Hackaday Retro Roundup: Ultraportables Edition


A few months ago, we rolled out an updated Hackaday, a badly needed new layout replacing the HTML and CSS that had remained unchanged since 2004. Of course a few people didn’t like change and complained about slow load times. We’ve experienced a slightly slower load time as well, so we’ll just wait until the year 2020 when our computers are many times faster and our Internet is provided by Google Fiber. Until then, our pokey battlestations and vintage computers can still check out a few classic hacks on our retro site. Here’s a few retro successes – Hackaday readers who pulled out their old tech and loaded up the retro site – that have come in over the past weeks and months.

The idea behind a Macbook Air, a few Sony Vaios, and a whole bunch of EEEs and other netbooks – sacrificing expandability and horsepower for an extremely small portable computer – isn’t a new one. Ultraportables have always found their niche, whether it’s a TRS-80 (like the one with a new motherboard we saw earlier this week) being carried into a war zone, a nifty Powerbook duo being used a fashion accessory, or a Macbook Air representing the lowest rung of a product lineup.

Ultraportables also have another thing going for them: they’re small enough to fit in a box in a basement and be forgotten for 20 years. Where a huge ATX tower housing a 60 MHz 486 is a prime candidate for a yard sale or a trip to the recycling center, an ultaportable can sit forgotten for years.

We’ve gotten two retro challenge submissions over the past few weeks. First up is [Curtis] with his Toshiba Libretto 100CT. It’s got a 133 MHz Pentium and 64 MB of RAM. [Curtis] had a bit of a challenge getting his teensy laptop online; he ended up salvaging a networking card from a  Netgear MR314 wireless router and plugging it in to the PCMCIA slot. Getting the driver onto the machine was a pain, but after configuring the router as an access server and setting up a terminal connection he was able to get his tiny box on the web.

Next up is [Eugenio], again with a Libretto, this time a CT50. A capable machine from the dawn of the Pentium era, [Eugenio] is running Windows 95 and Netscape Communicator 4. There’s also an oldish Sony Vaio Picturebook, an even tinier ultraportable from the turn of the century.

That’s all for now, but if you’ve got a retro submission to send in, give us a shout over on the Hackaday tip line.

17 thoughts on “Hackaday Retro Roundup: Ultraportables Edition

  1. If you use webkit to monitor the page load, you will see that the main site and images load quickly (milliseconds). The slow down (1+ sec) is contributed by ads (additional javascript), and addons such as twitter, facebook and linkedin; which really delay the render speed in a persons browser. Ofcourse newer browser are more efficient at rendering than their older counter parts!

      1. I while back I made a web server on a Arduino and learnt a hell of a lot on webpage optimisation in the process. CSS3 was by far the biggest god send, being able to make great looking webpages in less than 2KB was awesome. Images and multiple http calls are still the biggest killer of load times though. Also gzip EVERYTHING :P.

        1. Unfortunately, the people loading web pages with a ton of advertshitting don’t give a stuff about your load times. Even newer computers with current OS struggle with these now, and god help you if you are in a rural area without the kind of ISP speeds city-folks can (sometimes) get.
          (I learned web page optimisation in the early 00s, while resident out of town, and was proud to get very glossy web pages that would fit on a floppy, and download and display in an instant.)
          As they say of road-building – traffic increases to fill all the available roadspace. Or bandwidth.

          So it’s Adblock, NoScript, Hostsfile,and the rest, all the way for me.

          1. PS… I could almost cry that so many old laptops like the C1s or Tosh Librettos would otherwise be perfectly able to download basic web pages, except for the B L O A T.

          2. PS… I could almost cry that so many old laptops like the C1s or Tosh Librettos would otherwise be perfectly able to download basic web pages, except for the B L O A T. Even Win7 struggles!

  2. Somewhere out there my old Sharp Mobilon is rolling over in its grave. We had such good times. Touch screen and everything… Even had a dongle to do wap before m. lol. Last I heard she is still going and was being used to program some sort of golf cart battery psu pic. It was a fun little machine and is one more reason most of the recent omgtablettouchfaceideviceappleinventedeverything is such a hoot. I sometimes wish we could all just go back to gray html webpages and daily updated websites instead of blogs but here we are lol. My “super awesome h4xx0r 1337” box from 12 years ago still functions quite well but I keep her in the back pasture for MIDI and such till that sad day she finally stops lighting up. My grandma unfortunately threw out my first (personally bought) computer a pentium mmx 200 (that was a beast at the time lol) and before that dad had traded in our 386 for the 486dx4 (oh wow you could run a postage stamp country with that back then lol) and eventually for a pos Cyrix 586 pentium knockoff that had a faulty soundcard that had a bad FM chip that wouldn’t generate any tones after I read an article about Depeche Mode and midi and ended up learning hex to generate note C3 to no avail…but it got me hooked on computers and tinkering. Good times…. Also, it is the thing that makes me want to smack people when they complain about a slow device and have 30 things and widgets running lol. I still find myself disabling devices not used on computers “to free up the DMA and IRQ channels” lol. Thanks for the morning memories HaD :D

  3. For a toshiba CT100, win98 + Opera + pcmcia wifi (WEP, no WPA) is the best configuration I found, it may also run some modern websites (CSS + javascript + java1.4). It was one of my main coding system while traveling 2 or 3 years ago. Now it runs Nextstep 3.3 but I need to find a suitable pcmcia/LAN card to reach the web with it.

  4. I really need to get my original NEC ultralite working. Problem is,everything on it is proprietary. It takes an odd charging plug that supplies 5v, 12v, and 15v. It requires 2 batteries; one main battery which I’m still not sure what chemistry it was, and one backup battery for the ramdisk, which is the only onboard storage. I’m pretty sure all it needs to actually boot up is 12v, but It would be nice to at least have ramdisk working.

  5. I have the same Picturebook lying around, and I’m slightly surprised by its appearance here. Though it shipped with 98, it’s perfectly capable of running XP and Firefox 17. For that matter, I have an even slower 400MHz Latitude LS that’s a fewer years older running XP as a picture frame. Let me see if I can get the Picturebook started up and take a picture of it running the main website…

  6. Funny; I’ve got a 90Mhz (At least, that’s what the BIOS reports) 586 laptop I’ve been playing around with. Besides soldering in a barrel jack to replace the weird power connector, I’ve finally got Linux booting on it, and internet access via some old NIC card I had laying around. Sticker on the bottom says it’s an “Ultra TS30EP5”,

  7. I love the picture of the CT100… I have one and managed to get it online using a netgear wifi card, and ethernet as well since this model supports cardbus (32bit cards). Unfortunately, I lost the power supply while moving house and then I dropped it and cracked the corner… I’ve wanted another one ever since!!

    Also, I have that exact same Weller soldering iron. Best iron I have ever used :D

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