Toshiba T5200.

These big old machines hold a bit of a special value for me, in that a T5200/100 was my first "real" computer so to speak.  It introduced me to a world of not having to hand-write every bit of homework for school (I was 12 I think when I got it).  It was by no means state of the art then at 6 years old, but it was a heck of a long step forward from the Sinclair ZX Spectrum which had been the most advanced bit of tech up to that point.  I should clarify before the hatemail starts, that I'm by no means dismissing the Spectrum as a computer - but to a 12 year old who's only just discovering the world of IT - it had its challenges in terms of actually performing tasks beyond playing games on it.  Not least in that I lacked any real way to get anything I would have written with a word processor from the computer onto paper.  

Shortly after I got hold of the T5200 however, I also (literally) stumbled across a Panasonic KX-P2624 printer in the back of a store room - that I do still have, and it still works perfectly.  Needless to say, suddenly having an easy way to print my own documents at home, this machine had a real purpose, rather than just being a curiousity.  While being able to produce proper, professional looking reports with computer generated graphs in them, and things like clipart added in seem absolutely and completely mundane now; in the closing years of the 20th century, not EVERYONE had their own computer, and to me - a bit of a self-confessed geek anyway - being able to turn out stuff like that was really quite a big thing.  One of my most memorable projects I can recall was creating a crossword puzzle for the school's magazine in Excel.  This was somewhat of a mistake in hindsight, as I then ended up having to do them on a regular basis!  

Not to say this was the first computer which made a huge impression on me - that honor goes as a perfect 50/50 split between the Acorn A7000 and the Apple Macintosh Classic (Though it may have been a Classic II - I honestly can't remember - I DO remember being the first person ever to discover that it could print in colour from Clarisworks though!) - A discovery which I might add made me very popular with the teachers at the time!  This would have been in around 1994, though I don't think we got the Acorns in until about 1996 or 7.  They arrived pretty close to my leaving primary school.

Anyway, enough of that, I'm rambling again, and you can find enough of my rambling elsewhere on the site.  This page is about the Toshiba.

In 1991 when this machine was launched, it wasn't any slouch in performance terms, even compared to many desktop systems of the day.  Packing a 15MHz Intel 80386 processor (married up with an 80387 math co-processor) at at least 2Mb of RAM and a 100Mb harddrive (which anyone used to the noises computers of this era make can immediately identify as a Conner drive just from the noise it makes!), this wasn't a low spec machine.  The fact that Toshiba managed to pack it into a portable - if weighty - format really was quite an impressive feat.  It wasn't without its drawbacks; the display for instance was criticised for being very fragile, and vulnerable to screen burn.  It required a mains power supply, with no option of battery operation, and of course let's not forget the astronomical price tag (I'm working on finding exact numbers - I used to have a note of it, but it's been lost somewhere in my travels).

So, aside from sheer processing power, what set this aside from much of its competition at the time?

The display for one thing.  TFT screens as we know them today had only just started to really appear at this point in time, and had mind boggling pricetags, and relatively untested reliability records.  DSTN colour screens were around, but had pathetic response times, and usually very muddy blacks.  Toshiba with this machine, and a number of other portables went the other direction, opting for the tried and tested - and recently revived approach of using gas plasma displays.  Yes - I know what you're wondering, is that the same as the plasma screen in your 42" plasma TV on the wall over there?  The simple answer is yes.  It's been refined somewhat since the days of the T5200, but it is the same basic technology that's being used to make large format flat screen TV's now.

This had a number of plus points in terms of use as a portable display.  It's pretty bright - though not as good in that respect as a CRT, has fantastically good black level, instantaneous response times, had been proven to be reliable, and gives a very "crisp" image.   Some people criticise the deep, neon orange colour as being very hard on the eyes; this seems to be an issue on which there are very polarised opinions, there's one group of people who think it's the invention of the devil; and those who like me actually find it very easy on the give one a shot and see what you think there.

I'll be continuing to work in this page over the coming days (...or months if my usual schedule continues...), so for now however, have some photos of the machine in question.

For the sake of a size comparison, the machine next to it is an Asus Eee PC 704G.

More will follow shortly...