DECpc 325SLC & SimCity 2000

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SimCity 2000 running on DECpc 325SLC (both from 1993) – This 25-MHz 386SL laptop was available with a color passive-matrix screen and thanks to its Western Digital graphics chip (512kB video RAM) it could handle 256 colors in a resolution of 640×480 (required by the game).

Not bad for a laptop that cost only about $2,100 when released.

Beware of Dead RTC/Backup Batteries (Again)

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It took me half a day to get mostly dead RTC and RAM backup batteries from two desktop and six notebook computers. In 50% of cases the batteries already started leaking so they would soon kill the computer.

I didn’t replace the batteries with new ones as I don’t need another ticking bomb in my old machines. Now I have to access BIOS setup every time I want to use the computer. That’s the only drawback but I can live with it.

Mobile CPU Upgrades

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Siemens-Nixdorf PCD-4ND is a 486-based laptop from 1993-1995. It was quite popular in Germany and you could have seen a few of them still in use even ten years ago (mostly connected to expensive industrial devices using a serial port).

I like how easy it was to upgrade the CPU in this particular laptop. It took about 20 seconds to remove a small plastic cover and replace the CPU board. There were probably four options during the lifecycle of the machine – 25-MHz 486SX, 50-MHz 486DX2 and 75-MHz/100-MHz 486DX4 (Intel called it ‘Intel DX4’).

Note the WDC graphics chip below the CPU board slot. It shared the bus with the CPU as it was connected using VLB (= VESA Local Bus) instead of the older ISA/AT bus. This allowed to use fast 32-bit transfers on a frequency equal to the CPU external clock (25/33-MHz) without a sophisticated bus controller (EISA, PCI). This chip was used in many laptops of this era and it was surprisingly powerful. It allowed up to 1024×768 with 256 colors and 640×480 with 65k colors and it could accelerate bit-block transfers as well as graphics primitives.