Hackaday Retro Edition: The Compaq


It’s been a while since we’ve had any submissions to the Hackaday retro challenge, but [Philip]‘s latest project more than makes up for it. He rescued the original 28 pound Compaq luggable and turned it into a work of art. He also managed to get it up on the Internet and pointed it at the Hackaday retro edition, making this one of the best retro submissions in recent memory.

[Philip] rescued this old luggable from the trash, and upon plugging it in and turning it on, heard a loud bang and cloud of smoke from the exploded tantalum caps. We’re guessing [Phil] doesn’t have a variac. After replacing all the broken components, fixing the mechanics of the hard drive, and replacing the two old 5 1/4″ floppy drives with a half-height 5 1/4 and 3 1/2 drives, [Phil] had this machine working again.

After a quick shuffle through his ‘obsolete technology box’, [Phil] found an old 3Com Ethernet card. This was a 16-bit card, but with a new driver and a TCP/IP stack for IBM compatibles it was actually pretty easy to get this old box on the Internet. Since [Phil] removed one of the 5 1/4 drives, he slightly modified a Linksys WRT54G router, wired in new front panel lights for the router, and cut a smoked gray acrylic panel. You can see it next to the drives in the picture above; the colored lights make this old luggable look even more retro, despite it being manufactured about 15 years before blue LEDs became commonplace.

You can check out all the repairs and modifications to this Compaq over on [Phil]‘s site, and as always, we’re looking for people to load up the Hackaday retro edition on their old hardware.


  1. APBurner says:

    When I worked for U of K in Lexington KY I had one of those. About 1986 or so. It was a great machine.

  2. Smorges Borges says:

    I always thought that was a really sweet machine back in the day.

  3. Hirudinea says:

    Wow, impressive, replacing caps, rebuilding the keyboard, very nice rebuild, next task, install an SD card reader and/or a USB port.

  4. strider_mt2k says:

    Maaan I thought these were so cool back in the day.
    This one is cooler!

  5. WaxyMouthfeel says:

    I’ve got one of these with innards that are relatively toast, but the display is still good. I’ve always thought about retrofitting it to work as an ATX case and making the monitor functional as a text console.

  6. Sheff says:

    Love the last comment on the page “One day, I shall bring it to a Starbucks and confuse the MacBook-turtleneck-beret crowd. I’m a geek.”
    I once took an old Dell laptop from Win98 era that i had Xubuntu running great on, wireless card and all to Starbucks …… the looks I got where AWESOME!
    thing is 8 pounds and as thick as two of today’s laptops :)

  7. m1ndtr1p says:

    I had one of those when I was a kid, or rather, my father had one, he used to lug it back and forth to work every day! I also remember him dropping it on his foot once, it split his toe wide open… I wish I had kept it when he junked it, but I was still too young to use a computer like that back then (late 80’s / early 90’s)…

    • Sheff says:

      Still have 3 of them, they are Dell Inspiron 7000’s :-)

      • m1ndtr1p says:

        Nice! Not sure which brand we had, the keyboard was attached to the front and flipped down, it had an amber monochrome monitor, dual 5.25 floppy drives, had a large handle to carry it…

        Looked more like the IBM 5155 (in fact, that may very well be it, it’s been awhile…):

  8. CNK says:

    Wow, that’s great work put into that machine. Makes me feel silly never putting the time into bringing my unco-operative PS/2 back into service.

    On a technical note though, a Variac wouldn’t have done anything to stop the tant. cap in the image on the web page blowing. That’s a 16V part, probably on the 5V or 12V supply. A variac would just make the Switch Mode PSU work harder trying to keep the voltage up (and probably not do anything any good in the process). At best I expect the power supply would suddenly cut in when the input voltage was right from the Variac and the Tantalum caps would blow thereafter.

    For working on the monitor on its own, a Variac might be handy, as we’re not talking about regulated supplies. Perhaps also for working on the Power Supply.

    Anyway, it’s great work and he beat me getting my Cpmpaq Portable III fixed and on the ‘net (though getting it on the ‘net was partly what broke it).

    Posted from a Pentium 1.
    – Also I notice my laptop submission seems to have fallen on deaf ears…

  9. Jonathan Wilson says:

    Wow, nice job resurrecting the first true mass-market IBM compatible machine and the machine that did more than any other to help cement the “PC” as the dominant computer standard in use today.

  10. aztraph says:

    I had 2 junk ones back in 95, second hand of course, they still had the original invoice for them, each one $2,700, I am sooo glad we’ve made progress

  11. pcf11 says:

    Pretty sweet vintage PC.

  12. Kyle says:

    Two weeks ago I tried to turn mine on to do just this thing and found that it wouldn’t boot anymore. It gives boot errors about the keyboard and main board, I suspect a failing power supply and have to many other projects to get into this one right now. Oh well, great work, I love to see tired iron up and running.

  13. bubba gump says:

    If I didn’t know any better…I would think that he…

    (puts on dark sunglasses…)

    Halted and caught fire….


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