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Thread: Documenting/repairing the Prototype Compaq LTE 386s/20

  1. #1

    Post Documenting/repairing the Prototype Compaq LTE 386s/20

    I'm going to start a new thread about this to make it a little easier to find or anyone that wants to see it in the future.

    I recently obtained a prototype Compaq LTE 386s/20 and want to document everything I find and repair on it, because this is a piece of Compaq's history, and it most certainly deserves it.

    It's pretty crazy to thing that this *could* be the only one left like this. No way to know for sure, but certainly possible. This is actually one of the few things I own that I truly consider to be "rare". I'm not very loose with the "rare" term, but this one certainly earns it.

    Here are the original photos I took of it:


    The prototype is on the left in the images where the two are side-by-side to show some of the differences to it and the production model. And the prototype is on the top in the image where they are shown from the rear stacked.

    You can also see that this machine only has 1MB of RAM built-in versus the 2MB the production units have. This unit also came with a prototype 1MB RAM card that has a clear plastic frame. The production cards have a white plastic frame.

    The screen on this laptop has the typical rotting polarizer adhesive problem, which I will take care of eventually. I'll either replace the film, or put a screen from a regular LTE 386s/20 in there, as I'm pretty sure it uses the same screen.

    Now for some internal shots:


    Notice the completely unshielded lower case, and the little Dremeled out area in the lower case that was done to make clearance for a protruding flex cable

    If you look at metal casing on the upper case closely, you'll see a cut out for easy-access to the hard drive ROM! And if you look at the drive you'll notice the "CPQ-EVAL" (Compaq Evaluation) sticker, and that the last two digits of the model number have been written over with "61". Why was this done? Compaq always has custom models of Conner Peripherals hard drives; the hard drive in this machine was originally a CP-2060, but Compaq's custom version of this drive was the CP-2061, so this drive is basically the prototype of the CP-2061! The bad news about the hard drive is that the seal has turned to goo on it, and it has definitely ate least gotten of the sides of the platter. If it has gotten on the surface, then the drive is likely not salvageable short of sending it of to have it recovered. Worst case, I'll find another CP-2061 and throw it in there, just so I'll at least have a functional laptop. Don't worry though, I'm definitely going to hang on to the original drive. Anything that I replace on this machine, the old parts will be kept. Going to try and keep the stuff I replace to a minimum though. So far, the screen and likely the hard drive are the only things that really need replacing.

    Also, the 386SX chip has a sticker on top of it that I have never seen before. I'd like to see the other layers of the motherboard, but it's connected together with massive, 29 year old flex cables, so it's not worth the risk to me to potentially destroy this machine.

    There is another little area in the front of the metal casing that has been crudely cut-out that I didn't think to get a picture of. Looks like it was done to clear the plastic casing. I also noticed that overall the machine just doesn't fit together as well as my production model. Some of the screw holes and stuff just don't line up too great

    That's all for now. This thing is just really fascinating the hell out of me! I'm having a lot of fun with it so far.

  2. #2


    The one pictured in this InfoWorld article looks similar; has the same style of bezel.

    Edit: I should also mention that I replaced the belt in the floppy drive, but it still won't read disks properly because it needs to be recapped, which I'll be doing soon hopefully. Going to do it with polymers to keep the look original, and so they'll never leak again.

  3. #3


    Oops, forgot to put the picture that shows the memory count on there.

    Here it is:


    Only 1024KB!

  4. #4


    Another thing I found in disassembling this unit is that it doesn’t have a hard drive LED! It has the window and connector for it, but the LED is just not there.

  5. #5


    Well, I scored *another* proto LTE 386s/20 from the same person! Turns out that he was on the original design team! This one is a later proto, and looks pretty much like the production units, but I’m sure there’s some subtle differences that I haven’t noticed yet. Hoping the hard drive will be in better shape in it also! It does unfortunately have completely blown-out hinge mounts, but oh well.

    Should get it Monday.

  6. #6


    Here it is!


    One cosmetic deference I have found so far is that the power switch has an arrow on it pointing to the "Power" embossing. I guess they thought that people wouldn't know what that switch was for without that? Either way, it was removed on the final production units. I'll get a close-up picture of this later.

    The label on the battery looks a little different that the production models as well.

    Here's some internal shots:


    Notice how the bottom case says "modified" on it. Wasn't able to figure out exactly what was "modified" on it.

    Once again, the hard drive says "CPQ-EVAL" on it. It is also the 30MB drive, which I knew was an option, but this is actually the first one I have ever seen with it. The 60MB seems to be what most ended up with (I don't blame people either, 30MB isn't much for a 386). Also once again, the last digit of the model has been written-over, as this was a CP-2034 originally, and it is now a CP-2031, which was Compaq's custom model of that drive.

    I tried HARD to save this drive. It had the same melted gasket issue, so I took the whole damned thing apart, cleaned the platter with a microfiber cloth, and found this:


    Yep, that melted seal ate through the magnetic coating! Damn shame. No fixing this one. I can't take the hard drive from the other prototype apart because it's a dual-platter, and if you know anything about hard drives, you would know why that's an issue. I just cleaned it all up and put it back together, and as expected, it doesn't work. Ah well, definitely keeping the drive no matter what.

    But at least the laptop works!

    It also has two prototype 1MB RAM cards that don't have pull tabs on them. Makes getting them out really interesting :


    I should also mention that the LCD has the same issue that the other prototype does (these machines were clearly stored in a very hot environment).

    Also, as I mentioned, the hinge mounts are completely gone on this one; big hunks of plastic missing. Not a huge deal though, I didn't buy this machine for daily use, so I'm not really worried about it.

    That's all for now!

    Edit: I guess the "CPQ-EVAL" sticker on the hard drive is covered up by the FDD cable in the pic! I'll get a pic next time it's apart. Trust me, it's there.
    Last edited by compaqportableplus; April 8th, 2019 at 09:22 PM.

  7. #7


    Forgot to add this; notice how the hard drive LED cable is held-down with scotch tape! Hi-tech stuff right there This is why I love these protos so much; the thought that Compaq engineers poked and prodded around in this machine is just fascinating as hell!
    Last edited by compaqportableplus; April 8th, 2019 at 09:49 PM.

  8. #8


    Well, since quite a few of the tabs are broke on the newer prototype's bezel, I was able to remove it quite easily, and found some differences inside!


    The little cover on the inverter is clear versus white like it is on the production models. The layout of the inverter is also quite drastically different.

    Pretty cool stuff!

  9. #9


    Anyone else find these prototypes to be interesting?

  10. #10

    Default Compaq LTE 386 s 20 Complete - manuals , disks external Microsoft Roller Ball Mouse

    Quote Originally Posted by compaqportableplus View Post
    Anyone else find these prototypes to be interesting?
    I have discovered this coimplete Compaq LTE 386s from the early 1990s. The power supply is not functioning so I am unable to switch it on. That said, it has been sitting quietly at the back of a cupboard since around 1998 so I have no reason to belive it is not working. The hinge cover is also showing signs of cracking
    I have tried to upload some images at flir see
    If you or anyone is interested in this please let me know. I am happy to get rid of it ( preferably to aomeone and not to the dunp !) but I would like to ensure the disk is wiped first. Any help with doing this and/or powering it up would be appreciated

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