A Modern Take On The “Luggable” Computer

Back before the industry agreed on the now ubiquitous clamshell form factor of portable computers, there were a class of not-quite-desktop computers that the community affectionately refers to as “luggable” PCs. These machines, from companies like Kaypro and Osborne, were only portable in the sense that their integrated design made it relatively easy to move them. Things we take for granted today, like the ability to run on battery power or being light enough to actually place in your lap, wouldn’t come until later.

For a contemporary take on this decades old concept, take a look at this fantastic build by [Ragnar84]. It packs a modern desktop computer and a 15.6 inch laptop display into a custom designed case, but like so many other projects, the devil is truly in the details for this one. Little touches such as the kickstand on the bottom, the removable handle on the top, and the right angle adapter that takes the HDMI output from the GeForce GTX 1060 video card and redirects it back into the case really add up to create a surprisingly practical computer that’s more than the sum of its parts.

While the case might look like your standard gamer fare, [Ragnar84] built the whole thing out of miniature T-Slot extrusion and custom-cut aluminum and acrylic panels. But not before modelling the whole thing in 3D to make sure all of his selected components would fit. For the most part the internals aren’t unlike a standard Mini-ITX build, though he did need to make a few special additions like a shelf to mount the driver board for the N156H LCD panel, and a clever clamp to hold down the rounded USB speakers.

We’ve seen some impressive recreations of the classic luggable in the past, but those have usually been powered by the Raspberry Pi and leaned heavily into the retrofuturism that’s a hallmark of the nascent cyberdeck movement. In contrast [Ragnar84] has put together something that looks perfectly usable, and dare we say it, maybe even practical.

Smashed Laptop Becomes Stylish All-In-One

Many of us will have broken a laptop at one point or another, destroying the screen or smashing the case. It can be frustrating, as there’s a perfectly usable computer in there, trapped inside a broken husk of a body. [Matthew] saw this not as a problem, but an opportunity – and built a beautiful all-in-one desktop PC. (Video, embedded below.)

With a badly damaged Thinkpad laptop to hand, an ASUS monitor was sourced with a thin body and flat back, perfect for mounting hardware. An MDF base was created, on to which the laptop motherboard was mounted. A USB hub and audio amplifier were then added, along with a USB power isolator and soundcard to avoid problems with groundloops from the onboard headphone output. Speakers were Harman Kardon units salvaged from an old television, providing great quality sound for the build.

There’s plenty of great ideas in the video, from using epoxy for a strong permanent assembly, to a nifty hack to make the power button work. It has us contemplating a build for our own broken laptops in the junkpile. We’ve seen other creative all-in-one builds too, like this one inside a printer.

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The Boxy All-In-One Nintendo 64 Your 1990s Self Always Wanted

In 1997, chances are that if you didn’t have a Nintendo 64 already, you wanted one. (Never mind that the games cost the GDP of a small country.) It gave you both the supreme game designing talent of Shigeru Miyamoto and graphics that left the Sony behind. The trouble, though, was that like all consoles, the N64 required a large TV set and a load of wires. There was never a compact all-in-one version that integrated console, display, and speakers in the same package, and that was something [Mason Stooksbury] evidently considered to be a shame. A couple of decades late, he’s created the all-in-one Nintendo 64 appliance that the games giant never made in the ’90s, and we’re lucky enough to be able to take a look at it.

The starting point for the build is entirely in-period, the shell of a late-1990s Compaq CRT monitor. In the front goes a laptop display panel with a monitor conversion board, leaving plenty of space behind for a pair of full-size speakers. On top of the speakers sits a bare N64, with the controller ports brought out to the front panel below the screen. It’s not all retro though, there is also an HDMI converter and an HDMI output to drive a modern TV if desired. The N64 itself has an interesting backstory, it was his original console from back in the day that died following a lightning strike, and he brought it back to life decades later after some research revealed that the N64 PSU has a fuse.

Would an all in one ’64 have sold like hot cakes in ’97? Probably, and we’d be featuring all sorts of hacks on them today. As it is, portable N64s seem to feature most often here.

Building A Faux Retro Portable Computer

The modern laptop has its origins in the mid to late 1980s, when shrinking computer hardware and improvements to battery technology finally made mobile computing practical. But before the now iconic clamshell form factor became the standard, there was a market for so-called “portable” computers. These machines often resembled pieces of luggage with keyboards attached, and even at their peak, they were nowhere near as practical as today’s ultra-thin notebook computers. But for the more nostalgic among us, these vintage portables do have a special sort of charm about them.

Looking to recapture some of that magic with modern components, [davedarko] has started working on his own Raspberry Pi portable computer. Just like those machines of yore, his build is designed to be a self-contained computing experience that you can lug around, but not exactly something you’d be popping open on the train. Its extruded aluminum frame holds the display, power supply, and audio hardware, with plenty of room to spare for additional hardware should he decide to pack in a couple hard drives or something more exotic.

The skeletal frame has plenty of room for activities.

We particularly like the 3D printed hinge and lock mechanism he designed that holds the keyboard closed against the front of the frame. Sufficiently old experienced readers will recall this particular feature being a defining characteristic of portables such as the Osborne 1 and Compaq Portable, and it’s great to see it included here. All it needs now is a leather handle on the side to complete the look.

[davedarko] still has some work ahead of him, as ultimately he’d like to completely enclose his computer’s frame with laser cut panels. But the build is certainly progressing nicely, and frankly, it’s already at the point where we’d have no problem pulling it out at the next hackerspace meetup. Between builds like this and the growing collection of cyberdecks we’ve covered recently, it looks as though 1980s design aesthetic is alive and well within the hacker community.

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A Real All-In-One Printer Should Have A Computer In It, Too

With printers generally being cheaper to replace than re-ink, there are plenty of cast-offs around to play with. They’re a great source for parts, but they’re also tempting targets for repurposing for entirely new uses. Sure, you could make a printer into a planter, but slightly more useful is this computer built into a printer that still prints.

This build is [Mason Stooksbury]’s earlier and admittedly useless laptop-in-a-printer build, which we covered a few months back. It’s easy to see where he got his inspiration, since the donor printer’s flip-up lid is a natural for mounting a display, and the capacious, glass-topped scanner bed made a great place to show off the hybrid machine’s guts. But having a printer that doesn’t print didn’t sit well with [Mason], so Comprinter II was born. This one follows the same basic approach, with a Toshiba Netbook stuffed into an H-P ENVY all-in-one. The laptop’s screen was liberated and installed in the printer’s lid, the motherboard went into the scanner bay along with a fair number of LEDs. This killed the scanner but left the printer operational, after relocating a power brick that was causing a paper jam error.

[Mason]’s Comprinter II might not be the next must-have item, but it certainly outranks the original Comprinter on the utility spectrum. Uselessness has a charm of its own, though; from a 3D-printed rotary dial number pad to a useless book scanner, keep the pointless projects coming, please.

This Computer Mouse Houses A Mouse Computer

Everyone has heard of a computer mouse before, but what about a mouse computer?

Granted, [Electronic Grenade]’s all-in-one computer in an oversized mouse-shaped case is almost without practical value. But that’s hardly the point, which was just to do something cool. Inspiration came from keyboards stuffed with a Raspberry Pi to make a mostly-all-in-one machine; this Rodent of Unusual Size is the next logical step. With a Pi Zero W and a LiPo battery alongside a mouse mechanism inside the 3D-printed case – alas, no real mouse currently on the market would house everything – the computer sports not only a tiny and nearly-usable LCD display, but also a slide-out Bluetooth keyboard. The ergonomics of a keyboard at right angles to the display gives us pause, but again, usability is not the point. And don’t expect much in the performance department – the rig barfs after a few seconds of playing Minecraft.

Still, for all its limitations, this mouse computer has a certain charm. We always enjoy “just because I can” projects, whether they be a Gameboy ukelele or a fire-breathing animatronic duck. Such projects are often valuable not for what they produce, but for pushing into areas where no one has gone before.

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Friend In Need Gets Junk Bin PC For Cramped Quarters

If you doubt the power of the Hackaday community, check this one out. Stalwart reader and tipster [starhawk] has pitched in to help a friend in need, someone he met through Hackaday.io. Seems this friend’s current living arrangements are somewhat on the cramped side, and while he’s in need of a PC, even a laptop would claim too much space.

So with a quick trip to the store and a few items from the junk bin, [starhawk] whipped up an all-in-one PC the size of a tablet for his friend. As impressed as we are by the generosity, we’re more impressed by the quality of his junk bin. The heart of the compact machine is a motherboard from a Wintel CX-W8, scarcely larger than a Raspberry Pi model A. After the addition of a larger heatsink and fan, the board was attached via a sheet of plastic to the back of a 7-inch touchscreen, also a junk bin find. A cheap picture frame serves as the back of the all-in-one, complete with Jolly Wrencher, of course. Alas, the DC-DC converter was one of the only purchased items, bringing the cost for the build to all of $22, including the $15 for a wireless keyboard/touchpad on clearance from Walmart. After some initial power troubles, the fixes for which are described in this update, the machine was ready to ship.

Does this one seem familiar? It should — [starhawk] built a similar “laptop” for himself a while back when he was low on funds. Now it seems like he’s paying it forward, which we appreciate. For more details on how he pulled this all of, check out The Anytop, [starhawk’s] portable computer anyone can build. It was his 2017 Hackaday Prize entry!