VOGONS


First post, by MrKsoft

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I bought this laptop last month from an auction during Vintage Computer Festival Midwest, very cheaply and admittedly blind to any info about it: I didn't get a good look at it and basically just knew that it was an x86 laptop made by Digital Equipment Corp (honestly I had no idea they made laptops at all), and that it had... a German keyboard (odd considering this took place in the midwest USA). Got it home and there is basically zero information available about it online. It seems to be quite the uncommon machine; it was very difficult to find specs, and I still haven't found a manual at all. (I did find a commercial on Youtube though) The lack of info is probably to be expected since DEC has been gone since before the web really took off.

Anyway, to my surprise this machine has turned out to be more than just a curiosity. I expected a cute, but limited machine that probably wouldn't have any audio and a DSTN screen or something. In fact it was quite the contrary... it is a very slick, capable DOS machine given its age, and it reminds me very much of the recent ultrabook systems out there -- very small, slim size, no external storage, and yet still doesn't feel "limited". I wanted to post some pics and information so that there's something actually recent out there 😀

SXEFfDCl.jpg

zOv2p1Rl.jpg

System specs:
CPU: Intel 486DX4/75
RAM: 16MB (I believe 8MB is onboard and 8MB is in the single memory expansion slot on the bottom, as the system is apparently expandable to 24MB)
Graphics: Chips & Technologies 65545, 1MB VRAM (VLB)
Sound: ESS AudioDrive ES1488
Screen: 9.5 inch, 640x480 active-matrix TFT (!!) with hardware brightness slider
Hard drive: Originally a 543MB IDE 2.5" drive (Toshiba MK1924FCV) -- replaced with a 4GB Sandisk Ultra CompactFlash card... now this machine has zero moving parts, not even a fan!
OS: Arrived with Windows 95 installed. I believe this laptop was released early in 1995 so it probably originally had Windows 3.1, and came with Windows 95 after that was released) I've put DOS 6.2 and WFWG 3.11 on it for a much faster, lighter experience.
Ports: Parallel, Serial, VGA (back), IrDA, Headphone, Microphone, PS/2, Power (right side), 2x PCMCIA (left side)

TAv3Nl2l.jpg

This thing is incredibly small and thin. Here we see it sitting atop a PowerBook G3 (Pismo) from 2000. It makes the Pismo look huge! It's almost exactly one inch thick-- really incredible for the time. The battery serves as a stand -- it can be rotated to set the system flat, or elevated as shown here.

Overall this is a very nice system to play DOS games on. It is small and simple to carry around. The screen is really awesome for the age -- a nice bright TFT, definitely unusual for a 486 laptop! It doesn't really blur and looks great. I think there is some very slight stretching in 320x200 games, but I usually can't tell and that has made it hard to verify. Sound is pretty good -- ESS stuff is usually pretty decent at SB Pro compatibility and this is no exception. Not sure where the speaker(s) are (I think under the keyboard, but I didn't notice them when I took it apart) but the sound is clear and can get really loud if you want it to. The keyboard won't win any awards but I've typed on much worse ones-- although I can't tell if I'm having trouble because of the small size, or because of the German layout on mine. For gaming, it's acceptable. The trackball is decent and rolls smoothly even after all these years, but you might as well use the PS/2 port and plug a mouse in.

Of course, the size of the HiNote also means that it lacks external storage options. Mine did come with a floppy module that attaches to the bottom of the system, which increases the bulk of the system a bit. Unfortunately, the Citizen floppy drive inside the module was completely wrecked and was destroying any disks I put inside. I opened the module up and found that the drive itself was something standard, attaching to an "adapter" for the docking port using a ribbon cable. I was able to find a Mitsubishi drive using the same ribbon cable from the floppy module of a dead Compaq Armada 1750. However that drive is too deep to fit inside the original DEC adapter housing. So, when I've needed a floppy I plug the bare board into the bottom of the system, which is not exactly a stable setup. I try to avoid using it, and in fact only used it long enough to install DOS and copy over a copy of BananaCom, and now I regularly transfer files to and from it using a null modem cable and ZModem transfers. Sure, at the max of 115,200 baud I'm only getting about 10 kb/s over ZModem, but that's really not a big deal. If I'm moving over a game I just let it run for a while and go do something else.

There are a few drawbacks to this system, some of them are just me nitpicking, but I find them mostly acceptable given the laptop's overall positive qualities:
-No hardware volume knob, so audio defaults to max on boot and is controlled by fn+arrow keys or the ESSVOL utility. I have that run in autoexec.bat so that the max volume is brought down to an acceptable level.
-The OPL implementation is mostly good but seems to have issues with some games that use the old ROL playback engine. For instance my copy of Jill of the Jungle sounds absolutely horrible. On the other hand, Jill 2 is okay, so I think this was patched at some point. Games may have patches available to avoid it.
-Text mode font looks a bit odd in text-based games like ZZT that employ heavy use of the "block" characters.
-It's very hard to access the hard drive, and requires removal the CPU module, keyboard, and about 20 screws, then trying to pull apart the two halves of the system without breaking any of the plastic tabs.
-Lack of external storage devices could be annoying to some people. Judging by how uncommon the system itself is, I doubt the attachable disk drive modules are easy to find. Apart from the floppy module, I believe DEC made a CD-ROM module called the "Mobile Media Module". I have not seen a picture of it so no idea what it looks like.
-Speaking of external storage, I'm not sure what drivers I need to get PCMCIA working. I forgot to check what chipset it used on the original Win95 installation before I pulled the drive. I have a CF->PCMCIA adapter I use on my Amiga 1200 that would probably make file transfers a bit easier.
-Haven't found where the CMOS battery is. Mine is obviously quite dead, so I lose the clock settings if I leave it unplugged for more than a few minutes. Old forum postings suggest that it is on the bottom of the motherboard, but I haven't been able to get to it and without a disassembly guide I am concerned I would not be able to get the laptop back together. No idea if it's a coin cell or something rechargeable like some other laptops of the era. Hopefully being on the underside of the board means that a leak won't be as catastrophic, but it still bothers me a lot.
-When the system freeze, I am not sure how to hard power it off without yanking the power cord. The power button on the side just puts it in a sort of suspend mode, even when held. Same with Fn+Esc (which has a power symbol on it)... It does support APM so I can use a utility called POWEROFF.EXE to shut it down from DOS. A manual would probably be able to help me.
-Some colors have a bit of a dotted pattern to them on the screen. You can especially see this in the gray parts of Windows 3.x or 95. Possibly a limitation of these early TFTs? (See below)

xs2xjRYl.jpg

Overall, a surprisingly slim and light 486 laptop that I have never seen anyone mention, but has all the necessities us DOS gamers need to have a little fun. I'd give it 4/5 stars. If anyone has any questions about it, I'm glad to answer. Maybe posting it here means it won't be as easily lost to time!

Wafflenet OPL Archive - Preserving MS-DOS music in a unified format!

Reply 1 of 45, by BitWrangler

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IR file transfer can be quite fast. ... If you've got another system with it, was common up to PIII machines.

I like C&T graphics, they are usually fairly fast for their era and don't have too many quirks or deviations from normal. I still can't figure out how Intel bought them up then produced such terrible onboard graphics.

Basement full of ancient PC stuff, starting to go through it. Most recently toyed with DOS era stuff 15 years ago, so memory might be rusty. So what's this BitWrangler guy's deal ??? >>> Taming the pile, specs to target?

Reply 2 of 45, by lolo799

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That looks like a cool laptop, not that many 486 laptops came with an on-board sound card.

Use this to identify the PCMCIA chipset:
PCMCIA Sound Cards

And try ATAENAB for your CF adapter:
http://www.tssc.de/site/products/enablers/ata … ab/default.aspx

PCMCIA Sound, Storage & Graphics

Reply 3 of 45, by Jo22

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MrKsoft wrote:

. The keyboard won't win any awards but I've typed on much worse ones-- although I can't tell if I'm having trouble because of
the small size, or because of the German layout on mine. For gaming, it's acceptable. The trackball is decent and rolls smoothly even
after all these years, but you might as well use the PS/2 port and plug a mouse in.

For DOS, I've seen a tiny replacement keyboard driver for that layout. It's just 1KiB in size.
Have a look at "Keyb2" on this website: http://www.uwe-sieber.de/util.html

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 4 of 45, by MrKsoft

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lolo799 wrote:

Use this to identify the PCMCIA chipset:
PCMCIA Sound Cards

Thanks, it is a Cirrus Logic CL-PD6710. I will try getting drivers set up later, but that puts me on the right path.

Jo22 wrote:

For DOS, I've seen a tiny replacement keyboard driver for that layout. It's just 1KiB in size.
Have a look at "Keyb2" on this website: http://www.uwe-sieber.de/util.html

I mostly just meant the key positioning is a bit different because of the German layout (tall enter key, repositioned and tiny backslash, etc.. and remembering that ctrl-alt-del is strg-alt-entf!) -- without any keymap drivers loaded the keyboard actually just spits out plain old QWERTY codes. So the "Z" key on the keyboard outputs a "Y", which is great cause I can touch-type normally. It's just the slight changes in the key sizes that throws me off. 😀

Wafflenet OPL Archive - Preserving MS-DOS music in a unified format!

Reply 5 of 45, by lolo799

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MrKsoft wrote:

Thanks, it is a Cirrus Logic CL-PD6710. I will try getting drivers set up later, but that puts me on the right path.

The ATAENAB point enabler supports your chipset directly without any additional drivers, give it a try with your CF adapter.
For other PCMCIA cards that you may have, SCSI/CDROM/Network/Sound, you will need the following lines in your config.sys either as device= or devicehigh=
C:\CARDSOFT\SSCIRRUS.EXE
C:\CARDSOFT\CS.EXE
C:\CARDSOFT\CSALLOC.EXE
C:\CARDSOFT\CARDID.EXE

PCMCIA Sound, Storage & Graphics

Reply 6 of 45, by bjwil1991

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Interesting laptop. The ones I've seen used the crappy display, and no sound card whatsoever (ain't cheap), but I got a Packard Bell Pack-Mate 28 Plus that's fully loaded. So I got that goin' for me, which is nice.

video-undefined-25BC7D0600000578-301_637x356.jpg

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Systems from C64 to FX-6300.

Reply 7 of 45, by BitWrangler

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Yah, slowest laptop I've got with sound is a P133, it wasn't common in 486s. I don't think even the later 4/75 I used to have had sound, though it had a nice for the time display. I sold that one for half a bitcoin years back and still have it, so not complaining 🤣. Still got a contura 4/25 and a zenith "486" that is 386 based with a cyrix chip, it has the fasmath too, I should get it out and bench it. Both of those have sluggy mono LCDs on, apparently warmth helps speed them up, so if you use them near a heat vent or with a fan heater blowing at them (Obviously not so close to do damage) then they do a bit better. I also have a compaq 386 with a color screen that's in pieces, it had a really weird unobtanium PSU and I took it apart years ago to try to reverse engineer. Guess what though, a psu turned up, I should reassemble and test. Thing is though, that zenith is really, really beat up, literally falling apart, so half a mind to try transplanting the "486" from that into that compaq. Anyhoo, still won't get me sound in a 486, guess I'd have to build a covox.

Basement full of ancient PC stuff, starting to go through it. Most recently toyed with DOS era stuff 15 years ago, so memory might be rusty. So what's this BitWrangler guy's deal ??? >>> Taming the pile, specs to target?

Reply 11 of 45, by henryVK

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There's a "Hinote CT475" on German ebay classifieds.. I can't find any info on whether this (i.e. sans the "ultra" moniker) is a different machine, or if it was just sold under a different name.

Reply 12 of 45, by Dirtbag

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I have the same laptop, I picked it up at a "rommelmarkt" sort of a fleamarket. Picked it up with the floppy module (non functional) the charger and a original laptop bag from Digital. I also had the trouble with data transfer. After a bit of testing an fiddeling I found a way to make the easiest use of this laptop.

Get a PCMCIA to CF converter, I bought both from ali. An 512 mb card should suffice for win 3.1

After that, follow this instruction:
http://theinstructionlimit.com/installing-ms- … -to-ide-adapter

Mind you, complete the installation in one session, one stopped I could not get write access to the CF card any more in Virtualbox.

Once complete grab the CF card, put it in de PCMCIA-CF card and put that in one of the two slots of the Hinote, enable PCMCIA boot in the bios.

This laptop will then boot from the CF card, the hard drive will be accessible as D:

For data transfer you can just stick the CF card in a CF card reader in windows 10 and you'll have full access to the entire drive.

Also, the bios battery is behind a tiny trapdoor behind the main battery and next to the external VGA connector. No disassembly required to replace. It's a CR1220 button cell.

I'm going to try to make a second CF card to install win95 to as the first one is used for msdos 6.22 and win 3.11. I just need the win95 drivers for it 😀

db

Reply 13 of 45, by MC68328

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Dirtbag wrote:

I'm going to try to make a second CF card to install win95 to as the first one is used for msdos 6.22 and win 3.11. I just need the win95 drivers for it 😀

I got two of these laptops at the estate sale of a former DEC employee. I've attached the contents of an original driver disk.

Attachments

  • Filename
    ct475win95.zip
    File size
    79.8 KiB
    Downloads
    43 downloads
    File comment
    Win95 drivers for CT475
    File license
    Fair use/fair dealing exception

Reply 15 of 45, by Dirtbag

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Well "fun" ...

Using the same method as I used for MSDOS 6.22 and windows for workgroups and a lot of trial and error I now also have a CF card with windows 95B, however. I cannot get the Hinote to boot from the win 95 card. When inserted it will always boot from the internal harddrive.

Given the fact that the bios is version 1.30 I assumed I needed a bios update, which I found. http://unimatrix.gomtuu.net/DEC_legacy/legacy … tal/epid71.html

I grabbed the 1.42, the most recent and put it on the MSDOS 6.22 CF. However. It requires a floppy drive, as with many from the era, mine is dead as a doornail. Just for test I opened my El cheapo USB floppy drive I recently bought from aliexpress.

Lo and behold, it uses the same flatcable as de Hinote floppy drive. Well there's two ways to connect and the first try was not the good way. After fixing this I had for the first time a working floppy drive.

I extracted the bios update to a blank floppy and rebooted the laptop.

After this the process is automated and I ended up with bios version 1.42

I inserted the win 95 CF card and....

Got the boot from the internal harddrive.

Well, so far for fun 😀

At the moment I'm doubting if I installed windows 95 B or A. Going to give it another try maybe for sure with WIN95A, I have another 512 meg CF card ready for testing.

db

Reply 17 of 45, by bjwil1991

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Sometimes, those CF to IDE adapters won't work in some laptops. My Toshiba Satellite Pro 410CDT requires me to bend one pin at a 90 degree angle and requires something to hold the CF to IDE adapter in place from sliding around, plus, they are slimmer than a traditional HDD, sadly.

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Systems from C64 to FX-6300.

Reply 19 of 45, by bjwil1991

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I believe it's also because of the HDD brackets as well since there are no spots to put the screws into it. I might drill some holes for my CF to IDE adapter for my laptop and see how it does. Gotta admit: CF to IDE adapters are pretty cool, however, if the person wants to copy files to the CF card without using a network connection (might do that for my laptop as the CD drive broke and I don't have a lot of blank 1.44MB diskettes), the PCMCIA CF adapter would suit better as it's easily accessible (after powering the laptop fully off first, of course), whereas the CF to IDE adapter requires a teardown to access the CF to IDE adapter in some cases, others, easily accessible.

Discord: https://discord.gg/U5dJw7x
Systems from C64 to FX-6300.