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Thread: Zenith supersPORT (8088)

  1. #1

    Default Zenith supersPORT (8088)

    I meant to post about this when I got it three years ago, but never got around to it.

    This is the nicest example of a Zenith supersPORT I have ever seen. It’s got all of the paperwork, the bag, and is in perfect condition (aside from some yellowing, which these all seem to have). The 20MB Alps Electric hard drive is still working perfectly too. It’s actually a stepper-motor actuated drive, which is just beyond awesome for a laptop.

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    As stated in the title, this is the original, 8088 model of the supersPORT (with CGA graphics). It runs at 8MHz making it the a “Turbo XT”. I believe these were introduced in 1987, but mine is from 1989 (the early supersPORTs don’t actually say “supersPORT” anywhere on the unit as far as I know). So if you have a laptop that looks just like this that is just branded “Zenith Data Systems”, you have a very early model supersPORT. Another difference on the early ones is that the three LEDs under the display are square rather than rectangular like they are on the newer ones.

    One unique feature about this machine is that it supports expanded (EMS) memory. I’ve never seen one with that module fitted unfortunately, but it is mentioned in the service manual. Would love to have one of those, as it’d help with things like Windows a lot.

    The only thing I have had to do to this laptop is recap the hard drive’s PCB. It had about 7 or so SMD electrolytic caps that were leaking so badly that they actually started falling off during dissasembly! In spite of that, the drive still worked perfectly with those old caps in place. I installed tantalums it place of the electrolytics, so it should be good for many, many years to come. Thankfully, that’s the only part in the whole system that uses SMD electrolytics.

    What are my opinions of this laptop? I absolutely love it. It probably comes in as a close second to the Compaq SLT for me (which is saying a lot, because the Compaq SLT my favorite vintage PC laptop). The mechanical keyboard, while not clicky, is an absolute joy to type on, the blue backlit CGA LCD is wonderful, and it looks downright badass! The unique hinge design makes it look very distinctive (it essentially has 4 hinges; two on each side of the display). The name of the machine is also pretty damn cool: "SuperSport". The hard drive is a little on the slow side, but I’m patient (See pics for the hard drive benchmark results). It’s faster than a Miniscribe 3650, but slower than a Seagate ST-251.

    Edit: Another interesting thing I forgot to add is that the Hard drive activity light basically acts as a "Not safe to turn off" light, if that makes any sense. It doesn't flash like a normal HDD light would. When the light is on, the heads are not parked, and when the light is off, the heads are parked and the machine is safe to turn off. I can tell by listening to it that the heads are parked when the light goes off. So apparently this is not an auto-parking drive (I guess technically it is, but not in the normal sense). I'm pretty sure this is a feature of the Zenith's hard drive controller, as other machines I have seen with this same Alps Electric hard drive (Tandy 1400HD for example) don't seem to do this.
    Last edited by compaqportableplus; December 27th, 2018 at 01:53 AM.

  2. #2

    Default

    Went ahead and removed the WordPerfect function key template, as I didn't care for the way it looked on there too much. You can see the original color of them machine where it was. I was kind of hoping that wouldn't happen, but oh well. Still looks better than it did IMO.

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  3. #3

    Default

    Looks great! I have one of these I purchased on eBay about 3 years ago, battery even still works a bot, but I do not have the bagm manuals, etc. Yours is a great find! I was in the US Air Force in the late 80s and had one of these models brand new, was such a cool way to work on battery and mobile at the time!

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidH View Post
    Looks great! I have one of these I purchased on eBay about 3 years ago, battery even still works a bot, but I do not have the bagm manuals, etc. Yours is a great find! I was in the US Air Force in the late 80s and had one of these models brand new, was such a cool way to work on battery and mobile at the time!
    My recently acquired SuperSport came with proposal files for a radar system, must have been popular with the military contractors back then.

    While I appreciate the arrow keys, their placement is just ever too close to the wrist rest area and I find myself hitting them by accident.

    Type feel is second to none for a true laptop like this.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by DavidH View Post
    Looks great! I have one of these I purchased on eBay about 3 years ago, battery even still works a bot, but I do not have the bagm manuals, etc. Yours is a great find! I was in the US Air Force in the late 80s and had one of these models brand new, was such a cool way to work on battery and mobile at the time!
    Thanks! Yes, these definitely very cool laptops.


    Quote Originally Posted by rpiguy2 View Post
    My recently acquired SuperSport came with proposal files for a radar system, must have been popular with the military contractors back then.

    While I appreciate the arrow keys, their placement is just ever too close to the wrist rest area and I find myself hitting them by accident.

    Type feel is second to none for a true laptop like this.
    Must have, because I’ve got an external 5.25” drive for one of these that I found at goodwill, and it has a sticker on it that says “Little Rock Air Force Base”, which is not too far from where I live.

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