OP! One student caught me looking at it and said his grandpa smoked a pipe like that. They are high schoolers, so that probably helped.
I’ll have to show my eight-year-old and see what he thinks is going on. He only learned about pay phones this summer, when we saw one at a retro diner. When I explained the concept, he thought I was pulling his leg.


I’m fairly sure it still is.

I mean, yes, second-hand smoke and asthma attacks are shitty no matter what, but pipe tobacco actually smells nice. It makes me happy when I pass a pipe-smoker in the street. I don’t understand why most smokers prefer this shit that smells like a tire fire.


The future.




This is a way earlier technology though. I know 1991 may seem like a long time ago, but by then we had laptops that were basically the same as we have now, except a bit heavier. This looks like a Tandy Pocket Computer PC2 (really a rebranded Sharp) from 1982.