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The Compaq Concerto laptop from 1993

This is Edgaras’ story about a Compaq concerto laptop from 1993, with pen support. It was one of the first tablet computers. With a 486 processor and 8 MB of RAM, it runs windows 3.1 (for pen computing) and is a fun DOS machine for some retro gaming. It also has a 3.5″ floppy disk drive for old-school DOS fun. It may not seem much now, but in 1993 it was pretty ahead of its time.

It all started in 2003.

My dad gave me this computer in 2003 for my 1st year at university as I needed a laptop fast and did not have one. It was already old-school back then. Nevertheless, I installed Windows 95, which ran on it, although slowly.

I started programming with turbo pascal and turbo c. During my 2nd year of university, I bought a modern (by 2004 standards) laptop with Windows XP, and my old laptop went back to my dad, who decided to put it in storage.

However, in 2016 while cleaning up, I found this laptop just as I left it with Windows 95 and a not working pen. Then it all started.

Restoration.

Since I hadn’t used Windows 3.1 or DOS for a while, I decided to clean up and restore the original Windows 3.1 on the Compaq concerto laptop. That was a challenge considering I didn’t have an old working machine that I could connect to anymore. Nor did I have the original OEM software. I tried to pull out its HDD and connect it through a data connection, but sadly its standard was too old to work with my adapter.

Luckily, I remembered the old DOS way to connect two old computers with LPT/COM ports without the internet. So I got a ‘USB to Serial adapter’ and connected it with DOS on a virtual machine to the concerto. Then I got even luckier when I found one thoughtful concerto owner on a vintage computer forum. He made backup images of the original OEM floppy disks that came with his computer. With that, I finally had the connection and the software.

Since restoration involved formatting the drive and using a floppy disk to boot, I ran the whole sequence on a virtual machine first to ensure everything would work. Then it was time for the fun procedure on the real hardware. And to my luck, a few DOS commands, copy sequences, and floppy drive sounds later, I had a clean machine with the original software on it. After that, it was a matter of getting batteries for the pen and copying a few DOS games for fun.

Using virtual machines.

It still needs some minor fixes, but I’m on it. Besides this machine, I don’t have any other working old hardware, but this is not something to worry about. With virtualization software like PCem or VirtualBox, you can build almost any old computer. It won’t involve any dust cleaning or explosions from old components 🙂 It was an important step in restoring a real computer and is a fun experience!

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