NEC Starlet PC8401-A-LS
Our NEC Notebook PC-8401-A-LS Starlet has a serial number of 5900123/JC. The computer was used by film producer Roy Byrne and was very kindly donated by his wife Roberta and his daughter Jennifer Byrne. It has a :NEC V20 (Z80 Clone) processor and runs CP/M 2.2
The following notes are taken from NEC 8401A Portable Computer. (evaluation) David H. Ahl as published in CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 11, NO. 3 / MARCH 1985 / PAGE 70. Click HERE for the link
The NEC 8401 A is the second generation NEC notebook portable computer. It is significantly different from the 8201, and we expect it will appeal to a different type of customer. Briefly, the 8401 has a 16-line by 80-column fold-up LCD screen, 64K of RAM, and a built-in 300 baud modem, and can be operated using batteries or an AC adapter. It uses the CP/M operating system and has four built-in software packages including Wordstar-To-Go, Calc-To-Go, Telcom (telecommunications utility), and Filer (personal card filing program).
The basic package includes the computer, phone cable, cassette recorder cable, four manuals, quick reference guide, information about on-line services, and license and warranty cards. The package does not include either an AC adapter or batteries. Optional peripherals include a CRT/disk adapter, micro floppy disk unit, 1200 baud modem, external 32K RAM cartridge, and a wide assortment of cables. Compact Package
Somewhat larger and heavier than the 8201, the 8401 measures 11.8" x 8.4" x2.8" and weighs 4.7 lbs. It uses a CMOS version of the 8-bit Z80 mpu operating at 4 MHz. Built in are three 32K ROMs (96K total) which include the BIOS and applications software. The 64K of RAM is segmented into two 32K blocks, one for storing user programs (called an internal RAM disk) and the other for file creation and manipulation. With an optional floppy disk drive attached, it is possible to allocate all 64K of the computer to program execution.
The keyboard has 59 regular keys, five function keys (which double to ten with the Shift key), and four directional cursor keys (arranged in a convenient diamond pattern). A numeric keypad can be toggled on and off with the NUM key, while the ALT key toggles on an alternative keyboard which includes 28 Greek letters, 17 math symbols, and 38 graphics symbols. While it's nice to know that they're there, it is not at all clear how these symbols can be used. Although a bit noisy, the keyboard has an excellent feel and a sensible layout.
We are less enthusiastic about the display, however. It measures 7.5" x 2.4", the same width and only 0.4" higher than the one on the 8201 (and Tandy Model 100). This means that nearly four times as many letters are packed into the same screen size as the previous machine. Characters are formed in a 6 x 8 dot matrix; to enhance legibility, vertical strokes are wider than horizontal ones. Nevertheless, one pixel vertical and horizontal spacing coupled with one pixel descenders occasionally makes for difficult reading. Far worse is the fact that the screen tilts back only 30 degrees from the vertical. While this is plenty for a CRT screen, an LCD screen requires reflected light. Thus if you are depending upon overhead illumination you will be disappointed with the results and may want to consider a table or desk lamp positioned to illuminate the screen.
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This exhibit has a reference ID of CH7132. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.