back to article Fleet of 4.77MHz LCD laptops with 8088 CPUs still alive after 30 years

The can of worms we opened when we learned of the server switched off after eighteen years and ten months' service is still wriggling, as a reader has contacted us to tell of nearly 30-year-old laptops still in service. Reader “Holrum” says he has “a couple dozen Toshiba T1000 laptops from the mid 1980's still fully functional …

  1. Christian Berger

    Wait, but laptop still have LCDs

    Even though todays LCDs need almost as much power as plasma or EL displays, the TFT panels we have now are technically LCDs.

    1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Wait, but laptop still have LCDs

      I'm not sure I understand your comment, in the context of the article.

      I wish there was a "confused" icon...

      1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Wait, but laptop still have LCDs

        Still, I guess it's all a load of old Tosh anyway

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: Wait, but laptop still have LCDs

          From the article: "it also offered a rather archaic LCD display as illustrated above"

          I believe Christian read the article text as meaning that LCD technology in general was archaic, whereas the same sentance could be also read as meaning that this specific LCD display was archaic. I read it as the latter.

          1. Simon Harris

            Re: Wait, but laptop still have LCDs

            640x200 pixels in monochrome is pretty archaic by today's display standards.

            1. Dave 126 Silver badge

              Re: Wait, but laptop still have LCDs

              >640x200 pixels in monochrome is pretty archaic by today's display standards.

              For a general purpose computer, yes. But similar displays are still common in kit made today - music players, for example.

            2. Simon Harris

              Re: Wait, but laptop still have LCDs

              "640x200 pixels in monochrome is pretty archaic"

              Come to think of it, 1388x768 should be considered pretty archaic for a modern laptop!

    2. Frank Bough

      Re: Wait, but laptop still have LCDs

      That simply isn't true. My 42" plasma TV (Panasonic neo PDP generation) uses approx 600W typically. My 50" Panasonic LED illuminated TFT uses around 80W.

  2. Ian Michael Gumby
    Boffin

    just fyi ...

    "The T1000 was introduced in 1987, but that's long enough that we'll forgive Holrum the slight lapse, not least because the machine was one of the very first computers to use a clamshell form factor."

    Try Grid which came out in 1983.

    It was also one of the first PCs to go up in the space shuttle. Although that one was modified to include a small fan to help keep it cool.

    An yes, I am showing my age since I remember selling them bubble memory.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: just fyi ...

      Try Grid which came out in 1983.

      Wikipedia says the GRiD Compass came out in '82, actually.

      The Toshiba also closely resembles the IBM PC Convertible (which obviously took inspiration from the GRiD), and the Convertible came out a year earlier.

      Of course "one of the very first" isn't a terribly substantial claim, but I'd say it's a bit hyperbolic in this case. How many of these half-clamshell PCs (with the hinge in the middle of the top half) were there after the Toshiba?

  3. Shadow Systems
    Coat

    Just wait...

    ...until Redmond insists they're able to be upgraded to Windows 10...

    I'll get my coat, it's the one with the gigabytes worth of double sided floppies in the pockets.

    1. Michael Thibault

      Re: Just wait...

      >gigabytes worth of double sided floppies

      Cool! HD?

    2. Simon Sharwood, Reg APAC Editor (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Just wait...

      Here's Redmond saying they can't run DOS 5, unless you boot from floppy

      https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/kb/75226

    3. John Doe 6

      Re: Just wait...

      They are Process Monitors and are probably not connected to the Internet...

      and DOS 2.11 and 512 KB is not enough to support the TCP/IP stack (I am old enough to remember the pre-IBM pc era).

      1. Aitor 1 Silver badge

        Re: Just wait...

        A TCP IP Stack can be implemented with way less that 512MB KB of RAM.. still, very slow but feasible.

        Note:check TCP/IP implementation on pics:

        http://www.microchip.com/SWLibraryWeb/product.aspx?product=TCPIPSTACK

        16KB are needed.

        1. Roland6 Silver badge

          Re: Just wait...

          still, very slow but feasible.

          But then Ethernet was 10Mbps, and the protocols being used: Telnet, FTP, NFS weren't particularly demanding, so the slowness wasn't really an issue; given the competition was 9600 baud dial modem...

          1. Sandtitz Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Just wait...

            "given the competition was 9600 baud dial modem..."

            9600 bps V.32 modems were introduced back in '89. The baud speed was 2400. Baud speed is related to bits-per-second and in earlier modems the baud speed was essentially the same as bps.

            Back in 80s the Ethernet was 10Mbps but there were also other, slower "standards" and plain old serial cable was also used in many places.

            As you were. :-)

        2. dajames

          Re: Just wait...

          A TCP IP Stack can be implemented with way less that 512MB KB of RAM.

          Indeed ... but we're talking about 512KB here ...

          The typo is excusable, however ... nowadays PCs have multiple GB of RAM (though mostly not 512GB ... yet) and it's funny how the prefixes all blur together with time.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Just wait...

          The ZX Spectrum can support a TCP IP Stack - so this should be able to manage it.

      2. Alan Bourke

        Re: Just wait...

        Various TCP/IP stacks for the C64 including one written in BASIC:

        http://6502.org/users/andre/hwinfo/ethernet/index.html

      3. jake Silver badge

        @John Doe 6(was: Re: Just wait...)

        "DOS 2.11 and 512 KB is not enough to support the TCP/IP stack"

        Uh ... yes, it is. I worked on a (still usable) version of TCP/IP on a 256K system.

        The REAL problem is that DOS didn't have networking hooks until 3.11 ;-)

        Dumb terminal on 2.11? Yes. Actual networking? Not so much.

  4. cantankerous swineherd Silver badge

    say hello tosh to a new Toshiba.

  5. wolfetone Silver badge

    Say hello to the new Tosh, the same as the old Tosh.

    What's more impressive in this article is the keyboard. That thing must be worth a load of money now.

  6. frank ly

    re. "wily manager"

    A truly wily manager would have a friend who ran a PC maintenance company and they would be paid $10,000 a year over several invoices.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Having DOS on ROM means that the floppy drive can be used for occasional data; saves power and especially space.

    The HP 110 had 768KB of battery backed RAM, which could be partitioned to give a 384KB RAMdisk, obviating the need for floppies (more or less).

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      HP Portable

      I still have HP110 somewhere. The HP-IL was funky especially if you had 82169A HP-IL/HP-IB interface converter.

      I also have fully working HP150, but I seem to have misplaced the dula floppy iirc a 9121.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    T3100

    Not quite as old as this guy, but those early Toshibas were great machines.

    The 3100e was my first portable (probably early 90s?)... i don't want to call it a laptop because i would have burned my legs off if it had been on them.

    It had an orange gas plasma screen that got really hot. Weighed too much to carry much.

    Sold it to a collector in the end, ran for years and years in a construction site office.

    http://38.media.tumblr.com/da8fb25523493a061b464e7c4fee75f1/tumblr_inline_n7lz8ltsHM1rzzdzb.jpg

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: T3100

      I do remember the T3100 portables that were knocking around at work back then in the 80s. Its dotty orange gas plasma screen was kind of Hollywood looking funky tech. If I recall these had no battery, would require a wall socket to work.

  9. DropBear
    Facepalm

    Apparently the unchanged fact that most solid-state electronics are most of the time happily chugging along for decades without any issues (and why should they have any...) is nowadays planning its retirement in favour of the planned-obsolescent modern perception of things being necessarily junk after a mere few years. Let me offer a tentative rule of thumb: does it have a filament or moving parts? No? Then is should bloody well still be working regardless of how old it is...

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      SSD Wear levelling isn't pretend.

      Electronics can and do wear out - but I agree, most "failures" nowadays are built in.

      Of course the issue is more obvious with smaller process sizes, which are required for higher speed and lower power consumption...

    2. AndrueC Silver badge
      Happy

      Apparently the unchanged fact that most solid-state electronics are most of the time happily chugging along for decades without any issues

      But not all. I finally found out last night why my Squeezebox Touch has been having issues when powering on. It turns out one of my Netgear gigabit switches has been failing for several months and last night finally expired. It probably explains the minor glitches I've been seeing and largely ignoring with various bits of my A/V kit.

      So it might be digital but it seems there's a third state. On, off and 'mostly on'.

      1. Anonymous111

        It may be capacitor failure. In the mid 2000s, there was a huge batch of bad caps that affected just about everything. You can often see failed ones as they have bulging/leaking tops. Look at the size/rating of the bad ones and order a new one for a buck or two and solder it in.

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: the unchanged fact that most solid-state electronics...

      What is interesting about these Toshiba's is that the screen is still working. I seem to remember that screen burn fad was an issue with early LCD's. Also I assume the screen was attached to the motherboard via a real cable rather than the FFC style ribbon connectors which seem more prone to brittle fracture.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

        Re: the unchanged fact that most solid-state electronics...

        Maybe they don't have to look at the displays that much and turn down the contrast way down low (to the point that it's practically off)? IIRC that was one of the 'this one weird trick' floating around at the time.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: the unchanged fact that most solid-state electronics...

          Even parts - or the connections - that are not designed to move may still suffer some mechanical strain from thermal expansion cycles.

          1. I sound like Peter Griffin!!

            Re: the unchanged fact that most solid-state electronics...

            Especially since Lead became a no-no in CE..

      2. Frank Bough

        Re: the unchanged fact that most solid-state electronics...

        A ribbon should be OK if the lid stays open.

    4. Peter Ford

      Aside from those obvious moving-part failures like hard drives and cooling fans, I've had all sorts of things mysteriously fail:

      several of those ADSL filters that plug in to the phone socket,

      one of a pair of CPUs (not through overheating, it just died),

      RAM in a desktop,

      a PC power supply (not the fan - that was fine - the control circuitry went doolally),

      USB drives (I suppose they suffer some mechanical stress),

      and most weird a single port in a 16-way gigabit switch...

      Solid-state is not necessarily forever.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        I have a 1960s guitar amp that occasionally needs a new valve -to be expected, but all the other stuff which is wired point to point is original. Include potentiometers. Finds of unused Mullard valves are much sought after and very expensive.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Some components will decay - electrolytic capacitors were a favourite when I wielded a soldering iron. Even in high quality kit designed to operate 24/7 for the life of the equipment I'd see failures at about 20 years. Some components will age faster if left unused - my rule of thumb is that the longer it is since something was used the less likely it is to still work.

      1. jimmyj

        yes - 'exercise' for longevity - electrolytics need some polarizing voltage to maintain the chemical layer between the plates. remembering a 'make work' project that involved charging all the spares ! controls like being rotated to clear up and quiet down. I've found that sprays tend to get into the bearings and start more than they solve(nt)

    6. MJI Silver badge

      Wish it was true but.

      Electrolytic capacitors are a common fail point, then there is the nightmare of lead free solder.

    7. Frank Bough

      Lead-free solder.

  10. Iain Griffiths

    We had a load of those up till 2000 in the server room. Used for some weird dial up program to the bank (not payments IIRC but invoices ? can't remember. Was very sad when the last one got given to the Marketing Hall of Fame (The Dusty Cupboard of Doom and Forgetfulness)

    Mind you, the company I worked for was Toshiba. We had the little models of Laptops in the shape of biscuits used in Marketing form the mid 90's in a display cabinet.

  11. jake Silver badge

    Old portable kit ...

    ... I lugged one of these around the world for a couple years:

    http://www.vintage-computer.com/panasonicsr.shtml

    38 pounds (including case, modem, manuals & floppies), but at least it had a built-in printer :-)

    It has an MFM controller in the expansion slot, a 20 meg hard drive in one of the floppy bays, and an aftermarket hack that upped the stock 256K of RAM to a more usable768K. I used an external modem. Yes, I still have it, and yes it still works. Came with Panasonic-labeled MS-DOS 2.2, but it currently boots MS-DOS 3.3 ... It might be hard for some of the younger readers to believe, but a LOT of RealWorld[tm] work was done with such primitive devices.

    1. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: Old portable kit ...

      All the benefits in productivity afforded by kilo-or-so computers with large, high-quality displays, plentiful storage and trivial networking have been eaten by email, Facebook and Wikipedia.

  12. Crisp
    Coat

    The T1000 was impressive

    Especially the way it could morph into practically anyone it liked and change its hands into stabbing weapons.

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Re: The T1000 was impressive

      Husky Hunters (MOD passim) were the obvious blunt instrument when all else had stopped.

    2. Blitheringeejit
      Terminator

      Re: The T1000 was impressive

      Nice gag but wrong icon -------------------------------------------------------------->

  13. Mondo the Magnificent

    Quality versus quantity?

    I had one of those very T1000's in the late 80's for work use.

    My belief is that in the early era of computing, these things were not as mass produced as they are today and the combination of manufacturing and QC levels made these old systems very reliable indeed.

    1. ntevanza
      Thumb Up

      Re: Quality versus quantity?

      The one to have was the T1000LE. Crisp 640x400 screen, 1MB RAM, 20MB HDD, and an (almost) 10 MHz clock speed. Superb hardware; the best keyboard I've used this side of an IBM Thinkpad. Ran for years. Unfortunately Toshiba dropped the ball. They had embezzlement issues of their own.

    2. Greencat

      Re: Quality versus quantity?

      Perhaps not that surprising given the cost of early laptops sometimes ran into thousands. My first brand new laptop (I'd had a few second hand ones since the early 90s) was a Sony VAIO in 99. That came in at just shy of £2K (a sizeable chunk of a house deposit in many parts of the UK then). Their QA was already crap given my own experience.

      Now you can pick up a reasonably specced laptop for under 300 notes, and a tablet for well under 100 so it's perhaps more surprising that modern computers work as well as they do for as long as they do.

  14. JeffyPoooh
    Pint

    Fleet of 4.77Mhz...

    MHz

    1. jimmyj

      Re: Fleet of 4.77Mhz...

      yes Hertz. remember being pleased that his name replaced cps = cycles per second !

  15. hamiltoneuk

    NEC's Rival

    Reminds me NEC had a similar machine back then. The NEC did not have the floppy drive (pricey item back then). It ran CP/M not the trendy MS-DOS (CP/M with floppy was a nightmare, people made a living transferring CP/M data from one manufacturer's floppy drive format to another and there were loads of them!). With the NEC you just squirted the data down the serial port. NEC used a smaller screen I think. The NEC keyboard was nice but not quiet so not good in meetings. It was a sought after bargain laptop at Morgan Computer in the wild west end :)

  16. grabla

    Beware of the external PSU's on these old crocks. Following a recent 'test of the fire alarm' at one site I visited, digging the computer out, powering it on, and 'going for lunch' leaving said crock unattended whilst it booted up, almost resulted in its own, and the buildings untimely (or not) cremation.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    T1000XE

    I have a T1000XE albeit not in a working state. Shortly after refurbishing it the 20mb drive gave up the ghost and I was unable to find a suitable replacement.

    Odd thing about them is they have TWO batteries. There's the obvious external one which is easy enough to replace. Then there is a second internal battery that runs along the front edge of the keyboard. Even with a new external pack, the unit will not run long with a bad internal pack. IIRC the internal pack is just 4x (maybe 5x?) AAA batteries in series. I was able to take one to the local BatteriesPlus shop and they built a replacement for me.

    Anonymous because I might have accidentally forgotten to take it back to previous employer when I left them. Although they hadn't used it for at least a decade by that point and when I asked to take it home to play with no one bothered to record where it was going.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: T1000XE

      Second battery pack is so you can hot-swap the first, of course. I remember doing that with later Toshiba laptops. I think some of my Thinkpads may have had the feature too.

  18. Qwelak

    T1000Xe

    I still have an old toshiba T1000XE as well as one of the first Dell colors producedm around '97. Both are still going strong.

    1. Oscar

      Re: T1000Xe

      Is a Dell Color a model? 'Cos my dad has a Dell 286 from 87 or 88 ...

  19. Exscot

    Had a T1000 in about 88 had the upgrade to 1M of RAM

    Was flying in and out of Belfast at the time and security had not seen many laptops so was often asked to switch it on

  20. dshan

    Interesting

    Interesting that these T1000s and whatever software they are running survived Y2K...

  21. PJF
    IT Angle

    Tandy T-102?

    Does this count as a laptop, or a tablet?!?

    Still has my "alarm clock" program(PING failure) that I ran during Desert (Shield/Storm/Calm). I know I bought it in '87-88 when I worked/got ripped off for r'ADIO S'hack.

  22. John Crisp

    IBM Laptop

    Still have one of these venerable beasts though I haven't fired it up in a while

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_PC_Convertible

    Was trying to remember the laptop my dad borrowed from work in the late 80's that had a modem and Telix. That was my intro to Fidonet and thence to 'the internet'.

    Good fun times, apart from the phone bills which suddenly overtook the GDP of several small nations....

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: IBM Laptop

      My first "PC" - bought it around '89.

      It booted up a couple of years ago when I last tried.

  23. Howard Hanek
    Meh

    Toshiba

    Really is amazing but they may be still in service when Toshiba gets out of the laptop business. They're already negotiating with Sony/Vaio on some sort of merger.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re. LCD

    Apparently some manufacturers (notably the less expen$ive budget phones and camcorders) use my idea (circa 1993 aged maybe 13) of color phase sequencing backlights.

    This allows them to display full color without the usual RGB filters, but at the cost of some flicker and image breakup at high refresh speeds.

    The trick is to flash the LEDs very quickly for very short duty cycles and this helps a bit with slow panels, also keeping the panel at 40c helps too.

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