Zenith Laptops


Donors: Brenda Taylor (Model ZWL-184-97)
Dennis Huntsman and the Idaho Falls Salvation Army (Model ZWL-1183-92)
Location: Williamsburg, VA


Like your nice clamshell laptop? Thank Zenith, as they helped establish this design with a series of laptops. These machines signal a change away from the CP/M based luggables to DOS based laptops. Nice big screens replace the little bitty screens of the luggables. Truly portable cases replace the sewing machines. 3.5 inch drives replace 5.25. And batteries come as standard equipment. Quite an advance over the days of the luggable. These laptops are XT clones, usually with 640k. Modems were available as internal add-ons.

Be sure to check out Scott Peterson's SuperSport 286 below.


Model ZWL-184-97

Model ZWL-1183-92

Zenith SuperSport 286

This may not strictly fit into the museum's idea of an obsolete computer, but it is notable as one of the early "real" laptops. It uses a 20 Meg ESDI hard drive, 1.44 Meg floppy, 2400 baud internal factory modem, 640K of RAM, and has a CGA "color" LCD display. All ports are accessible via a door in the back.

As it came the hard drive had been wiped clean so I don't know what software was on it, but the keyboard layout suggests some type of word processing. Now it has DOS and WordPerfect 5.1. It doesn't have any capability to use batteries, instead needing to be plugged in via the rather large converter to the right. I have not been able to find any documentation or any way to access the CMOS, so I've avoided tinkering on it.

It's fairly light compared to contemporary machines, but heavy compared to modern notebooks. The two biggest drawbacks it has are the need to be plugged in and the "color" display that shows everything as shades of blue and really only seems able to show about 16 shades, if that many.

A rather serious design flaw is that the CGA display is built onto the power supply, so electrical interference and overheating are problems to contend with.


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