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1980s Computers Explanation of terms

The Atari Portfolio

Atari Portfolio


Sold under the Atari (US) brand name but actually developed by DIP of the UK.



Date Launched

June 1989


£215 at launch
£173 in 1991

Microprocessor type

Intel 80C88 @ 4.915 MHz
(A low power CMOS version of the 8088)

ROM size

256 kilobytes

Standard RAM

128 kilobytes
96 KB available for running applications, 32 KB used like a disk drive for storing files.

Maximum RAM

160 kilobytes with plug-in 128 KB memory card, costing £120

Keyboard type

63 moving keys but slightly smaller than a standard keyboard, and with a strange action whereby they pivoted at the front and went down at the back.

Supplied language

No programming language was supplied but an MS-DOS 2.11-compatible operating system was built in.

Text resolution

40 x 8 characters, acting as a window onto an 80 x 25 screen

Graphics resolution

240 x 64

Colours available

Monochrome LCD display

Example Screenshot

Atari Portfolio screen
A familiar DOS directory listing on the Portfolio display.


Internal speaker could be used for tone dialling.

Cassette load speed

No cassette interface

Dimensions (mm)
Weight (grams)

198 x 104 x 31

Special features

Five applications were stored in ROM:

  • Spreadsheet (partly compatible with Lotus 1-2-3)
  • Word processor
  • Address book/telephone directory
  • Diary with alarms
  • Calculator

Good points

Ran for around 100 hours on 3 AA batteries.
Had enough built-in applications to be genuinely useful.

Bad points

Lacked standard ports. Its memory card slot was proprietary and serial and parallel interfaces required external add-ons (costing £50 and £30 approx.) This meant extra expense to transfer files to or from a desktop PC or print wordprocessor documents.
The Portfolio could not run normal DOS programs unless they were specially adapted.
The relatively small memory capacity limited the scope for installing further applications or storing many files.

How successful?

Quite popular, and influential as being the first pocket computer to run DOS.
The Portfolio was on sale until at least 1992 but was superseded by more powerful machines.


The Portfolio was probably the first pocket computer with an almost full size keyboard and a reasonably large display, and thus one of the first Personal Digital Assistants.
Although mostly known as an Atari product the Portfolio was designed by the British firm of Distributed Information Processing Systems (DIP) and was often sold as the DIP Pocket PC in the UK.
DIP was started by David Frodsham, Ian Cullimore and Peter Baldwin, all of whom had previously worked for Psion and whose first name initials provided the company's name.

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