Skip navigation

Tag Archives: luggable

Were you a huge fan of the best selling Commodore 64 computer in the early 80s? Did you love it so much you just wished you could bring it along everywhere you went? Well, if so, in 1984 you were in luck because that’s when Commodore released the SX-64 or sometimes called the Commodore Executive, a Commodore 64 “luggable” computer. The SX-64 was a Commodore 64 computer, complete with floppy disk drive, keyboard and a small 5 inch color CRT monitor all in one briefcase style package. It was heavy and bulky like a large briefcase and still required the unit to be plugged into a wall power supply but in the early 1980’s this was the norm for portable computers.

The keyboard of the SX-64 also acted as the front cover and attached over the front of the machine shielding the monitor and single floppy drive. The handle on the case doubles as a stand when the SX-64 is in use.

With the front cover / keyboard removed by pressing down and two small plastic tabs the front of the SX-64 is revealed. On the far left we have the 5 inch composite color CRT monitor. Next to that we have one Commodore floppy disk drive and what looks like a storage area above it which is actually….well, a storage area and is labeled as such. There were plans to release a SX-64 with two floppy disks drives named the DX-64 but details are a bit sketchy on if this version was ever actually officially released. A few have turned up over the years but they seem to be exceptionally rare. I’ve read some SX-64 owners have indeed added a second drive in the “storage area” so it can be done. Usually this little storage bay is used to stow the keyboard cable when the SX-64 is not in use.

On the far right we have a small door with the C64 branding behind which is some basic control knobs and pots to control sound volume and adjust the monitor.

The 5” color composite monitor itself is small but very easy to read and I found mine to be quite sharp and gave a better looking image then I expected.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Spinning the SX-64 around we can take a look at the back and the various ports.

Starting from the left we have two joystick / mouse ports followed by an A/V out port meaning that you can easily connect the SX-64 to an external monitor or TV if you wished. Next to this is a Commodore serial 488 port for connecting things like an external disk drive or printer. In the center we have the edge connector like Commodore user port which connects to some printers, modems or even other computers. Lastly to the far right we have a standard three prong power connector, a fuse and a power on/off switch. My unit interestingly does not have the port labels molded into the plastic next to the relevant ports where I have seen some models that do.

Located on the top of the SX-64 is the cartridge port.

The keyboard connects to the main unit via a non-standard 25-pin keyboard connector. The connector on the SX-64 itself is located below right side of front panel and is a little awkward to reach and connect in my opinion.

Finding an official replacement cable if yours is lost or damaged can be difficult but homemade replacements can be found on eBay in the $25 and up price range. They generally aren’t as nice looking as the official cables though.

Lets take a quick look inside by removing several screws on the side.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The internals of the SX-64 are extremely cramped and hardware failures due to excessive heat are not uncommon. On the left side we mostly have the CRT itself as well as the speaker and behind that the power supply. Directly behind the cartridge slot is the board with the keyboard controller and the panel on the far right is the board hosting things like the CPU, RAM and PLA chip.

Common issue with PLA chip

On powering my SX-64 up for the first time however I was greeted by a very pixelated and distorted screen.

This is a rather common issue caused usually by heat and a faulty PLA chip. Thankfully this chip is socketed and is fairly easy to get to and replace.

Below is an image with the bad chip highlighted. Even though it’s relatively easy to reach you probably are better off disconnecting the board and raising it out of the case for better access. There are some excellent guides online and on YouTube detailing this process.

And here is the offending chip once removed.

I opted to replace my PLA chip with a more modern equivalent. I found my online for about $25 and as far as I can tell it is 100% compatible and generates significantly less heat.

I even decided to add a small heatsink just for extra cooling though with a more modern replacement part like this it’s not necessary.

If you experience keyboard issues you may also want to make sure the connection with the board directly behind the cartridge slot and the main board are making a solid connection as seen below.

Thankfully this simple and fairly cheap fix solved all my video issues and if you have issues with your SX-64 I would suggest looking at replacing the PLA chip first. There are other chips that may go bad including the RAM which unfortunately is soldered on but I have found a bad PLA chip is usually the issue as far as a black or distorted screen goes.

Overall compatibility with the SX-64 seems to be pretty good though I’ve read there are issues with certain games and peripherals such as RAM expansion units and some printers. Due to the default screen color being changed to blue text on a white background some programs may experience issues since they expect the default white text on a blue background.

I like the SX-64 but I don’t really find it that useful as I would strongly prefer a standard C64. The SX-64 didn’t sell that well back at release. The C64 was never really seen as a serious business machine and in my mind packing a breadbox C64 as well as the floppy drive, PSU and a few cables into a small box and just using a larger TV as a monitor if you’re going on vacation or something isn’t much more of a hassle or less of an inconvenience then lugging the SX-64 with you. Yes, it is more convenient and if you needed a C64 and traveled a lot or did demonstrations it would be really helpful but for a retro gamer today it’s an interesting piece for Commodore fans but I’d stick with a good old C64 or C64c for my actual C64 gaming.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Before we had Ipads and notebooks and even laptop computers we had “luggables”. Luggables were an early type of portable computer. Closer in many respects to a desktop then to what we know as a laptop this was the best early designers could do to make a PC portable and in many cases had to implement bulky technology of the time like large 5 1/4 disk drives and CRT monitor screens. The name comes from the fact that often they were more like luggage that needed to be lugged around then like a laptop that was easily portable and light. In many cases a luggables exceeded 15+ pounds. Another general trait is the need for a power cord and a wall outlet and no battery power severely restricting use while “on the go”. We will be going over two such luggable machines from two ends of the spectrum. The Kaypro 10 a more traditional luggable from earlier days and a later Toshiba T3100 that uses technology like a early gas-plasma screen to reduce weight and size and almost enter the era of the laptop.

Kaypro 10

First up is the Kaypro 10 from 1983.

kprot1

First off I have to say I had two of these systems and both had the same issues of not being able to detect the hard drive as well as freezing up after a few minutes after booting from a floppy. That said I don’t have a lot of experience in using these machines. Also I sold off my two units and forgot to take that many images so :(. The kaypro 10 was part of the successful Kaypro line. From what I’ve read it was one of the first computers  to come with a hard drive. In this case a 10 MB MFM drive. The K10 came with a 5 1/4  double sided double density 390k floppy drive, a 4mhz Z80 CPU, 64kb of RAM and ran CP/M. As you can see the K10 came with a 9′ green screen CRT monitor built in. In the rear there is a printer, serial and modem port as well as the reset and power switch. The keyboard latches on and covers the screen and there is a handle on the back of the machine so you can lug it around like a bulky 15+ pound briefcase. I really wished I could get either of mine working but even if I did these are CP/M machines and CP/M is not known for its gaming.

kprot2

The metal box to the far right is the floppy drive and directly to its left is the hard drive enclosure. Under that motherboard is the CRT tube.

kprot3

Here is the motherboard. not to much to say. That chip directly above the cable labeled MOBO J9 is the Z80 CPU and I think those little chips under the cable are the RAM chips.

kprot4

This is the controller board. It is located on the right side of the machine screwed onto the side of the floppy drive enclosure. This board controls the HDD and FDD. Other then that I don’t have a whole lot to say about the Kaypro 10. I didn’t get to use it much due to the fact both my machines had issues and also I’m not very experienced with the CP/M OS which is primarily a business OS. It is though, a very good example of an early portable PC. The large built in CRT was typical and in the K10s favor the screen is actually big enough to be usable and having a actual hard drive is a huge plus. The thing is not easy to carry around. You don’t need to be the hulk to carry it but its certainly not without effort. I would hate to be the businessman that had to lug this thing to the office and up a flight a stairs on a hot day while in a business suit. Two Kaypro 10’s were apparently used by the medical team in the 1984 Paris-Dakar race and powered by the car battery which I guess at the time was very hi-tech.

Now lets look at the other end of the spectrum at a machine that acts as sort of a missing link between luggables and laptop the

Toshiba T3100

t31002

This machine came out in 1986 and in many ways is far more closely related to the laptop. The main difference is that the T3100 still relies solely on wall outlets for power and has no battery ability like a laptop does. This machine is also in general heavier and more bulky then many early laptops. I found this machine at a local thrift chain and as you can see the screen is a little messed up with vertical lines through it and barely readable. Other then a broken screen the machine boots up with no issues and luckily there is a way around the screen issues I’ll get to in a bit.

The T3100 uses a amber gas-plasma display greatly reducing size and weight from the large CRT in systems such as the Kaypro 10. This machine is powered by a Intel 7.16mhz 286 and sports 640kb of RAM upgradable to 2.6MB. Unlike the K10 this machine is a DOS machine opening up many possibilities. Mine came with DOS  3.2 on its 10MB hard drive. The manual states the CPU can be down clocked to a compatibility mode of 4.77mhz to help run older software but to do this the manual states ” [this] can be done by depressing some keys of the keyboard”. What those keys actually are though is anyone’s guess.

t31001

My T3100 has a standard configuration of a hard drive and a 3 1/3 inch 720kb floppy drive, another technological leap from the K10.

t31005

There is also a port on the rear to add and external 5 1/4 drive and a switch on the left side of the machine to configure A: and B: drives. Now will take a look at the rear of the machine.

t31003

Other then the Power switch and starting from the left we have an expansion port that has a proprietary connector for adding things like a modem or I think memory expansion cards as well. There was also an external base that housed up to five ISA cards that could be used to expand the T3100 abilities. This though would obviously come at the price of the portability. Next to that we have a serial port and then a printer port that also acts as a port for an optional external 5 1/4 drive. Next to that are some DIP switches to set things such as memory and display. I’ll post a chart on that here.

t3100dipAnd lastly we have a very convenient RGB port for hooking the T3100 up to an external CGA monitor.

t31004

This is very nice for situations such as my own where the built in gas-plasma screen is damaged. The CGA chip is fully CGA compatible and has a hi-res 640×400 mode which is very much like the mode in the AT&T 6300 PC which is well, unusual, but in a good way. Lastly I’ll include a layout of the internal motherboard.

t3100mb

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’m not really a laptop or portable PC guy and prefer the expansion and sturdiness of desktop systems but the T3100 is a decent DOS game machine for what it is, if you can get past the amber monochrome screen. You could add an expansion bay and a CGA monitor but when you do that you defeat the purpose of portability and may as well use a desktop. I think the Kaypro 10 and the T3100 make a good  and interesting example of how luggable PC’s evolved in just a short period of time.

FDISKformat

A place for the pc collector

I ❤ Old Games!

Retrogaming & other stuff

Waltorious Writes About Games

Game-related ramblings.

NekoJonez's Gaming Blog

A Journey Through A Gamer's Life

Old School Game Blog

Amiga enthusiasm, retro gaming passion

Evelynn Star

Lynn talks about video games, records and books ...

Retro Megabit

Sharing My Retro Video Game Collection.

133MHz's Junk Box

Random electronics and gaming crap

SNES A Day

Reviews, screenshots, and videos of the entire Super Nintendo library.

Retrocosm's Vintage Computing, Tech & Scale RC Blog

Random mutterings on retro computing, old technology, some new, plus radio controlled scale modelling.

The PewPew Diaries.

Work(s) in Progress!

The Martian Oddity

Video Games and other weird stuff!

1001Up

1001 video games and beyond

retro computing and gaming plus a little more

sparcie

retro computers and stuff

jispylicious

Stay Jispy!

lazygamereviews

MS-DOS game reviews, retro ramblings and more...

%d bloggers like this: