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NEC UltraLite

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The NEC UltraLite is a NEC V30 based notebook computer, and is considered by many in the industry to be the first notebook computer ever released. It was released in 1988 for $5000 and was highly influential in the industry. It also was the first portable to utilize solid state storage.


The NEC UltraLite is the result of engineers from NEC's PC division seeing a PABX terminal designed for telecom workers by their telecommunications team. The PC Division asked the telecom team if they could get the terminal to run DOS, and so they tried, succeeded, and that's what became the NEC UltraLite.

While the UltraLite was a technical marvel for it's time with battery-backed solid state storage that could run for a week without being recharged, battery life of 8 hours total for the system itself, and an extremely light weight of the time of only 4 pounds, it failed to really take off as a product because the price was very high, around $5000.00.

Public perception of the UltraLite was something like how one would view a Lamborghini or a Ferrari, but in the PC industry, a very small, light, and fairly quick (for the time) laptop computer with long battery life, but an enormous price tag. Another major detractor was the need to purchase extra hardware to transfer data between the UltraLite and your desktop PC because the UltraLite used those solid state memory cards I mentioned and not standard Floppy Diskettes.

That said, it's high-tech image would spawn further models including the NEC UltraLite 286V and 286P (1990), the NEC UltraLite SX and SL Series (1991), and of course the NEC UltraLite Versa series (1993).

Technical Details

The NEC Ultralite came in 2 models, the PC-17-01, and PC-17-02. The models were distinguished by their battery backed storage...

  • NEC V30 CPU with Turbo running at 4.92MHz or 8.14MHz
  • 640 Kilobytes of System Memory On-Board
  • Battery backed Memory Storage. Model 01 had 1MB, Model 02 had 2MB
  • RS-232C Serial Port
  • CGA Graphics with 8.25"x4.25" SuperTwist backlit blue/white LCD Screen
  • Internal Speaker Sound
  • MS-DOS 3.3, LapLink, and Microsoft DOS Manager 2.0

See Also