Compaq and Dell Computers

Two Texas computer giants join the PC race

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by Tom Wancho, Exhibit Planner

In February 1982, three executives broke away from Texas Instruments (TI) and formed the Compaq Computer Corporation, basing operations in Houston, Texas.

In November 1982, Compaq announced its first product, the Compaq Portable. It was released in March 1983 to consumers at the price of $2,995, the equivalent of $7,136 in 2016. It became a commercial success — 53,000 units were sold during the first year. Although not exactly portable by modern standards — the unit weighed 23 pounds — its unique design allowed the user to work from home, at the office, or on the road, all from the same unit. This Compaq Portable had a maximum memory capacity of 640 kilobytes; today’s cell phones have at least eight gigabytes, or 13,107 times as much memory.

Dell Computers was originally founded by Michael Dell as PCs Limited in 1984. Rather than selling to retail stores, Dell sold personal computers over the phone to customers who selected which components they wanted included in their unit. This type of “made to order” process gave Dell an advantage over the “big box” computers being mass produced by its competitors. 

This Model 316LT was the second laptop developed by Dell as the company made inroads into the burgeoning laptop market during the early 1990s. Dell print advertisements trumpeted it as, “… a desktop PC trapped inside the body of a laptop.”

Weighing 14 pounds and priced between $3,499 and $3,999 depending on the buyer’s selected components (the equivalent range of $6,353–$7,251 in 2016), the 316LT used a “continuous power battery system” that allowed users to maintain their screen and data whenever the batteries had to be changed. Dell advertisements also referred to the model as “The Lap of Luxury.” PC Weekly agreed, bestowing an “Editor’s Choice” award upon the Model 316LT in 1990.   

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Compaq and Dell Computers Artifact from Houston, Texas
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