An expansion board with two 8-bit ISA slots plugged into a Sharp laptop

New Expansion Module Brings Standard Slots To Ancient Laptop

Upgrading and repairing vintage laptops is often a challenge — even if their basic hardware is compatible with ordinary PCs, they often use nonstandard components and connectors due to space constraints. The Sharp PC-4600 series from the late 1980s is a case in point: although it comes with standard serial and parallel ports, the only other external interface is a mysterious connector labelled EXPBUS on the back of the case. [Steven George] has been diving into the details of this port and managed to design a module to turn it into a pair of standard ISA ports.

Apparently, no peripherals were ever released for the EXPBUS port, so reverse-engineering an existing module was out of the question. [Steven] did stumble upon a service manual for the PC-4600 however, and as it turned out, the connector carried all the signals present in an 8-bit ISA bus. Turning it into something useful was simply a matter of designing an adapter board with the EXPBUS connector on one side and regular ISA slots on the other.

An expansion board plugged into a laptop, carrying two ISA cardsThe board also has an external power connector, to avoid overloading the laptop’s internal power supply, as well as a couple of buffer capacitors to smooth out the power rails. [Steven] tested the expansion board with a network adapter and a sound card, and it appears to be functioning well. It should be noted that only the +5 V power rail is available by default, so if any cards need +12 V or any negative rail, those should be provided externally.

Gerber files for this project are available on [Steven]’s website, so if you’ve got one of these machines lying around, now might be the time to upgrade it. This isn’t the first expansion for the PC-4600 series that [Steven] developed, either: he also designed an external floppy drive adapter that should ease data transfer with other PCs.

It’s great to see how the hacker community keeps classic portables like this one alive: one day it might also need a broken screen replaced or a dodgy power supply repaired.