Originally shared by Jamel Tayeb

Originally shared by Jamel Tayeb

The glowing beauty of a gas plasma screen

During the late 80’s and early 90’s, Toshiba was synonymous of mobile computing. I remember in particular the T3200 (and the top of the T-Series, the T5200). These T-Series models were equipped with a gorgeous gas plasma screen. A remarkable trait for these transportable machines. Indeed, the T3200 is not a laptop as you can comprehend it today (8.5 kg). Sure, it was a step-up compared to a luggable computer such as the Osborne 1, but you could not use it without a power socket. At least, the PSU was integrated, so no need to carry a power brick everywhere you go. At its core, an Intel 80286 (12 MHz) processor could team-up with an optional 80287 math co-processor to unleash its raw power. I always wondered why one would pace its CPU at 6 MHz? Nonetheless, it was possible to toggle the speed by software (6-12MHz). With a big bag of money, you could also expand the base 640 KB of memory to a whopping 4 MB! The internal 3.5” 40 MB hard drive could host your applications, once you installed them successfully using the built-in 1.44 MB floppy drive. Software in the 80-90’s was often shipped in boxes containing 10+ diskettes and weighting more than 10 pounds. It was not uncommon that one of these floppies failed during install, and you had to wait until the publisher replaced it … via mail (not e-mail). This machine was really great and could be upgraded with a 16/8 and an 8-bit ISA card. I added a SN2000 NIC in one of my units, so I can use it to connect to remote systems (mainframes via a modem). I can even connect to the Internet. Ok, this last usage is really just for the sake of the challenge, since the Arachne web browser I am using doesn’t understand most of the modern WEB protocols. However, it does work. But it is so slow that even the browser invites you to go grab a cup of coffee when downloading and rendering the pages! But for me, the most remarkable component of this laptop is its gas plasma screen and its characteristic orange glow. The maximal resolution is 720 x 400 pixels and can use four levels of “grey”. Simply luxurious in 1987 (Hercules, CGA and EGA compatible).