Ancient Laptop with a nice surprise

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JohnZD

31 Jul 2017, 14:14

Hi folks.

I have been reading silently here for years - which might be an indicator for my slightly geekish tendencies, especially when it comes to HIDs, but also in other fields - maybe driving a sluggishly restored Delorean DMC12 as a semi daily driver might also count.

Speaking of sluggish restorations: today I have a valid reason for my first post.

On Sunday, I got an ancient looking laptop for a song, which was non functional and had a completely dissolved NiCd-Battery which hat leaked all over the lower casing. The unit turned on, but was instantly emanating the dusgusting smell of burning electrolytes, and the screen was completly blurry and dark.

Although this little thing - a Bondwell B200 with german ISO keyboard - was a very cheap device at its time in the late 80s, built with an 80C88 processor that was outdated even in 1989 and made from extremely flimsy plastic that is so brittle after a few decades that it literally disintegrates under your hands if you touch it roughly, there is something about the keyboard that is quite noteworthy: it is clicky and feels simply fantastic.

It is by far the best keyboard I have ever touched, at least to my taste, and compared to white complicated Alps and normal Cherry MX blues. The switches are Cherry MX dark blue, except for the return and space keys, which are amber Omron switches.

Today, I cleaned the case and disassembled the little sucker. Inside I found the usual capacitor mess, so the soldering began.

After a thorough capacitor change and the a hasty reassemly, it started up flawlessly and asked for a boot disk, which I created using an old 486 hooked up via shugart bus to a TEAC floppy from my good old Amiga 500. It took 3 hours and was horrible, but finally worked.

I found out via this forum that the keyboard itself would be very hard to mate with a Teensy or any other microcontroller based solution due to its weird matrix, so I did not even try anything like this.

While many guys at Geekhack might have voted for harvesting the switches, I decided to go down a different path that some of you might appreciate here at Deskthority.

I set up a Raspberry Pi Zero W with Raspbian lite, installed TCPser and a few text based browsers (Lynx etc.) and a telnet daemon. Then I added an adapter from USB to RS232 and a nullmodem cable.

After rebuilding the Bondwell's battery pack, which consisted of six 'C' cells in a row, I was able to get the 5 volts for the Raspberry from it with little effort, and as one of the 2 720K floppy drives was not working anyway, I decided to put all this stuff inside the case instead of the right side FDD.

After adding a small footprint terminal program (CONEX) to the boot disk via Laplink (the old 486 was already back in the basement) and adding it to Autoexec.bat, the unit now directly boots into the terminal and logs on to the PI via Telnet. Interestingly, transmission works flawlessly up to 115200 baud, which is not common for a XT system .

The result is the best Linux terminal I ever had, fast enough for most command line stuff, including quick google searches and controlling my home automation if I was so inclined. Even mail, taking notes and reading news sites works quite well.

It runs for about 3 hours on 6 eneloop 'C' cells, with activated wLAN and bluetooth on the Pi side.

The only remaining thing to do is to route a flat ribbon cable with a soldered DB25-connector to the inside in order to get rid of the big ass serial cable on the back.
Google in the 80s
Google in the 80s
IMG_7101.JPG (1.7 MiB) Viewed 1654 times
Deskthority goes back in time
Deskthority goes back in time
IMG_7107.JPG (1.82 MiB) Viewed 1654 times
Deskthority wants YOU
Deskthority wants YOU
IMG_7099.JPG (1.82 MiB) Viewed 1654 times
Deep blue beauty
Deep blue beauty
IMG_7105.JPG (1.26 MiB) Viewed 1654 times
Ugly little things
Ugly little things
IMG_7088.JPG (1.7 MiB) Viewed 1654 times
Capacitor incontinence
Capacitor incontinence
IMG_7090.JPG (113.73 KiB) Viewed 1654 times
Last edited by JohnZD on 31 Jul 2017, 15:47, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
JohnZD

31 Jul 2017, 14:16

I do not have the slightest idea why the pictures, which are by the way much larger than they shoud be, are turned upside down in the inline view, but displayed correctly when opened by clicking on them.

Sorry for both things.

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JP!

31 Jul 2017, 14:54

Wow, I am glad you were able to revive this thing. Definitely inspirational.

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kbdfr
The Tiproman

31 Jul 2017, 15:08

Looks fantastic. And those keycaps! :D

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JohnZD

31 Jul 2017, 15:33

Thanks a lot, JP! and kbdfr. In fact, I am just posting this reply from the device and like it much more than I should. :D

However, updating the Deskthority wiki about the dark blue Cherrys did not work out well via Lynx, so I had to go back to my Mac again.

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Myoth

31 Jul 2017, 15:38

JohnZD wrote: Cherry MC blues
I have never seen those, do you have pictures ?

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Chyros

31 Jul 2017, 15:42

Myoth wrote:
JohnZD wrote: Cherry MC blues
I have never seen those, do you have pictures ?
Obviously Cherry MX blues :p .

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JohnZD

31 Jul 2017, 15:46

New keyboard will lead to typos, no matter how good the keycaps may feel on my fingertips. ;)

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JohnZD

31 Jul 2017, 15:50

However, there might also be MC blues out there; all you can type on them will rhyme and have a saddening undertone.

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JohnZD

31 Jul 2017, 16:10

Someone gave an in-depth tour through the weird details of the above keyboard - or the respective B310-version of it, to be precise. http://imgur.com/gallery/nkiF7

I must say that I like the keycaps of the B310 even better. Maybe I will find one for another repair or conversion project.

LoneCenturian

31 Jul 2017, 18:14

the upside down thing is an issue when taking pictures with an apple phone and uploading them using windows, just taking a stab as I've had that issue as well

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JP!

31 Jul 2017, 18:23

I've had this issue as well. but when I view the pictures in Windows they are at the proper orientation.

Findecanor

31 Jul 2017, 20:21

A JPEG image can contain a tag for orientation. Web browsers don't recognise it when an image is in a HTML document but they do when you open it in a new window.
You see this problem all the time in forums. A way around it would be to always load it in a program and save it again, and BTW while you are at it, you could resize the image for viewing on the web.

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mike52787
Alps Aficionado

31 Jul 2017, 23:07

JP! wrote: I've had this issue as well. but when I view the pictures in Windows they are at the proper orientation.
that's windows 10 for you. that is the "feature" that pisses me off the most and is why I am still on windows 7 and have no plans to upgrade.

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Sangdrax

01 Aug 2017, 16:26

Awesome project. A really clever bit of restomodding.

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ddrfraser1

05 Sep 2020, 01:43

Anyone know the quality of keycaps on these things? Are they doubleshots?

Rayndalf

05 Sep 2020, 06:20

They look padprinted to me, but I'm not sure.

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hellothere

05 Sep 2020, 15:51

Pad print. On the link, the poster shows that the enter key is double shot, tho.

HungerMechanic

13 Sep 2020, 23:02

Interesting colourway and legends. Maybe you should send that to CRP, as they seem to like manufacturing vintage legends on simple colourways.

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