Retro & Vintage Computers and Appliances

The Collection

This page is very very incomplete and at present items are only added if and when they're removed from storage

Compaq LTE Elite 4/50CX Laptop (1994)

Status: Restoration in progress

LTE Elite Laptop LTE Elite Laptop LTE Elite Laptop

Produced in 1994 this laptop was one of the best on the market at the time it was released. When first introduced in 1989, the LTE range were the first computers to be close to the size of a paper notebook, leading to the term "notebook" being used to describe smaller laptops. The Compaq LTE is the perfect example of a typical laptop of the 1990s and models from the LTE range have featured in the TV series Frasier, Friends, the movies Jungle 2 Jungle and Straght Outta Compton.

Our example is fully loaded with a full colour 640x480 LCD display, 24 MB of RAM, 540 MB hard disk, trackball mouse built into the screen and internal power supply and battery, with this model being a match for even high end desktops at the time it was released. Originally sold with Windows 3.1 this model also supported Windows 95 and Windows 98.

Our example is in perfect physical condition. Due to it's age the mechanical disk drives and battery have failed, which is typical of the majority of examples. We will be replacing the noisy mechanical hard disk with a silent compact flash card to restore normal operation. The floppy drive is not required for use but mechanically operates as expected and the battery is better substituted with modern power sources. Once cleaned and fully restored we expect this machine to look as it would have when new.

Amstrad ALT-386SX Transportable Laptop (1988)

Status: Full working order

Amstrad ALT-386SX Laptop Amstrad ALT-386SX Laptop

The Amstrad ALT-386SX is rather different from other Amstrad computers and was their attempt to go for the premium end of the 1980s PC market. The machine itself is made by NEC in Japan an almost identical to the ALT-286 laptop released at the same time. The difference is the ALT-386SX has what was then a top of the range 386 processor.

Although called a laptop this was really a transportable machine, though unlike similar machines from Toshiba, the Amstrad did have a battery so it could be used anywhere. This style of machine was common in the mid to late 1980s, before notebook computers became available in the early 1990s, with the Amstrad ALT-386SX being one of the most popular in the UK. These machines were in common use from their release in 1988 until the mid 1990s and were capable of running Windows 3.0 to 3.11 as well as all common PC applications of the time.

The screens on these machines use what was at the time cutting edge black and white LCD technology, making them capable of displaying graphics as well as text, with the Amstrad being one of the first to provide a full VGA 640x480 LCD screen on a portable computer. While the screen may look a bit fuzzy with some lines and artifacts, this was actually how they looked when new. We have considered fitting a modern screen to this machine to make it more photogenic on camera and this is something that can be done if required.

Our model has every available option fitted including the maximum 4 MB of RAM, 387 co-processor and the original 80 MB Sony hard disk Amstrad provided at the time which is still working after 35 years (though we normally use a modern SD card to ensure reliable and silent operation). Other standard features are a 16MHz 386SX processor that can be slowed to 8 MHz for compatibility with software made for slower PCs of the time, a 1.44 MB floppy drive, VGA port to drive an external colour monitor and a 16 bit internal ISA slot for expansion options such as an internal modem or network card.

Amstrad PC1640 IBM Compatible PC (1987)

Status: Fully restored

Amstrad PC1640

Note: This picture was taken during restoration. Current pictures along with details of the restoration process (which involved repairing the system board to resolve a timer error) will follow ASAP.

The Amstrad PC1640 and the physically identical PC1512, were one of the best selling IBM PC compatible computers in the UK and Europe in the late 1980s. Instantly recognisable due to it's boxy system unit with built in stand for the monitor, these were an extremely common sight in UK offices and homes from the PC1512's release in 1985 until the mid to late 1990s.

The PC1640 is fully IBM compatible PC and was first released as the Amstrad PC1512 in 1986, with the PC1640 following in 1987. The only difference between the two models being an updated internal system board with and extra 128 KB of RAM, taking it to the maximum for an XT class machine of 640 KB hence the name PC1640 instead of PC1512, as well as the built in graphics support being upgraded from CGA to EGA. Externally the only noticeable difference is the label on the case.

Despite Amstrad's reputation for cheap products, the Amstrad is well build and in almost every way a better computer than the original IBM PC, as Amstrad added every popular option as a standard feature for a fraction of the price. Not only that but it was almost twice as fast as the original IBM PC, since Amstrad used a faster and more expensive 8086 processor at 8 MHz.

Standard features of the PC1512 and PC1640 were 512 KB or 640 KB of RAM at a time when most other IBM PC compatibles only had 256 KB as standard, a battery backed real time clock, serial and printer ports which were actually extra cost options on many other PCs at the time, three full length expansion slots (plus a fourth hidden slot for the hard disk on the PC1640) and a monitor, keyboard, Microsoft MS-DOS and a graphical desktop called Gem as standard.

Of course, being Amstrad there was cost cutting. The case is made of plastic instead of metal and to save money, the computer power supply is built into the monitor so no additional power supply is needed in the case. This cost saving turned out to be a benefit for many users, as in normal operation the system is completely silent, since no fan is needed in the main case and the monitor vents it's heat out the top like all TVs and monitors of the time.

This lack of a fan caused some confusion and there were rumours that one was needed, despite Alan Sugar's protests that "you don't need a dam fan sunshine". Over 35 years later with no overheating issues, Alan Sugar was proven right, however he was also a very good salesman so he actually put one in the hard disk PC1640 models to keep non-technical customers happy. Many users unplugged them, especially if they replaced the original hard disk, as they were unnecessary.

Our example is a typical mid to high end PC1640 model with a 20 MB hard disk, 360K floppy drive and CGA colour monitor. A physically identical but slightly higher resolution EGA monitor was also available, though most users chose the black and white or CGA colour screens for office use. The cheaper models typically had two floppy drives instead of a hard disk, however most users soon realised how limiting that was and would upgrade their machines to add a hard disk, with users in the 90s often also adding or replace the existing drive with a 3.5" floppy drive. This machine however was sold with a hard disk fitted in the factory by Amstrad and both this and the floppy drive are the original and working drives. For reliable operation however, we have disconnected the original hard disk and replaced it with a modern compatible and completely silent compact flash disk card.

Note that the standard screen refresh on IBM compatible PCs with original CRT monitors is 60 Hz. On machines made in the 1980s this usually requires custom hardware or hardware modifications to change.

Retro Recipes has a great Youtube video on the PC1512.

Atari 65XE (1985)

Status: Awaiting cleaning and testing. Excellent physical condition with no discolouration and in original box.

Atari 65XE

Released in 1985 at the same time as the 16-bit Atari ST, the 65XL was an updated 64 KB version of the 8-bit Atari 800XL, which itself was released in 1983 as an update to the original Atari 800 released in 1979. As a result, the 65XE is compatible with the vast majority of Atari 8-bit software and accessories across all those models going back to 1979. Unlike earlier models, the 65XE does not require any additional memory expansion to use the wide range of existing software available at the time of its release and was intended as a lower cost option compared to the new 16-bit ST and shares similar styling, with the major attraction being the vast number of games already available for the Atari 8-bit range.

Another model, the 130XE was also released in 1985 with 128 KB of memory, however that machine was also physically identical to the 65XE, with the exception of the label on the case, the only difference being an additional 64 KB of RAM which can also be fitted internally to the 65XE. The 65XE was also re-branded as the 800XE in Germany, though again the only noticeable change is the label.

The Atari 65XE is a typical example of a mid-1980s to early 1990s 8-bit home computer and would have been used with either an Atari branded cassette recorder, software cartridges or a disk drive to load software. These machines were manufactured from 1985 until 1992 and were the final computers released by Atari in their 8-bit range.

Other items

Sinclair Microdrive Sinclair Microdrive
Sinclair Microdrive and cartridges with a modern SIM card to demonstrate the size.

There are too many other items to list here individually and we're still documenting the inventory. The collection includes a wide selection of 1980s home computers including multiple Sinclair Spectrum and other 1980s home computers, two Sinclair ZX81 computers, Commodore, Atari, BBC and others as well as a range of accessories and associated items as well as business computers from the 1980s to the current day and other technology such as mobile phones, hi-fi equipment and appliances.