A laptop, often called a notebook or "notebook computer", is a small, portable
personal computer with a "
clamshell" form factor, an
alphanumeric keyboard on the lower part of the "clamshell" and a thin
LEDcomputer screen on the upper part, which is opened up to use the computer. Laptops are folded shut for transportation, and thus are suitable for
mobile use. Although originally there was a distinction between laptops and notebooks, the former being bigger and heavier than the latter, as of 2014, there is often no longer any difference. Laptops are commonly used in a variety of settings, such as at work, in education, in playing games, Internet surfing, for personal multimedia and general home computer use.
form factor and construction can also vary significantly between models depending on intended use. Examples of specialized models of laptops include
rugged notebooks for use in construction or military applications, as well as
low production cost laptops such as those from the
One Laptop per Child (OLPC) organization, which incorporate features like
solar charging and semi-flexible components not found on most laptop computers.
Portable computers, which later developed into modern laptops, were originally considered to be a small
niche market, mostly for specialized field applications, such as in the military, for accountants, or for traveling sales representatives. As portable computers evolved into the modern laptop, they became widely used for a variety of purposes.
The terms laptop and notebook are used interchangeably to describe a portable computer in English, although in some parts of the world one or the other may be preferred. There is some question as to the original etymology and specificity of either term—the term laptop appears to have been coined in the early 1980s to describe a mobile computer which could be used on one's lap, and to distinguish these devices from earlier, much heavier,
portable computers (informally called "luggables"). The term "notebook" appears to have gained currency somewhat later as manufacturers started producing even smaller portable devices, further reducing their weight and size and incorporating a display roughly the size of
A4 paper; these were marketed as notebooks to distinguish them from bulkier laptops. Regardless of the etymology, by the late 1990s, the terms were interchangeable.