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C > COMPAQ > Portable   


Announced November 1982, the unit was actually shipped in January of 1983 (300 of them). This was arguably the system that destroyed IBM's monopoly on the PC market and created the situation we see today. It WAS the first compatible system that was LEGALLY made, though Columbia first copied the IBM BIOS and later paid the fatal price.

The system's BIOS was developed from scratch by using a team of 18 persons (only one guy was "dirty" and he was not allowed to do any part of the code and could only answer vaguely to questions). They took IBM's BIOS apart and made notes of the system calls contained within it. That way, Compaq was able to develop a PC compatible without any risk of a lawsuit from IBM, since the code was written from scratch (reverse engineering). It cost them $1 million to do it.

The system itself weighs a hefty 34 pounds and was dubbed a 'luggable' computer rather than a true portable. It contained a 9" green phosphor CRT display and both serial and parallel ports. The system did MDA graphics as well as CGA by switching the scan frequencies of the monitor (a first that is the basis for VGA).

The only difference between the standard and 'Plus' models was that the latter had a single 5.25" floppy drive and a 10Mb hard disk, while the original model had two 5.25" drives. All units supported two 5.25'' floppies at 160 KB, 320 KB and 360 KB. All units could have 10, 20, or 30 MB hard drives but Compaq only shipped 10MB Rhodime ruggedized drives (good for 40 G shock!). Some models also had a 20/40 MB tape drive. Compaq also shipped a brown nylon or brown leather carrying case and ONE blue case (Rod Canions unit).

In its first year of trading, Compaq took more than $111 million on this single product, which was a US business record. During that year (1983), more than 53,000 units were sold.

Museum entry added by David Wyn Davies
Thanks to the Computer Closet Museum for the picture.

Dave (Compaq insider) reports:
The portable was the first unit and had silver logo plates. It had the standard 1 or 2 floppy drives. The Plus was the unit with the Rhodime 10MB fixed disk and had gold labels. Many folks get them confused as the Portable was easily upgradable to a Plus and many thousands were. Just check the label color.

Oh here's a tidbit - to remove the case cover, simply lay the unit flat (fold up the bottom feet) and press your elbow into the middle of the top cover and the rear edge of that cover will pop out enough to grab and lift off. One of the test ladies taught me that and we were all muscling it around - she simply figures out how to use what she has.

The power supply can be a bugger to remove also. It had a special wrench to remove the lower lock screw and the whole thing kinda slides out where you can then remove the connectors.

My unit had 2 1/2 ht 20 Mg drives and 2 1/2 ht floppy drives. I later swapped a floppy for a tape drive. It is presently in the Compaq internal museum (the "hall of fame").

Paul Dixon (another Compaq insider) replies:
The cover actually can be removed with one hand if you know exactly where to slap the heel of your hand onto the cover and then catch the edge as it pops out with your fingers.
Graphic modes are shown here as CGA and MDA. Actualy can MDA be described as a graphics mode? I suppose if you count lines produced in text mode then it could be. However the Compaq portable did NOT support MDA (or Mode 7). It emulated MDA in CGA mode 3 which is the text mode for CGA.



I liked the ability of Compaq Portable video hardware to switch in something like an MDA mode for displaying text. It was limited only to text, but the result was crisp like with MDA - same character resolution but if I remember there was no support for things like underlined characters. Anyway it was primarily a CGA card, so you couldn''t use MDA CRTs. RGB (CGA) output was disabled in this mode.

Tuesday 15th January 2013
swarm (Czech Republic)

In the 90''s I worked as an editorial assistant for a writer/teacher. I hadn''t worked on a computer before, but loved Word Perfect and taught myself to build databases...
My boss got a new computer so gave me his old one. I had a problem once so called Compaq. The customer service rep kept asking me the model number on the machine. I told him that I had looked absolutely everywhere and that there was NO model number. He finally got fed up and sent me to tech support. The guy in tech support, after hearing a description, very fondly stated with an obvious smile in his voice, "Oh, you have a Luggable!"

No, not the prettiest thing, but it did get me through grad school. I would have kept using it, but I am NOT a computer ''geek" and could not get beyond some growing incompatabilities. I do still have the machine though!

Thursday 21st June 2012
Mickie Weiss (IL, USA)

I worked for the State of Georgia Department of Public Safety in the 90s and we used these to issue licenses on until 1996!
These things were tanks.

Thursday 3rd November 2011
David (Georgia, USA)


NAME  Portable
TYPE  Transportable
YEAR  January 1983 (April 1984 European Release)
KEYBOARD  Full-stroke detachable keyboard with function keys and numeric keypad
CPU  Intel 8088
SPEED  4.77 Mhz
CO-PROCESSOR  Optional 8087 math coprocessor
RAM  128 kb, up to 256 kb (and even 640k via IBM PC bus cards)
TEXT MODES  80x25, 40x25 - 9'' Mono CRT Display Built-in
COLORS  green phosphor monitor
SIZE / WEIGHT  34 lbs
I/O PORTS  Parallel Port, RS-232 Serial Port, CGA and composite video output, 5 x 8-bit ISA expansion slots
BUILT IN MEDIA  2 x 5.25'' floppies at 160 KB, 320 KB, and 360 KB.
OS  MS-DOS 1.1
POWER SUPPLY  Built-in PSU, 130 Watt power supply (the smallest and most powerful per cubic inch made to that date)
PRICE  US$2995

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