They go all the way back 15 years ago to the mid 1990s when HP rolled out the HP 200LX, a “palmtop” device weighing in at around a pound and with an 8Mhz CPU and a grayscale 640×200 display and running DOS (MS-DOS or PC-DOS) and Windows 3.0. The article mentions that some of these devices had a huge following, but that hardware limitations kept them from selling as fast and as wide as current Intel Atom-based netbooks. They get into the Psion 5 and Psion 7 reviving interest in the segment, and then Toshiba’s Libretto series of laptops which carried the torch for a while (albeit a very expensive torch).
It points out something interesting – the OQO Model 01 as well as Samsung’s Q1 UMPC were on the right track but had some barriers to wide acceptance (namely price and form factor).
Read: Ars Technica