- Edmond T. Johnson
A compact personal computer specifically designed for portability, which may serve various functions related to musical performance and composition. Though portable computers were commercially available in the 1970s, it was only in the early 1980s that the laptop took on its now nearly ubiquitous hinged form. While early laptops were sometimes used by musicians for ancillary tasks such as sequencing and patch editing, their limited data storage, expandability, and processing power—all of which compared unfavorably with contemporary desktop computers—generally prevented them from functioning as the generative source for a musical performance. By the late 1990s, however, significant advances in technology, coupled with dramatic reductions in price, allowed the laptop rapidly to achieve popularity as an independent locus of music-making for composers and performers of both popular and electronic art music. As desktop computers are capable of running the same range of software as laptops, the preference for the latter among many electronic musicians reflects the advantages offered by the device’s compact form and consequent portability, and not any difference in intrinsic functionality....