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  • [piano-driven jazz music]

  • Greetings and welcome to another LGR laptop thing!

  • This time around we've got this delightful beige beastie:

  • a Packard Bell 810400 series, known as the Statesman.

  • It may not look like much, but this thing cost a whopping $2,400 when it hit store shelves

  • around January of 1994, or about $4,200 adjusted for inflation.

  • And that's without any RAM or coprocessor upgrades.

  • Just a 33 megahertz 486SLC processor, 4 megabytes of RAM, a 640x480 color display, and up to

  • 200 megabytes of hard disk space running MS-DOS 6 and Windows 3.1.

  • [laptop slowly whirs to life]

  • [floppy drive grunts]

  • [beep!]

  • Shoutout to longtime LGR viewer Justin for donating this one he found at a thrift store

  • a while back, as it's one of those machines that wasn't on my collecting radar at all.

  • And now that I have one and have spent the last couple weeks going down a retro tech

  • rabbit hole, I'm rather happy to have a Statesman.

  • Because for starters, dude, that name!

  • The Statesman [chuckles]

  • How snobby is that?

  • Packard Bell may have been known for their budget-minded computers

  • but that didn't stop them choosing the yuppiest of names.

  • Same with the Statesman's smaller sibling, the Diplomat: a tiny-for-the-time subnotebook

  • that was arguably the more exciting offering in '94.

  • Making computers as small and lightweight as possible was the new hotness in the mid-90s,

  • and while the Diplomat fit that bill, the Statesman?

  • Heh, despite its relatively compact size it weighs in at 6 pounds 9 ounces,

  • or just shy of 3 kilograms.

  • Not that the design of the Statesman or the Diplomat could be fully attributed to Packard

  • Bell, as they were both rebadged offerings from Zenith Data Systems.

  • The Statesman was Control-C Control-V'd from the ZDS Z-Star 433, the most notable

  • difference being the logo on the case and the retailer selling it.

  • Yeah, Packard Bell and Zenith Data Systems

  • had quite the close relationship in the early 90s.

  • Leading to them acquiring ZDS for $650 million in 1996,

  • in what was the PC industry's largest ever merger at the time.

  • The whole Packard Bell story is worth a video on its own

  • but yeah, today it's all about the Statesman.

  • Or States... men.

  • This is getting out of hand, now there are two of them!

  • Really I just grabbed this other one for the power supply and the spare parts, but lo and

  • behold, it works perfectly fine after you remove or disable the battery.

  • If you leave its 1700 milliamp hour nickel-cadmium battery in there when it's dead, these Statesmen

  • won't power at all, and get stuck in a faulty charge loop.

  • And yeah, when I got my first Statesman it didn't have a power supply, and due to its

  • slightly funky 4-pin mini-DIN power connector,

  • I didn't have many options for getting it working.

  • So the original 21 volt AC adapter is a must-have here, unless you feel like rigging something

  • up with a test bench power supply.

  • The rest though is all mercifully standard stuff, starting around back with a parallel

  • printer port, a 9-pin serial port, and a 15-pin VGA output port for external displays.

  • Note there's no line out or headphone jack though.

  • The Statesman machines don't have a sound card, only an internal PC speaker.

  • It kind of looks like it'd have stereo speakers above the keyboard, near the power button

  • and brightness/contrast controls, but nope.

  • They're only half-cosmetic cooling vents.

  • Oh and look at this cute little button below the LCD screen!

  • You're not meant to press it, it's just how the computer knows the top is closed so

  • it can turn off themonitor.

  • Cheap but effective, I approve.

  • On the left side is a Type II PC Card slot, a ubiquitous 1990s expansion option letting

  • you connect modems, sound cards, storage media and so on.

  • Then on the right side is a slim 3.5” high density floppy drive supporting 1.44 meg disks,

  • along with a PS/2 port for connecting an external mouse.

  • Something you'll feel compelled to use straight away, cuz uh.

  • Well just look at this silliness.

  • Folks, say hello to the J-Mouse, the input method of choice

  • on Zenith and Packard Bell laptops for a fleeting moment in time.

  • Kinda similar in concept to the IBM TrackPoint nub, but almost certainly worse in practice.

  • Pressing down the J key on the keyboard for a second activates the mouse cursor, and you

  • move its position by nudging the key from side to side.

  • It doesn't tilt or rock in place, it just feels like a normal J key

  • with a concave finger bowl on top.

  • And it works about as well as it looks, so... not well at all.

  • Especially since the key mechanisms themselves are low-quality, rubbery garbage.

  • Furthermore, there's all these other keys for different mouse buttons and clicking combos.

  • Spacebar and F left clicks, the D key right clicks, S is the middle mouse button, and

  • G double-clicks the left mouse button.

  • And it doesn't stop there, as you can see from this friendly training program.

  • You get commands for things like copy, paste, undo, shift-click,

  • control-click, delete and ugh whyyy.

  • This poor keyboard!

  • It's cumbersome enough with its weird little keys all cramped in place with a weird layout,

  • but then the J-Mouse keys are performing triple duty on top of that!

  • We'll get back to your oddness another day, J-Mouse, I'm not done with you yet.

  • Another feature I didn't anticipate was that this second Statesman

  • turned out to be a grayscale model.

  • Something increasingly uncommon in 1994, but definitely not unheard-of in economy priced

  • machines like this.

  • Inside is the same 512K Chips & Technologies 65520 VGA chipset as the higher-end Statesman,

  • but it only displays things in shades of gray, regardless of the actual color of your programs.

  • As a result, companies like Packard Bell often included a “reversefunction key, so

  • you can invert the colors as needed since some programs look better in reverse grayscale.

  • Being that it's still technically displaying color though, you can use the VGA port to

  • hook it up to a color monitor and see everything as vibrantly as intended, but on the laptop

  • itself it's a world of black and white.

  • That being said, the color Statesman is no bastion of usability either.

  • 256 colors are nice and all, but it's still just a 9.5” dual scan supertwist nematic

  • display, or DSTN passive matrix.

  • It's a slight step up from standard STN displays, but still, bleh.

  • Awful contrast, poor saturation, plentiful ghosting and smearing, and the very nature

  • of dual scan means that you can get weird screen tearing since the panel is divided

  • into two sections refreshing independently.

  • Of course, what you're seeing here looks even worse than in-person, these older LCDs

  • are a nightmare to record.

  • Either way though, viewing angles and backlight bleed are abysmal.

  • That's just the way it goes with mid-90s DSTN displays.

  • At the time, TFT panels were a lot more expensive,

  • adding four or five hundred bucks to the manufacturing cost.

  • So hopefully, whatever you planned to run remained usable with a display that looked

  • like vaseline coated in drunkenness.

  • [Goodbye Galaxy sounds beeping]

  • [unfortunate DSTN-induced death]

  • However, there's one thing the Statesman uses that was both affordable and capable,

  • and that was the CPU inside made by the Cyrix Corporation.

  • Ahh, Cyrix.

  • Now that's a name I've not heard in a long time.

  • Throughout the 90s, they were constantly throwing wrenches into the Intel x86 market, beginning

  • with their FasMath coprocessors and pin-compatible 386 CPUs. Packard Bell made use of each of

  • those in the Statesman, with the confusingly-named 486SLC being the processor of choice.

  • Yeah, despite the name it's actually a souped-up 33 megahertz 386SX of sorts,

  • with on-chip L1 cache and 486 instructions.

  • That's on the original Statesman though, it got better in 1994 with the Statesman Plus,

  • which is actually what my color model is right here.

  • The Plus was upgraded with a Cyrix 486SLC2 rated at 50 megahertz,

  • otherwise everything else remained the same.

  • It still accepted a coprocessor, the aforementioned Cyrix FasMath, which was their version of

  • the Intel 80387.

  • One that reportedly performed twice as fast as Intel's in some cases.

  • I'd test that out but I don't have one of those.

  • Yet.

  • What I will test though is TopBench, so we can see what kinda performance we're getting

  • out of that 386-based SLC2 CPU.

  • Sure enough, it earns a score of 64, right in line with a 30MHz Intel 386SX and below

  • what you'd get on an Intel 486SX at 50MHz.

  • So not blazing fast, but it cost less than the competition, ran a lot cooler, and required

  • less power, making it ideal for laptops.

  • Especially for one specced the way this one is, with a color passive matrix display and

  • 12 megabytes of RAM.

  • Heh, speaking of RAM check this out, I've never seen it installed quite like this before.

  • You snap off and remove this plastic cover below the LCD to upgrade the memory, revealing

  • three RAM slots and the battery charging LED.

  • And the RAM itself comes on these tiny modules

  • with two orange connectors that snap it into place.

  • I've no idea what this connection is called, but what a neat little design!

  • Now as for what you can actually do with the Statesman?

  • Well it's actually pretty solid for gaming, at least if you're looking to play specific

  • types of DOS and Windows games from back then.

  • Single-screen puzzle games like Tetris or Snake-eqsue arcade games like Pizza Worm are

  • ideal for example, since the smeary passive matrix display doesn't completely ruin what's

  • going on due to the way those games function.

  • But side-scrolling platformers?

  • Eh, not so much.

  • Even simpler ones like Crystal Caves here suffer immensely on LCD panels like this,

  • it's just visually confusing and eye-strainingly painful to look at for very long.

  • And first person games like Doom, yeesh.

  • Admittedly, it's cool that it runs it at all really.

  • Seeing a 3D game running on a laptop in '94 in any way whatsoever

  • was pretty amazing in and of itself.

  • But yeah, visually unappealing is putting it mildly with Doom, at least without hooking

  • it up to an external display.

  • Oh and in case you're wondering, nope, it isn't fast enough to play later 90s shooters

  • like Duke Nukem 3D.

  • I mean, it's got enough RAM, it'll run it. Technically.

  • But we're talking serious slideshow territory, the game is utterly unplayable on this CPU.

  • Of course, gaming was never the intended usage of the Packard Bell Statesman anyway.

  • In late '93, early '94, the kinda folks willing to spend several thousand bucks

  • on a portable computer?

  • Chances are the primary purpose wasn't gaming.

  • No, the real meat and potatoes of a laptop were things like word processing, keeping

  • track of finances, maintaining spreadsheets, writing papers for school,

  • filling out tax returns, that kinda thing.

  • Or if you had a PCMCIA modem, maybe even dialing into Prodigy or CompuServe, or a local bulletin

  • board system to send electronic mail and download shareware applications.

  • And whenever you had some downtime, it came preinstalled with Solitaire, Minesweeper,

  • and the Microsoft Entertainment Pack, so a quick game of Rodent's Revenge, Klotzki,

  • or Tetravex were always tempting diversions residing only a click away.

  • Yeah man.

  • As much as I prefer my more capable IBM, Toshiba, or Gateway laptops, I'm still in love with

  • clunky old dorks like the Packard Bell Statesman.

  • It's a fountain of retro personality and charm, stemming directly from its limitations.

  • These are in kind of a weird spot too, where most collectors don't wanna bother with

  • 'em at all, since they don't have a TFT LCD and the Cyrix CPU is weird and there's

  • no sound card or CD-ROM and mleh-nuh-neh. Whatever!

  • There are tons of better-equipped old laptops out there, I've got plenty of myself.

  • But I also find value and enjoyment in experiencing the limitations of old machines for what they

  • are, instead of calling them out for what they're not.

  • [lid clicks closed]

  • [lo-fi jazz beats]

  • And if you enjoyed this 90s computing retrospective?

  • Well then, welcome home.

  • I post new LGR videos each week on old computers, software, games, and yeah.

  • There's plenty more where this came from.

  • And as always, thank you very much for watching!

[piano-driven jazz music]

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1994年に発売された2,400ドルのラップトップ。パッカード・ベル・ステーツマン ($2,400 Laptop From 1994: Packard Bell Statesman)

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    林宜悉 に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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