Memories of Q

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I was looking an advert (pictured) for the new Motorola Q smartphone whilst on the New York Times website. What struck me was not the original Speak n Spell-type buttons or the styling but the letter Q in the name. A red Q in fact and my immediate reaction was Compaq.

Motorola Q

For those of you too young to remember: Compaq was a company who reverse engineered the IBM PC and then build a luggable version called the Compaq Portable. The company did very well selling portable and desktop computers and even had a popular line in servers. At one time the Compaq supplied more computers than anyone else in the world.


The company acquired two other computing greats Tandem Computers famous for their fault-tolerant NonStop server line and Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) the mini-computer pioneers.

Compaq ‘merged’ with HP in 2002 and the Compaq brand has been progressively been erased from the product lines.

Compaq's Q

The letter Q was a key part of the company’s brand identity, indeed IT news website The Register used to call the company The Big Q (as opposed to Big Blue, IBM’s nick name). In the space of four years Motorola and Verizon now feel sufficiently confident to use a Red Q without incurring an association with the Compaq brand.

Indeed this may been a deliberate move as the Motorola Q device may want tap into the karma of Compaq’s original iPAQ Windows PDA device, which were all the rage with management consultants (many of whom were given them for free) some six years ago.