• Sat. Sep 30th, 2023

This DIY Luggable Computer Takes Some Muscle to Lug

This DIY Luggable Computer Takes Some Muscle to Lug

Many of our readers will be too young to remember them, but there was a time when “luggable” computers were common. This was before laptops came along, so many portable computers were really just standard home computers with displays slapped on. Many of them didn’t even run on batteries, so users could only port them to locations where there were power outlets. And because they were heavy and the size of a suitcase, carrying them around wasn’t easy. But this DIY luggable computer may take the cake, as it requires a lot of muscle to lug.

Sdomi started this project after stumbling across a discarded CRT (cathode-ray tube) monitor from an old CNC mill.. Originally, it would have been used with a custom control keypad to let the CNC operator set up milling jobs. Like many CRT computers monitors of the era, it is grayscale with the classic green-on-black color scheme. This particular unit also had a Raspberry Pi installed inside the housing by a previous owner, though it wasn’t actually doing anything.

Because they wanted more power, Sdomi removed the Raspberry Pi and replaced it with an HP Thin Client mini PC. That has an AMD Ryzen PRO 2400GE CPU and 32GB of DDR4 RAM, so it has some horsepower. That feeds a video signal through a DisplayPort-to-VGA adapter, then through a VGA-to-composite adapter to the CRT. Sdomi salvaged the keyboard from an IBM ThinkPad laptop.

All of those components went into a custom enclosure built using particle board and plywood. Almost all of that enclosure is for the CRT and the mini PC, with the keyboard attached to a front panel that folds down on the sort of hinges you’d use for a cabinet door. It then got a coat of paint, a bunch of stickers, and a heavy duty carry strap. Sdomi even used velcro to attach a Launchpad Mini MIDI controller to the outside of the enclosure, which adds a fun bit of flair.

The result is too heavy to be practical as a true portable computer, but it sure is unique. The CRT has a lot of ghosting compared to modern displays, but Sdomi is still able to play games on it. And yes, it does run Doom.

By iwano

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