Dolch PAC TFT Screen Portable PC

Volker Dolch was an engineer who designed microprocessors. He founded an instrumentation company in the 1970s, and then Dolch Computer Systems in 1987. Given his background in digital instrumentation equipment, it’s not surprising that the portable PC systems his company produced were prized by other engineers and technical professionals.

Dolch PCs were high-performance, ruggedized systems designed for industrial settings. The company was an early adopter of new technologies, as evidenced by the Dolch PAC (Portable Add-in Computer) line’s use of the then new active-matrix thin-film transistor (TFT) LCD color display in 1990.

Dolch PAC portable PC
Source: Dolch, 1990

The quality of color displays for portables at the time was not great. The technology was still young and trade-offs for cost, power consumption, and availability meant that most portable color displays were not good enough for some applications. The TFT technology started to change that. It had a much greater pixel density than other LCD technologies, offered better performance in terms of switching pixels on or off, and was brighter.

Diagram showing how TFT displays work
Source: Dolch, 1990

TFT displays were more expensive, but the people who bought Dolch systems were willing to pay for it. The TFT option added nearly $4,000 to the price of a Dolch PAC.

Introduced: June 3, 1990
Original Retail Price: $3,995
Base Configuration: 80286, 80386SX, 80386, or 80486 CPU; 1MB or 2MB RAM (16MB max); 20MB to 200MB hard drive; 5.25-inch floppy drive; 6 or 7 expansion slots
Graphics: CGA (VGA with TFT or gas plasma display)

Toshiba T6400 Series Laptop PCs

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, laptop and notebook PC vendors made a habit of saying their designs were “no compromise.” It’s a meaningless phrase; if you build the computer you set out to build, then you made no compromises. The intent was to make potential buyers think that the laptop was equal to a desktop model in every way. That was never true.

Source: Toshiba, 1992

Toshiba took the hype one step further by claiming its T6400 series laptop was “the first 486 color portable computer better than a desktop.” Toshiba did make some great laptops and notebooks during that era and was a clear market leader.

Source: Toshiba, 1992

The T6400 line was impressive. It was fast, had great color graphics, good storage options, and a full detachable keyboard. At 12 pounds, it was small enough to fit in a briefcase. (Remember those?)

Source: Toshiba, 1992

Four models of the T6400 were available, two of which used a 25MHz 80486SX processor and two that used a 33MHz 80486DX processor. For each processor option you had a choice of TFT color or gas plasma display.

Introduced: January 20, 1992
Original Retail Price: $5,699 (T6400SX), $8,449 (T6400SXC), $6,999 (T6400DX, $9,749 (T6400DXC)
Base Configuration: 25MHz 80486SX (T6400SX and T6400SXC), 33MHz 80486DX (T6400DX and T6400DXC), 4MB RAM (20MB max), 120MB or 200MB hard drive, 1.44MB 3.5-inch floppy drive, 1 full-sized IBM-compatible expansion slot, 101-key detachable keyboard, 10.4-inch TFT color or gas plasma display, MS-DOS 5.0
Video: Super VGA
Size/Weight: 15.4w x 10.5d x 3.3h inches (gas plasma), 15.4w x 10.5d x 3.3h inches (TFT color); 11.7 lbs. (gas plasma), 12.9 lbs. (TFT color)
Important Options: 2400bps modem, external tape drive, external 5.25-inch floppy drive, Microsoft OS/2, fabric or leather carrying case