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Thread: ActionNote madness

  1. #1

    Default ActionNote madness

    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:


    IMG_5402.jpgIMG_5404.jpgIMG_5403.jpgIMG_5406.jpgIMG_5399.jpg


    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:


    IMG_5425.jpg


    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:


    IMG_5429.jpgIMG_5430.jpg


    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?


    IMG_5431.jpg


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


    IMG_5432.jpgIMG_5438.jpg


    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):


    [IMG_5434.jpgIMG_5400.jpg


    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:


    IMG_5426.jpg


    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.
    Compaq - “It simply works better”

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2018
    Location
    East Coast US
    Posts
    8

    Default

    Great Thread.

    My first laptop, and computer, ever was my Dad's old 4SLC/33. He gave it to me in around 2002 or 2003 (when I was in Elementary school), and he had bought it sometime soon after it came out, so 94 or 95. Great memories of playing 3.1 games on it like jezzball, tetris, the cat and mouse game, etc.

    Although it doesn't seem like it was very premium for its time it was a great machine. I would turn it on often enough, and I actually used it a lot between 03 and ~07. Fast forward to the present, after a long time, and predictably the machine is kinda falling apart. The BIOS got erased, which means the disk settings were lost. On top of that, I also don't have high hopes the disk is even working. The screen assembly is failing, and the lcd is flickering a lot (which I can probably fix). I took it apart a few months ago, but I couldn't locate the CMOS battery, let alone take it out to prevent further damage, and to find a replacement. School and life have been taking up the majority of my time, but soon I will get back to fixing up this machine.

    The support disks are long gone, so I will need to find a way to replace them or use a universal solution. Not sure. Old HDDs like in this machine are exceptionally hard to source, and I always get nervous shipping them. So this machine will be a challenge for sure.

    I would love to see updates on your laptops going forward!

  3. #3

    Default

    atg, that’s cool!

    Yeah, these were some of the cheapest laptops you could get in the early ‘90s, but they have been really reliable in my experience, both structurally and electrically.

    I actually don’t have much to report on these. I did recap one of the LCD panels, which went fine, but otherwise they haven’t needed anything. They are quite reliable.

    Also, for the clock battery, it’s inside the Dallas DS1287 clock chip, which is removable. However these are sealed, so the battery isn’t going to be able to leak out, so that’s not an issue. Look up “Dallas DS1287 modification” for instructions on how to modify it with an external battery.
    Compaq - “It simply works better”

  4. #4

    Default

    very Neat old machine. Reminds me of my first laptop. Bondewell 386sc? I think it was. Look it up!

    It fell to the same fate as yours did with bad caps, and like you I knew nothing about it and just junked it.

    Neat old machine though, I even had the original case and power supply, and the MANUAL!

    Wish I could go back in time and keep the machines I once had. Thinkpad 700 ps/2, 700c ps/2, 380ed, 390e, the bondwell,.....

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2020
    Location
    California, United States
    Posts
    100

    Default

    Just recently picked up an ActionNote 660C on eBay for around $40. Overall a very nice and compact subnotebook computer. Even came with a carrying case, the original manual, and some extras which is great.

    Only issue with it is that there's a vertical line on the screen; not shadowing like in the pictures, but a thin blue line that goes about halfway down the LCD panel. Hopefully not a sign of failing capacitors...
    Vintage computer systems and peripherals I'm currently looking for:
    Any 386, 486 or Pentium-based IBM ThinkPad laptop, Any 386, 486 or Pentium-based Compaq LTE or Compaq Contura laptop, Any 8088/8086 or 286-based computer with a 3.5'' 1.44MB floppy drive (laptop or desktop is fine), Any Toshiba Libretto laptop running Windows 95, 98 or 2000, Commodore 1541 disk drive in working condition.

    PM me if you are interested in selling any of these items to me. Thanks!

  6. #6

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by TH2002 View Post
    Just recently picked up an ActionNote 660C on eBay for around $40. Overall a very nice and compact subnotebook computer. Even came with a carrying case, the original manual, and some extras which is great.

    Only issue with it is that there's a vertical line on the screen; not shadowing like in the pictures, but a thin blue line that goes about halfway down the LCD panel. Hopefully not a sign of failing capacitors...
    Cool. I think I remember seeing that one on eBay. It’s actually not a subnotebook. It was actually just a normal-sized laptop at the time. Laptops were much smaller depth and width-wise before large LCDs became a thing.
    Compaq - “It simply works better”

  7. #7

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by tblake05 View Post
    very Neat old machine. Reminds me of my first laptop. Bondewell 386sc? I think it was. Look it up!

    It fell to the same fate as yours did with bad caps, and like you I knew nothing about it and just junked it.

    Neat old machine though, I even had the original case and power supply, and the MANUAL!

    Wish I could go back in time and keep the machines I once had. Thinkpad 700 ps/2, 700c ps/2, 380ed, 390e, the bondwell,.....
    Thanks! Yeah, it’s a shame what we threw out when we were newbies.
    Compaq - “It simply works better”

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