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Lord Moz
March 30th, 2010, 06:39 PM
So I broke down and bought another machine (bringing the total much closer to 100 than my wife would like).
I have a Compaq Portable II on the way, and I figured I would ask the crowd here if there was anything I should know about these machines.

I did a bit of googling of course before buying it, and I did locate copies of the diag/setup disks (no thanks to compaq/hp).

My questions so far, before I've even received it are:

1. Will OS/2 1.3 (or 1.x in general) run fine on this, or are there any issues to be aware of?

2. Will a 286 > 486 upgrade work in it? The service manual indicates a socketed PLCC CPU, but I don't know how the internals are laid out. Is there room?

3. Was the RAM expansion card a fairly standard/common upgrade? This machine was listed as having 640KB, so that's what I'm expecting. I do have some Acculogic RAMpAT cards waiting to be used. Should I expect any issues?

Thanks in advance for any info, and please feel free to share anything else about the Portable II you might know as well.

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Trevor

k2x4b524[
March 30th, 2010, 09:13 PM
I've got a compaq portable, gold label *not sure which came first, the gold or the silver* I haven't tried myself, since the portable has a built in mono monitor but can output to cga. Being a compaq portable, you may not have much room too work with, you have room for the slots, but at least in mine, to get to anything else, you pretty much have to gut it. I'm STILL trying to figure out how to get the hard drive out :( Your memory cards should work fine if your portable 2 is like my portable 1, it's going to be a VERY tight fit..

Captain Midnight
March 31st, 2010, 06:01 PM
The Compaq Portable II was a redesigned/lighter luggable along the same lines as the Compaq Portable/Portable Plus line that came out in early 1986. It was built to be compatible, in general, with the IBM AT, so the general specs are similar but not the same. Like the AT, you're probably getting an 8 Mhz 286, but beyond that, it depends on the config of your system. Checking oldcomputers.com, the best base configuration would be 640k RAM, a 20 MB MFM/RLL hard drive and a single 360k 5 1/4 drive, though the specs might be lesser than that. I'd test out that 5 1/4 to see if it's really double density or high density, as the AT's was a high density drive, but it's still the old floppy disks either way.

In terms of this being a Compaq, sounds like you found the setup disk(s), which is good. The setup program kind of stinks but it is good enough if for some reason you swap the floppy or hard drive. If it's an 8 Mhz machine, the processor might be switchable back and forth to 6 Mhz by doing a CTRL-ALT-\, like on the Portable III. You should be able to do CGA graphics on the monochrome display, but that's about it.

To your questions, here's my thoughts:

1) Theoretically, OS/2 1.X can run on your 286, but given your likely hard disk size, processor, base memory and the like, it will probably run at a snail's pace. On this machine, I'd probably go w/ an older DOS version. The system originally shipped with Compaq PC DOS 3.2. 3.31 would be very nice as well and it seems like many people have a copy of it. With a genuine Compaq, the nice thing is you can use Compaq's highly-tweaked MODE utility to mess w/ things as needed. If you feel the multitasking urge, again I recommend DesqView 2.X.

2) If you have a 286 to 486 upgrade, go for it. However, since you will have to run it from the bus, you will lose a lot of performance. The 286s used a PGA package, which is wholly different than the pinout of a 486 (or 386DX for that matter) processor. That said, installing a 386SX upgrade is definately a possibility and would allow you to gain the memory mgt of the 386, even if it is just to run DOS programs.

3) To the first part of your question, an expanded memory (EMS) board was a fairly standard upgrade for an XT or 286 class computer, although back in the day, these things were usually very expensive, so they weren't, say, an every day occurrence. To the second part of your question, it really depends on what you want to do w/ the machine. If you want to upgrade it to a 386 or 486, then I would look for an upgrade card that integrated SIMM sockets on the card. If however you're intent is to keep the system in it's pure 286 state, then the EMS board is a good idea, but make sure you have or can get a copy of the original drivers that came with the board. You will need to the expanded memory manager drivers to get the darn thing to work. As a last note, if you do go w/ the EMS board (I would), then you definately want DesqView and QRAM because then you can make the most of the 640k base you have, plus you can use your EMS memory to execute and swap MS-DOS programs.

Hope that helps.

Lord Moz
March 31st, 2010, 07:11 PM
The Compaq Portable II was a redesigned/lighter luggable along the same lines as the Compaq Portable/Portable Plus line that came out in early 1986. It was built to be compatible, in general, with the IBM AT, so the general specs are similar but not the same. Like the AT, you're probably getting an 8 Mhz 286, but beyond that, it depends on the config of your system. Checking oldcomputers.com, the best base configuration would be 640k RAM, a 20 MB MFM/RLL hard drive and a single 360k 5 1/4 drive, though the specs might be lesser than that. I'd test out that 5 1/4 to see if it's really double density or high density, as the AT's was a high density drive, but it's still the old floppy disks either way.

From what I've read, the HD interface on the MB is IDE but many systems were shipped with MFM drives attached to MFM-IDE converters/adapters. I don't know if this system's floppy drive is HD or not, but I believe the MB supports HD in any case. The problem would seem to be the non-standard form factor drives Compaq chose.



To your questions, here's my thoughts:

1) Theoretically, OS/2 1.X can run on your 286, but given your likely hard disk size, processor, base memory and the like, it will probably run at a snail's pace. On this machine, I'd probably go w/ an older DOS version. The system originally shipped with Compaq PC DOS 3.2. 3.31 would be very nice as well and it seems like many people have a copy of it. With a genuine Compaq, the nice thing is you can use Compaq's highly-tweaked MODE utility to mess w/ things as needed. If you feel the multitasking urge, again I recommend DesqView 2.X.

As above, I believe I will be able to upgrade the HD without too much effort, either with the onboard IDE, or failing that, with an ISA controller. That would allow the needed storage space.
I have dozens of dos machines, and while not totally opposed to putting dos on this, I don't have any AT class 286 machines for OS/2 1.x.

For reference of my techno-masochism, when I was in HS (mid 90s) my father had aquired a Packard Bell 286 machine from a friend of mine at school. The PB was sold with 2MB ram and without an HD, but I was bound and determined to run Windows 3.1, since all the other machines in the house were XT class. My solution at the time was to run MS-DOS 6's intersvr on a clone XT w/40MB MFM drive and interlnk off floppy on the PB. All this over a 115.2Kbp/s link via an 8250 uart on the XT and a 16450 on the PB (don't let anyone tell you it can't be done! though the 8250 did get quite toasty and needed an hour or two "nap" every 8-10 hours or so). With this amazing setup, I was able to install and load Windows 3.1 on the PB! This feat required all day to load the disks during install, and a good 30-40min to load afterwards. When I think about hard drive transfer rates now at 80+MB/s, I always remember sitting there staring at Win 3.1's splash screen as the XT's drive was thrashing around spitting bits out it's poor serial port at ~15KB/s!

It was also using this setup I also discovered how to get WfW 3.11 to run on a 286 which is impossible acc. to MS. :p

Whatever performance this thing has, I am pretty sure it'll be many times faster than that PB started out (it eventually got a Quantum ProDrive LP 270).


2) If you have a 286 to 486 upgrade, go for it. However, since you will have to run it from the bus, you will lose a lot of performance. The 286s used a PGA package, which is wholly different than the pinout of a 486 (or 386DX for that matter) processor. That said, installing a 386SX upgrade is definately a possibility and would allow you to gain the memory mgt of the 386, even if it is just to run DOS programs.

I have two 286-486 upgrades, one fitting into a PGA socket, and one fitting into a PLCC. Actually I have 2 for PLCCs, but one is in use in my Tandy 1000 TL/2. The upgrades have the mating connector and necessary voltage regulators and PALs to convert the pins/signals required. My primary concern here was mechanical/physical with regards to space.

I'm not really sure I will leave it in, even if I do try it and get it to work, since it would really defeat the point in specifically buying a 286 machine...


3) To the first part of your question, an expanded memory (EMS) board was a fairly standard upgrade for an XT or 286 class computer, although back in the day, these things were usually very expensive, so they weren't, say, an every day occurrence. To the second part of your question, it really depends on what you want to do w/ the machine. If you want to upgrade it to a 386 or 486, then I would look for an upgrade card that integrated SIMM sockets on the card. If however you're intent is to keep the system in it's pure 286 state, then the EMS board is a good idea, but make sure you have or can get a copy of the original drivers that came with the board. You will need to the expanded memory manager drivers to get the darn thing to work. As a last note, if you do go w/ the EMS board (I would), then you definately want DesqView and QRAM because then you can make the most of the 640k base you have, plus you can use your EMS memory to execute and swap MS-DOS programs.

The Acculogic RAMpAT cards are 16 bit ISA cards with 4 30 pin sim slots. The software allows the ram to be used as XMS or EMS, as I believe the hardware just puts the ram straight in the normal address space in extended memory. I think it might even allow the starting address to be configured so the upper memory region can be backfilled.


Hope that helps.

Any input is welcome :)


If anyone has a copy available, I would very much appreciate a copy of Compaq DOS 3.31.
Even if I put OS/2 1.3 on this machine (which is one of my primary goals), I will most likely dual boot it. I want to experiment with the "family mode" programming stuff, even though there isn't much point any longer.

I haven't even received this machine, and I am wondering if the integrated video could be tweaked.. to perhaps get EGA out of the builtin monitor, since it seems to support the resolutions and timings. I'm wondering why Compaq only chose to support MDA text and not Hercules mono graphics at least? Herc/CGA would have been preferable to MDA/CGA. I'm curious how hackable it is...

So many projects! argg! :p
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Trevor

Micom 2000
March 31st, 2010, 09:54 PM
Just to clarify, is the Compaq Portable II the sewing machine-type case or more like the clone that was made of the "portable" PC . A heavy box with it's own particular keyboard.

My portible Compaq-II is of the sewing machine-like case and with a red plasma display. The keyboard serves as a cover and the keyboard connector is extremely inset. When I got it it didn't have a keyboard, but a one compaq keyboard connector I had was of a slim size which would insert while most keyboard connectors were too large.

I think the red plasma displays were classified as CGA as is a similar Grid 1520 LT with a red plasma display. Is the red plasma display unique on only some models of the Compaq Portable II ?

Lawrence

nige the hippy
April 1st, 2010, 12:41 AM
Wandering a bit OT but wasn't the plasma screen the Portable III and Portable 386?

Lord Moz
April 1st, 2010, 02:08 PM
Wandering a bit OT but wasn't the plasma screen the Portable III and Portable 386?

I don't have one, but from what I've read, I believe so.
My portable II on the way has a green phosphor CRT.
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Trevor

Captain Midnight
April 1st, 2010, 05:03 PM
Regarding the plasma screen, the Compaq luggables had a green phosphor CRT, I believe 9 inches, while the III and 386 had a either a 10.4 or 11.4 inch amber gas plasma display, which Compaq referred to as the "dual mode display." I am fairly confident that the reason Compaq didn't make it Herc compatible was because the on board controller could display a special, high res CGA mode of 640x400, which interestingly enough is about 95% compatible with the AT&T 400's monochrome display. In fact, Compaq even recommended using AT&T display drivers with certain programs that existed prior to the release of the Portable III as a stop-gap measure.

Anywho, in regards to your question about the graphics, I think even Compaq at the time knew the graphics were a bit underpowered on these machines. Thus, they offered an "enhanced graphics card" that could be configured, at least, to do basically what you are suggesting with the Portable III/386 line. It's worth a shot on the Portable II. I think I saw one on E-Bay a while back. It might not work w/ the portable II, but I know it works with the III/386. I can't remember if the graphics on the II were internally wired to an expansion card or not, so that's obviously an inspection note. Otherwise, I'd go for it.

Lord Moz
April 3rd, 2010, 09:59 AM
My Portable II arrived yesterday and I spent the entire rest of the day messing with it, so I figured I would update the thread with answers to my own questions, and add a few :)


1. Will OS/2 1.3 (or 1.x in general) run fine on this, or are there any issues to be aware of?

Haven't tried this yet. The BIOS/Setup program uses drive types and I haven't dug through my pile to find appropriate drives yet.


2. Will a 286 > 486 upgrade work in it? The service manual indicates a socketed PLCC CPU, but I don't know how the internals are laid out. Is there room?

The chip is socketed, but is of the ceramic leadless variety rather than the plastic leaded kind. Bummer. I don't think I feel motivated enough to bother with trying to craft some kind of adapter, at least right now. I suppose replacing the socket would be an option too... but that's a bit tricky to do right.


3. Was the RAM expansion card a fairly standard/common upgrade? This machine was listed as having 640KB, so that's what I'm expecting. I do have some Acculogic RAMpAT cards waiting to be used. Should I expect any issues?

The RAMpAT! card works great, and the BIOS even counts the extra ram at startup. Now to find lots of 4MB 30pin simms, for this and my SE/30s and a few others. I should grab some 16MB simms too. I will be looking for the proper ram expansion board that plug into the bottom of the MB to get some extra ram as well.

The machine is 100% functional. It wasn't detecting the HD because the backup battery was dead. Conveniently (and very much appreciatedly), the system uses a 3.6v lithium AA battery for it's BIOS info. Not having any handy, I put a regular 1.5V lithium in it until I can get the right one. Seems to be working, but I've noticed that the clock is not running at full speed and loses a few minutes every hour. Not sure if that is related. The setup program has a list of supported HD types, but it wouldn't accept any of the listed 40.xMB types. I started experimenting and found type 8 to be working, and the drive booted right up into MS-DOS 3.3 with 2 partitions.

The BIOS/setup supports 2 IDE controllers with 2 drives each, which is handy, but the included controller only has 1 IDE channel. The controller supports HD floppies, but the BIOS doesn't understand 1.44MB drives. Interestingly, it detects 1.44MB drives as 1.2MB drives... which is not handy when trying to boot from the 3.5" drive. As mentioned above, the machine has MS-DOS 3.3 installed, no Compaq extensions, and didn't even have its setup or diags. From what I have discovered, I have one of the earliest ROMs (Rev. E), without the 1.44MB support. If anyone has ROM N3 or later I would be super appreciative :)

I have ordered a Promise EIDEPRO multi-io card with LBA bios support which should arrive in a few days, perhaps it will add HD 3.5" floppy support in BIOS as well...

My biggest curiosity right now is the video/monitor. I really would like to know the monitor's supported frequencies, and perhaps build an adapter. The internal connection is via a .1" header 6x2, except 2 are used as a key, leaving 10 for actual connection. If anyone has the pinouts, I would love to have them.

Well... I think that's it for now. I will continue messing with it a bit later. The weather is too nice today to stay indoors all day.
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Trevor