Announced November 1982, the unit was actually shipped in January of 1983 (300 of them). This was arguably the system that destroyed IBM's monopoly on the PC market and created the situation we see today. It WAS the first compatible system that was LEGALLY made, though Columbia first copied the IBM BIOS and later paid the fatal price.
The system's BIOS was developed from scratch by using a team of 18 persons (only one guy was "dirty" and he was not allowed to do any part of the code and could only answer vaguely to questions). They took IBM's BIOS apart and made notes of the system calls contained within it. That way, Compaq was able to develop a PC compatible without any risk of a lawsuit from IBM, since the code was written from scratch (reverse engineering). It cost them $1 million to do it.
The system itself weighs a hefty 34 pounds and was dubbed a 'luggable' computer
rather than a true portable. It contained a 9" green phosphor CRT display and both serial and parallel ports. The system did MDA graphics as well as CGA by switching the scan frequencies of the monitor (a first that is the basis for VGA).
The only difference between the standard and 'Plus' models was that the latter had a single 5.25" floppy drive and a 10Mb hard disk, while the original model had two 5.25" drives. All units supported two 5.25'' floppies at 160 KB, 320 KB and 360 KB. All units could have 10, 20, or 30 MB hard drives but Compaq only shipped 10MB Rhodime ruggedized drives (good for 40 G shock!). Some models also had a 20/40 MB tape drive. Compaq also shipped a brown nylon or brown leather carrying case and ONE blue case (Rod Canions unit).
In its first year of trading, Compaq took more than $111 million on this single
product, which was a US business record. During that year (1983), more than
53,000 units were sold.
Dave (Compaq insider) reports:
The portable was the first unit and had silver logo plates. It had the standard 1 or 2 floppy drives. The Plus was the unit with the Rhodime 10MB fixed disk and had gold labels. Many folks get them confused as the Portable was easily upgradable to a Plus and many thousands were. Just check the label color.
Oh here's a tidbit - to remove the case cover, simply lay the unit flat (fold up the bottom feet) and press your elbow into the middle of the top cover and the rear edge of that cover will pop out enough to grab and lift off. One of the test ladies taught me that and we were all muscling it around - she simply figures out how to use what she has.
The power supply can be a bugger to remove also. It had a special wrench to remove the lower lock screw and the whole thing kinda slides out where you can then remove the connectors.
My unit had 2 1/2 ht 20 Mg drives and 2 1/2 ht floppy drives. I later swapped a floppy for a tape drive. It is presently in the Compaq internal museum (the "hall of fame").
Paul Dixon (another Compaq insider) replies:
The cover actually can be removed with one hand if you know exactly where to slap the heel of your hand onto the cover and then catch the edge as it pops out with your fingers.
Graphic modes are shown here as CGA and MDA. Actualy can MDA be described as a graphics mode? I suppose if you count lines produced in text mode then it could be. However the Compaq portable did NOT support MDA (or Mode 7). It emulated MDA in CGA mode 3 which is the text mode for CGA.
My first computer was a Compaq "luggable." What I miss most about it is the keyboard, more specifically, the nature of the stroke. It is the only keyboard on which I could type at high speed, without fatigue and with minimal stroke errors. Now that I have arthritis in my fingers, I''d like to find a modern keyboard with the same type of "feel." Can anyone suggest something? It would have to be Apple OSx compatible. Thanks.
Saturday 11th August 2018
John Hunter (Virginia, USA)
Q: Does anyone have a pointer to service manuals/data for the original Compaq Portable model number 101709 ?