<< >>
Usage conditions apply
Some personally operated computers, such as this one, came from companies traditionally associated with larger machines. In late 1972, the IBM General Systems Division in Atlanta, Georgia, asked the IBM Scientific Center in Palo Alto, California, to develop a product that would raise the visibility of the programming language APL. Paul Friedl and his colleagues in Palo Alto spent six months developing this pioneering portable computer, known as the SCAMP (Special Computer, APL Machine Portable). The prototype used existing components - a cathode ray tube from Bell Brothers, Inc., for the display; a Norelco audiotape cassette recorder for secondary storage; a keyboard from IBM in Raleigh, North Carolina; memory cards from IBM Germany; and a PALM microprocessor board from IBM in Boca Raton, Florida. The APL language processor emulated one for the existing, much larger, IBM 1130 computer.
The SCAMP is designed to be a portable and folds into a suitcase-like frame. The upper part, including the monitor, pops up when in use. The frame is chocolate brown and the cover and upper part are almond white.
Friedl and his colleagues used the SCAMP in over one hundred demonstrations. A menu on the screen indicated possible uses – as a calculator or for financial analysis, project planning, educational drill, engineering analysis, or statistical analysis. The machine served as a prototype for the IBM 5100 portable computer, a machine announced in 1975 that sold for between $8975 and $19,575 and found a range of applications. Some consider the SCAMP as the grandfather of the highly successful IBM Personal Computer (IBM 5150), introduced in 1981.
Paul J. Friedl, “SCAMP: The Missing Link in the PC’s Past?” PC Mag: The Independent Guide to IBM Personal Computers, November 1983, vol. 2 no.6, pp. 190-197.
Jonathan Littman, “The First Portable Computer: The Genesis of SCAMP, Grandfather of the Personal Computer,” PC World, October 1983, pp. 294-300.
Object Name
Date made
place made
United States: California, Palo Alto
Physical Description
plastic (case, keys, components material)
rubber (cord material)
glass (screen material)
metal (circuitry material)
overall: 10 in x 21 in x 22 1/2 in; 25.4 cm x 53.34 cm x 57.15 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of International Business Machines Corporation
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Computers
Computers & Business Machines
My Computing Device
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object