The 1978 Xerox Notetaker, the first computer to be used on a commercial flight @Xerox #VintageComputing #History

Xerox Notetaker from 1978

Was the first real portable computer the Tandy 100 or the Compaq Portable or IBM 5155 Portable? Not even close for those 1980s machines.

Meet the Xerox Notetaker, made in 1978. It has the distinction of being the first computer to ever be used by a passenger on a commercial flight.

And this computer was no slouch for 1978:

It had an Intel 8086 CPU at 1 MHz, 256K of RAM, a 320K floppy disk drive, a mouse, a 7″ 640×480 monochrome display, a 300 baud modem, Ethernet (!!), and an analog-to-digital converter with an 8 input multiplexer on the input, and a two channel digital-to-analog converter; and finally EiA and IEEE bus interface.

To put things in perspective, the IBM PC came out about 3 years later with an 8088 (a cut-down ’86), 16K of RAM, and no mouse or Ethernet.

It had a battery pack as outlets on planes was unheard of back then, except perhaps in the galleys.

It did have some drawbacks for all that awesome. It weighed 48 lbs (22kg).

Alas, all that technology was way too expensive – they built just 10 prototypes and production cost would have likely resulted in a $50,000 sticker price.


Thanks to Tube Time on Twitter along with this page on Notetaker history. The manual and other documentation is available here.

Adafruit publishes a wide range of writing and video content, including interviews and reporting on the maker market and the wider technology world. Our standards page is intended as a guide to best practices that Adafruit uses, as well as an outline of the ethical standards Adafruit aspires to. While Adafruit is not an independent journalistic institution, Adafruit strives to be a fair, informative, and positive voice within the community – check it out here:

Join Adafruit on Mastodon

Adafruit is on Mastodon, join in!

Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.

Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.

Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!

Join over 36,000+ makers on Adafruit’s Discord channels and be part of the community!

CircuitPython – The easiest way to program microcontrollers –

Maker Business — “Packaging” chips in the US

Wearables — Enclosures help fight body humidity in costumes

Electronics — Transformers: More than meets the eye!

Python for Microcontrollers — Python on Microcontrollers Newsletter: Silicon Labs introduces CircuitPython support, and more! #CircuitPython #Python #micropython @ThePSF @Raspberry_Pi

Adafruit IoT Monthly — Guardian Robot, Weather-wise Umbrella Stand, and more!

Microsoft MakeCode — MakeCode Thank You!

EYE on NPI — Maxim’s Himalaya uSLIC Step-Down Power Module #EyeOnNPI @maximintegrated @digikey

New Products – Adafruit Industries – Makers, hackers, artists, designers and engineers! — #NewProds 7/19/23 Feat. Adafruit Matrix Portal S3 CircuitPython Powered Internet Display!

Get the only spam-free daily newsletter about wearables, running a "maker business", electronic tips and more! Subscribe at !

1 Comment

  1. Well it was made by Xerox so it made sense it had Ethernet. Wonder how compatible it would be with today’s ethernet.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.