VOGONS


First post, by lcdrugo

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Despite their limitations, I've always enjoyed collecting and gaming on classic laptops instead of desktops. They're easier to store and set up. I'm going to take a few days and show you my collection, starting from the oldest.

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Gateway Nomad 325SXL

25 MHz 80386SX CPU
4 MB RAM
80 MB HD
Cirrus Logic CL-GD 6420 Graphics Chip with 512 KB RAM (SVGA)
PC Speaker Sound
Floppy, Serial, Parallel, PS/2 mouse port, VGA out, proprietary expansion port

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Here's a closeup of the logo on the lid. Despite the labeling, this is actually a Texas Instruments Travelmate 3000. Even the case is the same. Only the labels are different.

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Here's a view with the lid open. The keyboard is very responsive. The knobs to the right of the screen adjust the brightness and contrast of the passive-matrix greyscale screen. There's also a switch for reverse video (light text on dark screen or vice versa).

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The screen isn't bad for reading text. But of course, the lack of color and massive ghosting make it unsuitable for gaming.

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External video works quite well. The only real drawback is the lack of any sound hardware. The tiny PC speaker sounds charmingly retro at first, but gets irritating after a while. So I usually just put on some other music while I'm playing. I'm currently running DOS 5.0 and I don't see any need to install anything else. For my oldest laptop, this works well.

Reply 1 of 19, by lolo799

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Nice!
I say that as the owner of a 486 laptop from AST, the rest of the specs are similar enough, mine has less video memory though.
Passive greyscale LCD as well, so massive ghosting too, wich hasn't prevented me to play wolfenstein 3d and doom back in the days, that and browsing the mighty web.

About your lack of sound hardware, does your laptop comes with a PCMCIA port?
If not, have you thought of using a Covox speech thing or similar device for the parallel port?

Reply 2 of 19, by Mau1wurf1977

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I found that DOSBox works quite well on netbooks as long as you stick with older games from the 386DX / 486SX era. Getting sound going on vintage notebooks will be a real pain unless they come with something onboard.

Definitely check out some of the newer Pentium notebooks as the cache can be disabled / better screens and some come with DOS level Sound Blaster compatible chips.

My website with reviews, demos, drivers, tutorials and more...
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Reply 3 of 19, by lcdrugo

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lolo799:

There is no PCMCIA port, and I did consider finding a Covox Speech Thing, but I have very few games which support it so I figured it just wouldn't be worth the hassle. Tonight I'll post pictures of my Pentium laptop.

Reply 4 of 19, by lcdrugo

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This is a much more capable machine than the Gateway Nomad:

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This is a Compaq LTE 5280, circa 1996.

Pentium-120
32 Mb RAM
1.4 Gb Hard Drive
Video: Cirrus Logic GD7543 with 1 MB of VRAM (I think)
Audio: ESS 1688
Floppy, PCMCIA (16-bit), serial, parallel, proprietary expansion port, vga out, headphone, line in, and mike, infrared port, ps/2 mouse port

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I got this for a song on Ebay. The case is in great shape. There is an optional docking bay available but they are expensive. You can also get a CD-ROM to swap in for the floppy, but the only one I've purchased for a reasonable price turned out to the unreliable.

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If I do heavy typing I usually plug a keyboard into the PS/2 port, but then I'm limited to using the trackpoint for mouse control.

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The machine originally came with Win95, but you can still find Win 3.1 drivers at HP's website. It boots in seconds and it looks pretty decent on the 800x600 active matrix screen. The sound is much better than the Gateway. It's Soundblaster Pro quality for most games, but a few mid-nineties titles actually support the ESS 1688 in 16-bit mode. I have yet to find anything that interfaces with the Infrared Port besides maybe my Palm IIIe (haven't tried it yet).

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Most old DOS games don't take advantage of the increased screen real estate. They sit in a 640x480 box in the middle of the screen with a dark, unused border around them. There are a few games, however, that take full advantage of the screen under Win 3.1. Sim City Classic is a good example.

Overall, I've been very happy with this machine. It's been much less of a hassle to get it working than the Gateway and it's capable of playing early-90's games as they were meant to be played. One day I'd like to find a working CD-ROM, but it's not strictly necessary. Most CD games from this era didn't really take up more than a few megabytes anyway, and applications like HJSplit make it possible to load even large files with just a few disk swaps.

Reply 5 of 19, by leileilol

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A lot of the laptops in the mid '90s to '97 are all pretty good DOS machines in general, until of course, AC'97 became a standard....

Some laptops (like Toshiba) that allow you to half the clock speed in the CMOS are also useful for dos gaming purposes. The only thing that really sucks about them are CD-ROM drives and maybe the having to compromise one for the other (floppy drive).

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Reply 6 of 19, by Mau1wurf1977

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Many notebooks had a scaling option in the BIOS to stretch to the full screen. Might be worth taking a look!

My website with reviews, demos, drivers, tutorials and more...
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Reply 8 of 19, by leileilol

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The worst scaling is text mode-only scaling that just scales the text upward only slightly but doublespacing every line, breaking your ansi games. Such scaling is demonstrated in one of the pictures above

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Reply 9 of 19, by NJRoadfan

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lcdrugo wrote:
This is a much more capable machine than the Gateway Nomad: […]
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This is a much more capable machine than the Gateway Nomad:

3ilgT.jpg

This is a Compaq LTE 5280, circa 1996.

Great machine. I have owned a LTE5400 (P150, maxed out to 80MB RAM) for many years. I also have the optional docking station. The dock has built in 10BaseT Ethernet, and a MIDI port for the built in sound. There was also a version of the dock with an ISA slot. I never did find the MPEG/Video adapter though. The biggest thing I wish this machine had is Cardbus slots though.

Reply 10 of 19, by lcdrugo

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And now for something a little different - a Powerbook G3 "Main Street" from 1998.

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233 MHz G3 Processor
160 MB RAM
2 GB Hard Drive
Video: ATI 3D Rage LT with 4 MB VRAM for a 1024 x 768 active-matrix screen

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This one is a little beat up. The power supply seems to be compatible electrically but not physically. It doesn't quite fit right and if you nudge the computer it will shut down instantly. Also, the lid doesn't latch and the escape key won't work. I used to be a Mac fanatic in the 90's, though, so I put up with the problems because I think this is the absolute best classic Mac to own. It's the last of the "Old World Macs" and the last Macintosh to bear the rainbow-colored Apple logo.

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Great screen, great sound, great keyboard, great operating system. Not quite as fast as I'd like due to the notable omission of L2 cache in this particular model, but oh well.

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My favorite game to play on this laptop: Civilization II

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This machine is also notable for being the oldest laptop in my collection which can reliably surf the web without any serious compromises. Here it is running Classilla 9.2.2.

Reply 11 of 19, by SquallStrife

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Old World Macs represent! I have the exact same machine in desktop form, a PowerMac G3 233.

I also have an older B+W Motorola-based Powerbook 520, it's kickin' rad.

VogonsDrivers.com | Link | News Thread
[retro swim] | Link | Release Thread
Regular silliness on Twitch!! http://www.twitch.tv/RetroSwim (8PM Mon, Wed, Sat AEST)

Reply 12 of 19, by NJRoadfan

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The Wallstreet/Mainstreet series were great in that they blended the features of a NewWorld machine, but still had the OldWorld ROM and ports. That being said, they had quite a few weak points.

1. The PMU likes to go bad and cause all kinds of no boot/power problems
2. The AC Adapter jack is supported by only its solder joints, so repeated insert/removal of the AC adapter causes the jack to break. The "easy" fix is to replace the jack assembly (also has the sound ports on it), the hard fix is to re-solder. To prevent it from happening again, use hot glue and reinforce the power jack.

http://www.ifixit.com/Wiki/PowerBook_G3_Walls … Troubleshooting

Reply 13 of 19, by sliderider

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I have a Wallstreet here running OS X 10.2 Server, but only from the VGA port. The backlight on the LCD needs to be replaced. I got it for free, so can't really complain. I got a complete LCD assembly from ebay a while back but haven't had a chance to install it yet.

Reply 14 of 19, by lcdrugo

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It's time to get down to business:

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This is an IBM Thinkpad X21, circa 2001.
700 MHz Mobile Pentium-III
256 MB RAM
100 Gb Hard Drive (not original equipment)
Video: ATI Rage Mobility M with 4 MB VRAM
Audio:Crystal Semiconductor CS4297A and CS4281. Provides AC '97 and legacy Soundblaster support.

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I got this for $20 from a gentleman at a HAM radio festival. It's in absolutely perfect shape. He gave me three batteries and they all still hold a charge! I did have to buy the expansion bay and a CD-ROM, but they were very inexpensive. I've only put about $50 total into this machine.

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The expansion base adds a floppy drive, room for a CD or DVD drive, and a few extra ports to the back of the laptop.

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When you attach the base it adds a bit of heft to the laptop, but it's not unreasonable. It feels very secure and it's easy to carry it around when it's attached like this. The screen is great, (12.1 inch active matrix screen, 1024 x 768 resolution), and the keyboard is fantastic.

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When I want to play games I boot into Win98se. The video chip isn't quite able to provide 3D acceleration at full resolution, so I usually drop down to 512 x 384. Need For Speed III looks and runs especially nice.

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For networking, I contemplated installing WinXP, but 256 MB of RAM is a little light for that operating system. I settled for Puppy Linux Wary instead. It recognizes my Belkin Wireless card right out of the box. Browsing with Seamonkey is fairly painless. I can even watch Youtube videos if I'm not impatient.

Reply 15 of 19, by cdoublejj

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aaawww man i have one my self a p3 and geforece 2 go 16mb it can do some gamage for it's specs quite few games we have in common. ATM i have loaned it to family for simple web surfing. it runs 98se with kernel ex and unofficial SP. right now it doesn't have as many games since i had to clean install it not to long ago.

Reply 16 of 19, by SquallStrife

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Half the RAM in my PowerMac stopped working!! 🙁

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On the bright side, while I had it open, I upgraded the sucker to a 40GB HDD, the stock-standard 4GB was starting to feel a bit cramped.

VogonsDrivers.com | Link | News Thread
[retro swim] | Link | Release Thread
Regular silliness on Twitch!! http://www.twitch.tv/RetroSwim (8PM Mon, Wed, Sat AEST)

Reply 17 of 19, by Mau1wurf1977

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I love these X20's. They cost a fortune back in the day (CEO type notebook) so you got a real bargain 😀

My website with reviews, demos, drivers, tutorials and more...
My YouTube channel

Reply 18 of 19, by sliderider

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lcdrugo wrote:
And now for something a little different - a Powerbook G3 "Main Street" from 1998. […]
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And now for something a little different - a Powerbook G3 "Main Street" from 1998.

jK3nm.jpg

233 MHz G3 Processor
160 MB RAM
2 GB Hard Drive
Video: ATI 3D Rage LT with 4 MB VRAM for a 1024 x 768 active-matrix screen

dazeM.jpg

This one is a little beat up. The power supply seems to be compatible electrically but not physically. It doesn't quite fit right and if you nudge the computer it will shut down instantly. Also, the lid doesn't latch and the escape key won't work. I used to be a Mac fanatic in the 90's, though, so I put up with the problems because I think this is the absolute best classic Mac to own. It's the last of the "Old World Macs" and the last Macintosh to bear the rainbow-colored Apple logo.

AG9SS.jpg

Great screen, great sound, great keyboard, great operating system. Not quite as fast as I'd like due to the notable omission of L2 cache in this particular model, but oh well.

rcRcP.jpg

My favorite game to play on this laptop: Civilization II

KUxcL.jpg

This machine is also notable for being the oldest laptop in my collection which can reliably surf the web without any serious compromises. Here it is running Classilla 9.2.2.

You may have the wrong power supply. The Powerbook G3 and later Powerbook G4 power supply connectors look similar, but one has a longer center pin than the other so it doesn't fit properly. It actually took me a while to get one for my Wallstreet because everyone who was selling one wanted a fortune for them. I had to buy a job lot of old Mac parts before I finally got one.

Reply 19 of 19, by NJRoadfan

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The "yo-yo" power supply from the clamshell iBooks will work with all the Powerbook G3s, they just fashionably clash. I actually have a bog standard Powerbook AC adapter for my Lombard, they seem rare compared to the yo-yos!