A Portable Computer Living In 1988 But Also In The Future

a full gaming rig built into a LCD-386

Every once in a while, there will be a project that is light on details but inundated with glorious, drool-worthy pictures. [Nexaner7] recently showed off his cyberdeck he built over a year inside an old LCD-386. So what’s special about it? This isn’t just a Raspberry Pi or some SBC inside but a complete AMD Ryzen 5600, Nvidia RTX 3060, screen, and keyboard in a 19.5-liter space (0.68 cubic feet). Since there wouldn’t be enough space inside for decent airflow, he decided to water-cool everything, which added to the build.

the back of the sleeper LCD-386 cyberdeck

While [Nexaner7] doesn’t have a video walkthrough, he does have a build log with dozens of pictures in two parts: part 1 and part 2. As you can imagine, there were copious amounts of 3d printing for brackets and holders, trying various screens and GPUs to see what fit and what didn’t. He tried to use the original keyboard, even with a 5-pin DIN to PS2 to USB adapter, but the keyboard was flakey, likely due to rust. He dropped in a CM Quickfire TK PCB with a few modifications as it was close to the same size. He swapped the display for a 1440p portable monitor with a thin ribbon HDMI cable to route from the GPU to the screen.

We’re happy to report that the parts inside were sold to someone who restores old PC, so a somewhat rare LCD-386 wasn’t destroyed. With a gorgeous build like this, perhaps he should enter the Cyberdeck contest. Eagle-eyed readers might notice that recently we covered an LCD-386 with its contents retrieved via a hacked-together serial bus.

35 thoughts on “A Portable Computer Living In 1988 But Also In The Future

    1. Not really, as a laptop is still a laptop, netbooks and tablets still netbooks and tablets, a desktop a desktop/tower/PC… Cyberdeck has become the catch all description for everything portable/luggable that isn’t a mainstream off the shelf modern form factor. Or very occasionally something that was and still looks just like a laptop but has extra internal fun stuff the off the shelf wouldn’t.

      1. This is just a luggable – its very clean and I love it but I don’t think cyber anything when I see it as it keeps the original consumer aesthetic

        I thought it meant something that looked hacked together, as someone in a cyberpunk world would have done to build it themselves. Disparate parts, exposed wiring

        1. You mean something like this?


          Personally, I always called these things portables, portable computers or suitcase computers.
          “Luggable” seems to be an English thing.
          Maybe even very British English, not sure.
          It’s not pretty sounding in my ears, whatsoever, just like the word “contraption”.
          Anyway, each to his/her own.

          My language ‘s counterpart might be “Schlepptop”, a cross of “schleppen” (to drag) and “Laptop”.
          However, it’s not exactly referring to a portable.
          Rather some big laptop, like the Compaq SLT 286.
          You know, those bulky laptops with a handle and no internal battery.
          Or with huge NiCad rechargeables..

    1. If you can’t find an excuse to get together in person with your friends and the hobbies you share you are doing something wrong… That said I’ve not hauled a crate of network gear anywhere in years myself – as online gets you something close to a lan party experience so any hanging out with friends time is likely to be used for something else.

      1. Is there still something similar to “Arduino meetups” at local hackerspaces? Maybe Pico meetups now?

        I used to carry a briefcase to the local hackerspace fairly regularly to such events with arduinos, breadboards, components and accessories. I always meant to get back to that when time and energy allow.

        Anyway, when I started seeing cyberdecks on here I imagined one with a built in SDR, BusPirate (anyone still using those?) and breadboard. Maybe they would be in some sort of pull out tray for safe traveling with in-process projects.

        That’s my answer to how a “cyberdeck” could still be a practical thing, at least for some people.

        Then again, a good LAN party does sound like fun too. Not that the two are mutually exclusive.

        1. Some friends and I have hosted a weekly electronics & tech meetup at our local makerspace since 2016 (though we met via video call for about a year, and determining which year will be left as a exercise for the reader).

          We have between 5 and 15 attendees each week, and people show off projects or talk about what they’re working on or bring broken stuff to fix. I’d recommend a similar activity to anyone!

      1. Uhh, same as 2014, I suppose? 😅


        The main problem seems to be HTTPS these days.
        Arachne really could need a little update here. :)
        And maybe TCP/IP v6 support, while we’re at it. :D

        As a workaround, there are translation servers that convert modern websites to old HTML/pictures..

        “WebOne” is one of these.

        Alternatively, there are other DOS browsers, I believe.

        Breadbox Ensemble (PC GEOS derivative) has had a browser, I think.

        But it may need a 386+, not sure. And it’s even more behind the times, also.

        Ok, technically, it’s possible to upgrade 286 PCs with processor upgrade boards..
        Some are interposers with a 386SX/486SLC type of chip, some are real ISA boards with a CPU-shaped connector and a ribbon cable.

        But that’s not exactly a goal for most vintage PC lovers, I suppose.
        Unless the PC is an exotic model wuth unique features. Tandy 1000 series, PC-98, etc.
        A real 486 PC is such a much better experience from a purely logical point of view, I guess.🤷‍♂️

        LLAP 🖖

    1. The flat memory model for x86 really was that big of an improvement. Maybe the question should be, “Is it very awkward that we’re still using x86 based systems with all their quirks” but that’s just flamewar bait.

      1. I’ve always been fascinated by the segmentation unit of the 286, though.
        In 16-Bit PM, an 80286 can work with pointers and selectors.

        It’s a bit tedious if done manually, all the time, sure, but memory protection based on segmentation actually worked.
        Too bad Windows 3.1 never made use of it in its “Standard Mode”.. *sigh*
        – The famous 386 flat mode disabled that capability essentially, by disabling the segmentation unit (active, but nothing to do with just one big 4GB segment).
        It took nearly 20 years until the IA32 architecture fixed that by the introduction of the NX Bit (aka XD Bit) and DEP (Windows).

        OS/2 v1.3 showed what the 286 processor was capable of at the minimum. Even supported the ring scheme and virtual memory (1GB on 286). Too bad, OS/2 didn’t take off until OS/2 2.11 and WARP 3.0..

        1. I’ll just note that there isn’t actually a flat mode in the 386 protected mode, systems choosing to limit the use of segmentation is just a design choice enforced by the system.
          The 80286 protected mode design was really ugly, and the decision to not support switching back to Real Mode without a processor reset just idiotic.

          1. “The 80286 protected mode design was really ugly, and the decision to not support switching back to Real Mode without a processor reset just idiotic.”

            I don’t think so. That mode was introduced for real opersting systems like Xenix and MS-DOS was no priority when the 286 was under development (released in February 1982).

            Also, there’s LOADALL and UNREAL mode. Later releases of DOS/Himem.sys didn’t need to reset the 286 anymore after accessing Extended Memory.
            So at least in this case, the 286 wasn’t causing much trouble.

            MS-DOS was a niche OS at the time (’81/’82) and even the mighty IBM PC Model 5150 (released ’81) was just one of several dozen 808x PCs out there. And not exactly a good PC by comparison, either.

            It wasn’t before circa 1985 that the IBM PC+PC/MS-DOS combo had become a defacto standard.

            Before, CP/M PCs and MS-DOS compatibles had quite some market share still. 🙂👍

    2. I got a used 486 in 2000, and promptly realized it wasn”t suitable. So six months later I bought a used Pentium for Linux.

      For a long time I was behind the curve, well 1993 and beyond, because I didn’t have money. But that’s thirty years ago. It’s ridiculous to stick with old computers when there’s a whoke lit more recent computers looking for homes, and which are cheap. About five years ago I got two dual core large screen laptops for ten dollars total. I’ve never used them since I have better.

      This reminds me of the people in the antique radio forum, who proudoy use old computers. But not because they are antiques, but because they don’t see why they should upgrade. And then they are puzzled and outraged when they can’t do things because their version of Windows is too old. They are anti technology.

      1. You can get 2nd-4th gen core machines with 4gb of ram from the bin, probably up to 6th-8th gen soon.

        1st gen core is still usable with a Front side bus overclock day to day, quad core Xeon X series for desktop are only $5 if you were looking to upgrade, mine went 3.7ghz no problem (heatsink got a wee bit toasty though. All good fun. set the 1600mhz ram to 1333 strap, then raised FSB to 133 I think. Ram was back to 1600 and system was chugging along.

        There has to be a readily available luggable chassis somewhere. I know as far as modern goes Linus tech tips had one reviewed with a 27′ screen. Thats crazy, too big.

        1. I have used one from Kintek around 15 years ago. Crazy expensive and heavy but came with a trolley so you could actually transport it. I looked for it and found this looking suprisingly similar:

          For the price around 2500€ you got strong build with terrible screen (low res, low quality), super loud keyboard (but quite comfortable) and strange design decisions like:
          – air filter on a fan (good) and lots of spaces where dust could penetrate easily.
          – all connectors protected by small metal door (not dust proof for shure) but no internal connection between motherboard and screen so the door remain opened all the time (no space to fit even short VGA cable)
          – screen that was hard to watch indoors so I only guess how bad it was to work outside with it.

  1. Very nice build ! Now if he had put a slot under the CPU to slide in the keyboard and snap on cover plus a floppy drive on the side… It would have been an updated TRS80 4P Portable ! A great luggable in it’s time.

  2. As someone who used this thing daily in the late 80s to do network packet capture when it was an insanely expensive bespoke computer from Network General Sniffer, I would live to be working on it again today! I soooooo miss that amber screen.

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