Definition: The archaic lightsaber, or protosaber, was the earliest functional lightsaber design. They first appear in the Tales of the Jedi comics, which take place between 5,000 and 3,986 BBY. The introduction of the archaic lightsaber into the Star Wars universe serves to illustrate the changes in lightsaber design as technology evolved.
In-universe: The first lightsabers were created by the Jedi around 15,500 BBY. The blades were dangerously unstable, however, using large amounts of power and tending to overheat. As a result, these early lightsabers served as ceremonial objects rather than weapons.
Gradually, technological advancements allowed for a more stable blade, making the archaic lightsaber useful in combat. The archaic lightsaber had a major disadvantage, however, because it required an external power pack to function. The power pack was mounted to the wielder's belt and attached to the lightsaber with a power cord; an enemy could disarm his opponent by merely severing the cord.
The Jedi ultimately owe lightsaber technology to the Sith, who created a power cell small enough to fit into the lightsaber's hilt. Without the need for a bulky power pack, the lightsaber became a much more practical weapon.
A few Jedi later incorporated archaic lightsaber design into modern lightsabers, creating the retrosaber. Though this weapon had the disadvantage of an external power pack, the extra power could provide a surge of energy, strengthening the blade for a short time.
- Jedi Academy Training Manual (Wizards of the Coast, 2009)
- Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force, by Ryder Windham (2007)