Hewlett Packard (HP) is now selling a ruggedized (to military specifications) laptop computer. The model nr3600 (Rugged Notebook) costs $4-5,000 (depending mostly on communications options.) The basic nr3600 is an eight pound laptop with a 12.1 inch display, a 1.7 GHz Intel CPU, 256 MB of memory and a 40 gigabyte hard drive. Theres a CD drive, and a floppy drive (that can be replaced with an additional $230 battery). The nr3600 has a waterproof keyboard that glows in the dark. The magnesium case is built to survive being dropped, as well as exposure to vibration and extreme temperatures. The basic notebook comes with wi-fi, and other forms of wireless networking can be added as well.
American troops have been taking desktop and laptop computers to combat zones for decades. It began when the first PCs appeared in the late 1970s, and GIs were seen taking their Apple and Radio Shack PCs (which had less computing power than a cheap PDA, or high end cell phone, today) out to field exercises, or on to warships or even (with laptops) combat aircraft. When the Gameboy first appeared, it was quite popular with air force and navy pilots who had to spend a lot of time in the cockpit.
HP recognizes that there are troops who will buy these ruggedized notebooks, rather than do what many already do, take their regular laptop PCs out into the dust and mud, and protect them as best they can (plastic bags do wonders.) HP is not the first outfit to produce ruggedized PCs, just the latest. But HP is one of the first major consumer PC builders to put a ruggedized notebook out their for a larger market. More businesses are operating PCs in outdoors, or otherwise rugged conditions, and people increasingly like to take their laptops to the beach, or camping.