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.

18 thoughts on “Hackaday Retro Edition: The Compaq

  1. 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.

  2. 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 :)

  3. 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)…

      1. 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…):



  4. 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…

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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