The very first Windows 3.1 computer I ever owned was an Epson ActionNote 500C. I found it at a thrift store almost 10-years-ago. I was mesmerized by how old and primitive of a laptop it was, and really liked it a lot. I was quite young at the time, so when the screen eventually failed on it, I had no clue how to repair it, and it eventually got thrown out. I now know the screen fault was from failing SMD capacitors, but even if I had known that then, I had no clue how to solder, so it would have done little good.


Then roughly three-years-later, I got a second one off of eBay, and while it worked fine, it wasn't in the greatest condition. I had been using this one up until just a few days ago.


So I finally bought another a few weeks ago. This machine was sold as "turns on but screen doesn't come on," so when I got the laptop, I figured out that the screen was working, but the backlight wasn't. Turned out to be a capacitor on the inverter board that leaked and rotted a trace, so once that was repaired, the backlight shined once again!


Then came the second issue, the image on the screen of the "new" ActionNote was terrible. Very shadowy, way more than it should be, even on a single-scan passive-matrix LCD. The reason for this is failing capacitors on the LCD panel (same issue that killed my original ActionNote). I do actually remember that the image-quality got worse and worse on my original one before the display died, so it all makes sense now.


So I took the screen from the ActionNote I already had, and installed it into the new one. This screen also needs a recap, but the image is okay for now on it. I will be recapping the original LCD soon and putting that back in.

This ActionNote also came with the original Logitech TrackMan trackball, which I didn't have before. It was missing the button though, so I stole one from a parts trackball, which is the wrong color, but it works at least.


This one also has the Areal A180 180MB hard drive, just like my original ActionNote had. These Areal drives are very unusual. They sound really cool and are very reliable. They are also a bit shorter than a standard 2.5" hard drive. These were also among the first drives to use glass platters. Glass platters were a very unusual thing in the early '90s. The Epson ActionNotes are the only computers I have ever seen these Areal drives in.


Here are some pics:


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May look like a really unimpressive laptop to some, but I love these things. This is pretty much where I got my start on vintage computing. The decision to use solid-state caps on the motherboard also helped these age a little better, so they actually are quite reliable. No rotted traces to worry about. They are also easy to work on. They are very simple in terms of features, but they do everything I would want a vintage laptop to do.



Now for the next one. Shortly after I got the other 500C, I bought a 4SLC/33, which I had been wanting for quite some time. This is very similar to the 500C, but with a 33MHz Cyrix 486SLC, and a slightly larger, black and white LCD.

Here's a pic of it:


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Sure do love that display. This one had a bad hard drive, so I installed the Areal A260 260MB from my parts ActionNote into it, and that works great.



The I found another 500C for cheap, and snatched it up mostly for the original case, which I used to have with my first one. This turned out to be a very good purchase! You'll see why later...


Here's a couple pics of the original case:


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Sure is nice to have on of these again.


This ActionNote 500C is exactly like my other one, nothing special, right? Well, I thought so...

What do we have here?


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It happened. Hell froze over, and I found a 4MB memory expansion for an ActionNote! These are very hard to come by nowadays.


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What a great find! Wish I had a few more of them...


Also, here is what the displays do when the caps start failing (these are two completely different screens):


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Notice how severe the shadowing is. Passive-matrix displays (especially single-scan ones like what are used n the ActionNote) always had shadowing, but nothing like this. The caps are on-order, so we will be fixing these soon.


Another thing worth mentioning, is the ActionNote 500C I got yesterday is exactly like the one I used to have. It has a 180MB hard drive and no modem, just like my old one. Very cool. It also uses an Areal A180 just like the other. Love these Areal drives because they sound awesome and are super reliable. Out of the three I have, not a SINGLE ONE has any bad sectors! These drives have aged very well.


Here are all of my ActionNotes stacked:


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Super happy with these. Now need to get the other models I don't have!

These ActionNotes will always be some of my favorites, and are definitely part of my "will never get rid of" collection. If I ever thinned out my collection and just stripped it down to my favorites, these would stay. Love using these laptops.