Introduced in 1984, the Data General One was one of the first PC's ever produced that had the now ubiquitous clamshell design. There had been a clamshell machine before, the Compass GRiD, but that machine ran a proprietary OS and it's hefty price, of $8-10,000 USD put it out of the range of almost everybody.

The DG One sported a full 80x25 LCD display however the lack of backlighting and dim contrast made the screen readable only in the most benign and perfect of conditions. The text was blueish and the screen yellowish in an attempt to help with contrast issues, to no real avail. At 9 pounds it was significantly lighter than other so called portable computer of the era, most of which, like the IBM Portable, the Compaq Portable and other such as the Osborne and Kaypro II used small VDT's and weighed more in the thirty pound range. Besides the weight and size issue, none of these machines had batteries. You could buy an aftermarket external battery for the Osborne, but I can't imagine how much it weighed and it was rated for only one hour.

The machine as I said had a clamshell design, but the hinge was midway up the machine to accommodate the bulk of the NiCad batteries, which by the by, were optional. The screen also provided very basic CGA graphics, that's 640x200, four levels of grayscale boys and girls, but that was enough to run some very simple BASIC games. Main memory was 128kb but you could jack it up all the way to 512kb, which by the by, MS-DOS could NOT address without some fancy tricks. The machine also ran CP/M which was still a popular os at the time favored by hobbyists - the period Linux to MS-DOS's Windows. Along the side the machine had what were then new 3 1/2 inch floppy drives, one standard, the second optional but necessary if you expected to do any actual work on the thing. (I worked in IT when those started to come out and people would call the hard disks, or be confused about why their new floppies were not actually floppy). The disks could hold up to 720kb each, but, that made them incompatible with every other 3 1/2 inch drive out there which only supported single density recording at 360kb. This proved to be a difficult issue as many of the programs available at the time had heinous disk based copy protection and you could only use software that had been packaged specially for the DG-One

I worked for Data General back in the day of The Soul of a New Machine, an exciting time to be there. I was in charge of all their internal IT for the Latin America region and spent one week out of three on the road in the late eighties. I used to carry one of these as well as an external 1200 baud (that's 1.2kbits/sec for all you young uns) modem so I could dial back into the office automation system and check my proprietary email. This caused much trouble at customs, in Latin America and Europe as nobody knew what this thing was, leading to a lot of impromptu demos.

Ultimately the machine proved a bust. At almost $USD 3,000 in 1984 it was a real luxury item, it was mildly incompatible - though most machines were at the time - and the screen was, in a word, crap. It did give DG bragging rights for a while though.

  • 13.7 x 11.7 x 2.8
  • Runs MS-DOS and CP/M-86
  • 128kb of CMOS RAM (48kb reserved for display) expandable to 512kb
  • 79 key keyboard
  • 640x256 pixel LCD display with bitmapped capabilities; 2:1 aspect ratio; 8.5 x 6.75in (10.75 in diagonal)
  • Built in 3 1/2 in drive (second drive optional)
  • Double-density 3 1/2 in diskettes (720kb formatted capacity)
  • Two Asynchronous ports for printer, external high speed modem or other RS-232c devices
  • internal autodial 300-baud modem (option)
  • External 1200 baud modem (option)
  • Rechargeable battery pack (option)

  •  DG One,, retrieved 3/2/2012

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