Is It A Cyberdeck Or A Vintage Toshiba?

Cyberdecks, the portable computers notable for a freely expressed form factor, owe much to post-apocalyptic sci-fi. But they are not always the most practical devices. There’s a reason that all laptops share a very similar form factor: it’s a convenient and functional way to make a computer to take anywhere. So for the ideal compromise, why not make a cyberdeck from a vintage laptop? That’s exactly what [Valrum] has done with a non-functioning Toshiba 3100/20, upgrading the display and slipping in a Raspberry Pi 4, along with a handy removable USB e-ink supplementary screen (The red/black rectangle to the right of the main screen).

These older machines were so bulky that once their original hardware is removed there is plenty of space for upgrades. Even the screen enclosure is big enough to hide the LCD driver board behind a modern panel.  It follows a well-worn path for Raspberry Pi builds of using a Teensy as a USB keyboard controller, but unexpectedly the stock keyboard has been entirely replaced with a hand-wired one, which is nicely executed to appear superficially as though it was original. In an amusing twist this machine has no battery, not because it wouldn’t be possible but because the original Toshiba didn’t have one either. The USB ports are brought out to the space where the floppy would once have been.

With a plentiful supply of unexceptional or non functional older laptops to be had it’s clear that there’s a rich vein to be mined in this type of build. It’s something we’ve seen done before, in a more famous Toshiba laptop.

26 thoughts on “Is It A Cyberdeck Or A Vintage Toshiba?

  1. I remember those!

    Heavy as flipping lead. My first few years of computing was done on a machine very similar to the one that got gutted. Playing early DOS games on a 640×400 pixel monochrome plasma display (which presented a CGA interface to software).

    I know some here will lament the demise of the original hardware, but I think Valrum’s done a nice job. I think batteries would be a worthwhile upgrade for this thing… there’s got to be room for a mains-powered step-down PSU as well as the charger and batteries in that thing.

      1. That plasma display was nothing special… a power hungry RF polluter, with a dead-end graphics interface. The desktop world were already looking at VGA by that stage, which in its basic form, would remain an unchallenged monitor interface until DVI came along in the following century.

      2. The plasma display is so cool! I have a t3100/e and a T3200 and it looks really cool!
        I honestly would love a seperate display like that to control home automation stuff with. Somehow it looks incredibly retro-futuristic.
        In the T3200 the Rifa Madness capacitors shat the bed, i just replaced all of them. Now to find motivation to put the whole bloody computer back together.

    1. So do I!
      I remember early 90’s me marveling at the crispness of the red “Hi-res” screen while writing programs for industrial automation … and sometimes playing sokoban and maybe MS FlightSim (oh the realism!)

        1. “Overwhelming feeling of urgency”… ? Ah, you mean my boss hanging around eyeing my industrial automation code ha ha. I kept my health bar above 50% with caffeine.

          Sokoban was non-competitive strategy game and so was Flight Simulator. I seem to recall having to set the screen brighness to minimum in order to minimize motion ghosting.

    1. That’s sort of my feeling as well. Yes this has the virtue of being hacked together from parts like a proper deck, but I think there has to be some consideration given to the shape and form of the final product. If externally it’s largely unchanged from when it was a commercial laptop, then to me its clearly still just a laptop.

      But it’s all up for interpretation so who can really say.

    1. I think I had the Toshiba T4400 and had win3.1 but never really used for more then some games and papers. Tried to get linux on it in 2006 but had issues with small ram and trying to get X on it. I probably should have used PLIP as floppys took a long time to transfer packages.

  2. Just saw a bunch of these old laptops in working order at a shop here in osaka. They’re running around $200-400 each. I thought about buying one to hack up, but a broken one for less would be better. Maybe they have some of those too. Then again, they’re big and I don’t have much space.

  3. This is a really creative reuse.
    Resurrecting old tech like this keeps it out of landfills, it’s a meaningful device that could well be an everyday use, and aesthetics. Oh, the aesthetics.

    Really spiffy job, man.
    Love it.

  4. Very nice. Makes me wonder about trying to revive, or failing that, repurpose, my most interesting old laptop, a SparcBook. These were ruggedized, magnesium-cased machines that ran SunOS/Solaris, supposed to be the equivalent of a SPARCstation 5; I got mine when Herman Miller stopped issuing them to their salespeople. Lovely devices.

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