From Digibarn virtual visitor Roy Gathercoal
I have a couple of Zenith MiniSports. These were the first "laptop" machines, running MSDOS. In contrast to the Compaq "luggables", these machines were about the size and weight of today's laptops.
Their secret? No hard drive.
They harnessed the idea of the RAM drive and built a machine that would keep ram active when the machine was turned off. They had to be plugged into the wall to work (no batteries of the size and capacity had been commercially available), but when you "turned them on" they booted from the Ram drive.
They have an external 3 1/2" floppy drive, which is needed in order to upload anything into the RAM drive. We have one of these, as well.
We purchased these in the mid-80s to be used as field data input devices for some research on infant vision and memory. We utilized a small program written by a friend which allowed the users to enter demographic data, then start a test. This test used the mouse to click whenever the infant being studied changed their focus from one stimulus to another (to determine when "habituation" had occured).
These machines were put out by ZENITH sometime around the time when it was purchased by "Group Bull" from Europe (France?). Zenith's committment to these machines was tepid at best. I think they were manufactured for only a couple of years.
I was editor of the local PCUG (PC User's Group) at Purdue University during those years. I might have some old programs (5 1/4" floppies) around here that were PC-DOS. I also have an all-in-one card (parallel and serial ports and RAM addition) sold by IBM--still in it's original box.
It's too bad, but I just tossed (2 months ago) a series of acetates (for overhead projector) of screen shots of the "new" Microsoft Windows, version 1.0. I did a presentation to the group about this strange new product, comparing it to XTree. Group wasn't sure that this one was going to stay around long. . .
There are a couple of other things that might be of interest. I have a full length video capture card, made exclusively for research by a Canadian technology company around 1984. I don't remember the name, but I have the card. This card performed the "magic" feat of capturing images from a VHS signal. That is, you plugged your camcorder right into the card, attached a TV monitor (commercial computer monitors of the time just couldn't handle it). The card then allowed you to capture a video image on which you could perform a Fourier (sp?) analysis of the image amplitude.
I also have a big, very heavy old Epson line-feed daisy wheel printer. Still works, complete with several daisy wheels. This was used to print almost constantly, using NCR pin-feed paper invoices in a commercial setting. It is an old workhorse, which works fine, as long as you are willing to restrict yourself to one font (one face of one size) at a time!
Just an anecdote to close: During one meeting our presenter was demonstrating how to install an expansion card into a computer. The "half-sized" and "three-quarter-sized" boards had just come out and many of our members had never seen anything but a full-length card. At one point in his presentation he noted that his machine (which he had opened for the purpose of demonstration) did not have room for a full-length card in one slot. He stated "Zenith technology has managed a cure for this problem, you just engage in 'expansion card adaptation'. Then he took the full-length card and broke it in half on the edge of the table.
You could hear the concern and amazement from the crowd! It was an old parallel port expansion card which he didn't need anymore, but we were not yet in the "toss away the old technology" mode.