The stall owner asked me when i am coming around and said he is gonna get something for me. Next time i was back he presented me with this boy. It was surprisingly clean, although the lid was quite easy to open, it seemed to be in a very good condition, and it looked old, so that was all that i needed to know to buy it.
Assembled the laptop without it's hinges and decided to give the hinges another treatment later.
I was expecting to be somewhat disappointed, since i was sceptical when the stall owner told me he'd get something interesting another time, but i needed to get some stuff from the market anyway and i was intrigued, so after class, i picked up my bag and got on the train and then the bus, and shortly i was there. Upon arriving, the shopkeeper presented me with a weird thicc looking laptop, and i knew this lookied very interesting. Once i opened it and saw a trackball in place of the touchpad, i was sold and after exchanging about 8 dollars with him (i got a bit of a discount) i put it in my bag and i was off. Luckily, i already had an adapter for it, so i didn't have any additional expenses. The back of the laptop had a warranty sticker that ended in 1998, although at first i thought that was the manufacture date, so i was pretty excited to dig around in it. Later on i found an article dating back to 1995, but this laptop may even be older.
Upon taking it home and opening it again on my table, i was presented with an issue. The hinges seemed completely loose. Well, not a big issue, i thought, i don't mind taking it apart and attempting repairs. The back plate stated that the maximum power rating this laptop could handle was 20V, so it was perfect for my 19.5V adapter. I put the converter on, and plugged the charger into the socket, and the battery indicator started blinking. That was a very good sign already. There was no power button, however, there was a sticker instructing me to use the key combination of Fn+Enter to power it on, so i tried it. At first it didn't work, but after pressing the keys a bit more firmly, i heard something spin up. The screen's backlight turned on, but the screen had no image however. After tilting it a bit, i noticed that the screen was indeed showing something, but very very bleakly. Trying to adjust the contrast and brightness did not help much, so i had to look for other options.
Luckily, i found a VGA port, and along with it a PCMCIA Fax modem that someone left in the slot which was an interesting discovery. After plugging it into my second monitor, it instantly showed an image. It was a BIOS interface, telling me that the battery was dead and that the settings were spaghetti. Also, seemingly it could not find an operating system or a boot device. To add to that, me being a beginner in this area i thought the computer was running a monochrome setup, since all of the text was bright orange to yellowish. So far i was not hopeful, the screen didn't work, the hard drive was seemingly dead and god knows what else could be wrong with it.
However, i was bent on following my psychology (i dont mind if it breaks so long as i learn something from it) so i figured it wouldn't hurt to disassemble it and see what makes it tick. At the very least i will get a hands-on experience with an older board and maybe find something interesting. So i flipped the boy over and started undoing the screws. My first instinct was to tackle the largest, most accessible-looking screws, but as i soon figured out by the rattling noise after undoing them, they were the ones holding the hard drive to a tray. I knew it had an HDD tray, because most old laptops do, and the HDD wouldn't be attached to the case plastic like that, would it not. Admitting another minor defeat, i undid the rest of the screws and looked at the latches on the back.
I consider myself a fairly slow person, and it shows now and then. It took me a fair while to figure out that i could slide the battery and the HDD tray forward, but after i did i was greeted with a very interesting setup. This particular hard drive was quite bulky and thicker than the other 2.5" IDE drives i had in other laptops. This might prove difficult to access it on other computers if i were to try. To add to that, it had some sort of a riser that was connected via a ribbon cable. I hate ribbon cables, they are too fragile and older ribbon cables just flake in your hands when you touch them. In a very paranoid and gentle manner i disengaged the HDD from the tray. I figured if anything it wouldn't hurt to find out whether its the cable or the HDD that is at fault.
The Compaq's tray was too small and upon checking it again, i was proven right, so the only other option (The HP machine has it's hard drive under its keyboard and will require disassembly) was to try the Dell's tray, which was tall enough and barely made it. I had to bend the tray back into shape, since it was a bit skewed being made of soft metal and all, and with a bit of brute force magic i managed to shove it into the laptop. To my surprise, even with all the noise it was making, it booted to Windows 95 just fine. Fortunately for the previous owner, i couldn't find any of the files, everything was cleaned up pretty well. Well, i suppose that means that the ribbon cable may be toast in this case.
Well, repairing ribbon cables is not in my repertoire so i decided to disassemble the laptop itself. When i decided to flip the laptop, i was surprised to find out that the screen hinges were attached to the board by screws and could easily be disengaged, making the laptop look like a tiny 80's computer. I decided to leave the screen for last, and proceeded with disassembling the main part. The plastic that the case was soft, which i liked, but also brittle. I was able to bend my way out of a few latches, but i did make a couple very tiny cracks in some places which don't really concern me and shouldn't affect the integrity of the laptop. And then, while i was fiddling around with the little port covers, i saw a dead, dry cockroach body fall out. It was very dry, possibly has been dead for a decade or more, but i just scoffed and didn't give it much thought.
After wrestling my way through a few stubborn latches and locks, i finally managed to get the two pieces that made up the case unstuck from each other. However, being the bonehead that i am, i spent the next couple hours trying to figure out how to disconnect the cables that connected the trackball and the keyboard to the motherboard. After giving up, i decided to look up a disassembly guide on YouTube. But all i found was some russian dude, going away at the poor thing of his own with a hammer and a few hand tools. He said he was disassembling it, but by the end of the video all he did was turn the laptop into a shredded pile of boards and plastic and i was disappointed. However, i did figure out that the keyboard could come out first, and that would give me a way better angle at the ribbon cables which there were 2 of. I did damage the ribbon cable holder, since i thought it was a plugging cable but it turned out to be a little locking mechanism, im sure there are correct names for that but i do not know them. Finally the keyboard was out and i could disconnect the trackball too and the top cover came off.
And then i was punished for not expecting the worst. The motherboard was littered with dead cockroaches. I wish i had taken a few pictures, although i'm afraid it would have been a bit grotesque. The sticky shields on the internal power converter had at least 15 dead babies on it. Even the keyboard had a roach in it. And every time i tried to clean them off they would just flake away and turn into dust that would fly into my face. That was one hell of an experience. I took the shields to the bathroom, since i didnt have anything to replace them and dutifully wiped them from the chockroaches as much as i could. I had some trouble getting the motherboard to come unstuck from the bottom half of the plastic case, but as i figured out later, i forgot to take out the PCMCIA card and it was bumping on the IO shield. That one took me about 30 minutes to understand. I also noticed that the internal 3.6V CMOS battery seemingly exploded and spewed acid all over itself, so with a bit of struggle and my low powered soldering iron i got it removed and cleaned some residue away. I wrapped the battery up in tape cause i wanted to get a replacement at the market and proceeded with the clean ups.
WIP! More pictures are coming soon!