Name the machines that have had the biggest impact on personal computing. The Apple II? Definitely. The IBM PC? Yes. The Macintosh? No question. How about the Compaq Portable? It's safe to say that it has been a major force in personal computing.

Compaq discontinued the Portable in September because of slow sales, so it's time for a proper eulogy. Introduced nearly five years ago, the Portable set the standard for compatibility and portability.

The first and most obvious trend started by the Portable was its compatibility with the IBM PC. In 1982, the idea of a PC-compatible computer was revolutionary.

When users bought a personal computer in 1982, they had to make sure their preferred software ran on it and the computer's design would be around for a while. By latching on to IBM's standard, the Portable offered users the security of an industry standard and, for about $3,500, affordability.

The Portable also set a trend by adding more features for less money. It included 128 kilobytes of memory (a lot back then), two floppy disk drives, a built-in monochrome screen, a color card so you could connect a color monitor and a printer port to hook up a printer.

Many more PC compatibles followed Compaq's. Tandy, PC's Limited, Epson and others joined the PC compatible market. The flood of compatible hardware helped drive down the price of all PC compatibles (including the Portable), partly because of competition. In addition, the compatible makers could build cheaper computers because their collective demand drove down the price of computer parts. The buyer got the savings