A Luggable Computer For The Raspberry Pi Era

Today, computers are separated into basically two categories: desktops and laptops. But back in the early 1980s, when this ideological line in the sand was still a bit blurry, consumer’s had a third choice. Known as “portable computers” at the time, and often lovingly referred to as luggables by modern collectors, these machines were technically small enough to take with you on a plane or in the car.

Improvements in miniaturization ultimately made the portable computer obsolete, but that doesn’t mean some people still don’t want one. [Dave Estes] has been working on his own modern take on idea that he calls Reviiser, and so far it looks like it checks off all the boxes. With the addition of a rather hefty battery pack, it even manages to be more practical than the vintage beasts that inspired it.

In the video after the break, [Dave] walks us through some of the highlights of his luggable build, such as the fold-down mechanical keyboard, gloriously clunky mechanical power switches, and the integrated touch screen. We also really like the side-mounted touch pad, which actually looks perfectly usable given the largely keyboard driven software environment [Dave] has going on the internal Raspberry Pi 4. With a removable 30,000 mAh battery pack slotted into the back of the machine, he’ll have plenty of juice for his faux-retro adventures.

[Dave] mentions that eventually he’s looking to add support for “cartridges” which will allow the user to easily slot in new hardware that connects to the Pi’s GPIO pins. This would allow for a lot of interesting expansion possibilities, and fits in perfectly with the Reviiser’s vintage aesthetic. It would also go a long way towards justifying the considerable bulk of the machine; perhaps even ushering in a revival of sorts for the luggable computer thanks to hardware hackers who want a mobile workstation with all the bells and whistles.

Right now there isn’t a lot of detail on how you can build your own Reviiser, but [Dave] says more info will be added to his site soon. In the meantime, you can check out some of the similar projects we’ve seen recently to get some inspiration for your own Luggable Pi.

24 thoughts on “A Luggable Computer For The Raspberry Pi Era

  1. Combine this with one of the SDR dongles and you have a nice field kit …… I can also see it work as a STEM project for environmental studies with cartridges for weather sensors, water quality …… I’ve never tried it but can you make those cheap USB microscopes work on a Pi 4?

    1. Amusingly enough, there’s something akin to a brand in the cyberdeck community that is built with SDR in mind. So far it’s the only design where replication is seen as normal, hence the term “brand”. It’s the Virtuscope, which has been on HaD before. There is part of the case for prototype hardware, and it’s been used to hold various SDR boards.

  2. Love the aesthetic, great build… but needs a keyboard with numpad. For the things I’d use a cased rPi 4 for (lab and field measurements, SDR, field configuration of remote gear, etc) numeric entry would be common.

    1. Well….
      USB numeric pads can still be found in 2nd hand stores.
      If using a luggable converted to Pi and LCD, there could/should be enough room inside for a shelf to store one.
      (maybe even a thermal printer, handheld scanner…)

  3. I glued my RPi to a 17cm square of plywood, I can’t really get a good handle on these small form factor computers. Hoping to attach it to a cinder block somehow to give it the heft of a “proper” computer.

    (my silliness aside, in my spare time I’m trying to get rpi0 going as a Tandy 1000 emulator packed inside a keyboard)

  4. I wonder how many revs of CRT Osborne used? I’ve seen two with the standard green phosphor, and one with the gorgeous (I thought at the time) amber. I didn’t know there was a blue one, like the one shown at the side.

    A work colleague lugged one over from the United States in ’82. I was working on a HP-85 at the time, so I was impressed more by his fortitude in carrying it on that 20-hour trip than I was in the actual computer. I sure hope [Dave] made his a bit lighter than the Osborne inspiration.

    1. Maybe a third party transplant, back then or maybe now. I thought I remembered an amber screen, but maybe it was one of the other luggables. I vaguely remember an ad offering replacement CRTs to the end user, this wasa thurd part, but not sure what monitors they offered them for.

      As I recall, each color had its proponents, each claiming their color had the advantages.

      Then along came the Mac, deciding it wasn’t the Color that mattered, but that white background was better than dark. I almost want to say someone offered third party CRTs for tge.Mac, in at least one color other than white.

  5. I’d be truly impressed if it used an actual CRT for the display. I wonder if those little 5″ B&W CRT monitors are still available in some warehouse?
    I have a couple hundred 3RP1A oscilloscope tubes, and I’ve developed a Teensy gizmo to write text on them (and most importantly, the power supply!). Coming soon…

  6. This is just a perfect build. Love it. Of note – I recently was handed down an IBM 5140 PC Convertible (with 3.5″ disk OS – I believe it’s DOS 3.2?) Can’t wait to have some down time to play with it… Great inspiration for a modern replica build with a pi too – I’m thinking on it :)

  7. Hay, I need some more exercise. Put a lead acid car battery in that thing, and it will run for a week on a charge, and you can lugg around some serious weight. Ahhh Yes, feel the burn!

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