In 1982 I bought a Commodore 64 to use as a VT100 dumb terminal. It allowed me to do things offline and then upload to the shared mini-computer. As the US Air Force program manager I provided training on using the software on the mini-computer and soon found many of my nationwide users buying different brands of computers to simulate a VT100 and then expecting me to teach by how to user their new brand X computer over the telephone. I had a requirement to get all the users standardized. By selecting an IBM compatible computer I did not have to justify what brand of computer and explain my decision. IBM compatibles at that time were behind the Commodore and Apple and other brands of computers and had given their specifications to the world for anyone to build a complete computer or components for it. The government contracting office didn’t like my requirement for “IBM” compatible, but otherwise attempted to meet my specifications. That was the first major government contract for desktop computers and it Zenith won the bid. Zenith was building the parts for a Heathkit computer the hobbyist could build and one option was to buy the Heathkit already assembled. The problem was that it was not totally IBM compatible and Zenith had a hard time keeping up with the quantity the government was buying versus the kits they were selling commercially. By the time the deliveries were actually happening IBM had released their IBM/XT. We initially upgraded our early deliveries with first an 8 inch floppy drive then a built in 10 megabyte hard drive. The next contracts were known as Desktop II, Desktop III, and Desktop IV. These last three had to have my signature before the Request for Proposal was released to industry to bid on. Zenith got the bid on Desktop II also and delivered the Zenith 248 which was truly IBM compatible. Again, there was a long wait from contract award to delivery. Other companies got the bids on Desktop III and IV. I got one of the first desktop computers off each contract to make sure that it worked. You show a Zenith laptop. Yes, I had one of those also.
From Chris Janicki (June 2006)
The Zenith Z-100 was issued to all freshmen of the Clarkson University class of 1990, so I guess they were issued in the fall of 1986. I believe this was a first amongst colleges, at least in the U.S. They compute had a non-turbo mode that would slow the CPU down to half speed, so you could slow down games that were myopically timed to older/slower CPUs, rather than the system clock like modern programs. One of my roommates' dad was in the computer industry, so he managed to get a 30 Mb hard drive installed during our senior year... it was a huge deal, and everyone was both impressed and jealous as we puttered with our 1.2 Mb "high density" and 400kb floppies.