April 15, 2013

My First Laptop

Filed under: Main — Tags: — admin @ 12:01 am

The very first laptop PC I bought was the hulking Dell 320LT.

I think I bought the Dell 320LT in 1989, but it was probably 1990 because that’s the copyright on the diskettes. A friend of mine had one and he raved about it. Not yet having a laptop, I decided to buy one as well.

Whatever I paid for it, I forget. It wasn’t cheap. I’m guessing over $2,000, though I don’t really remember. It was a ‘386 laptop, which was hot stuff back thing.

The worst thing about the purchase was the case. Instead of getting the light canvas case I ordered, Dell sent me the leather case. It’s bulky, which makes lugging around the already-Brobdingnagian laptop even more of a nightmare.

Amazingly enough, I still have this laptop. It’s been sitting in the boneyard for about 20 years. In a fit of nostalgia, I whipped it out, set it on the kitchen table, and powered it up.

It still works.

The Dell 320LT. That's a full-size keyboard. Compare it with the size of the batteries and the power brick.

The Dell 320LT. That’s a full-size keyboard. Compare it with the size of the batteries and the power brick.

Of course, the CMOS battery is dead, so I had to guess as to how much RAM was in the thing (I guessed wrong) and what size hard drive it has (40MB). The clock is wrong. And MS-DOS 6.22 is “out of date,” but otherwise it fired right up. I was able to explore the storage and see what programs and data lurked there.

As I recall, I didn’t use the Dell 320LT that often, mostly because it was so freaking huge. Also the batteries (both are seen in the image above) were good for only 20 minutes or so. That didn’t make for much portable computing. And, well, face it: The thing is a monster. I actually tried to use it on an airplane once and it was just unwieldily to do squat. It didn’t even fit under the seat.

Exploring the laptop’s storage yielded nothing but a few of my favorite utilities. I didn’t find WordPerfect or any productivity programs. There were no data files, either, not even a column or a note or a schedule.

I just can’t bear to throw it out, so I keep it around, along with my NeXT Slab (also from 1990), they are the two oldest computers I own that still work.

Desiring portable computing, eventually I purchased an NEC Ultralight. I loved that beast and actually used it frequently. I’ll wax lovingly about that laptop on Monday’s blog post.

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