In February 2002 I got my hands on a 10 year old laptop. A Toshiba T3200SXC. I think it was a very expansive machine 10 years ago. Today it is just a funny thing to play with. Here are some technical details:
- 80386 SX CPU with 20 MHz (At least I think it is that fast)
- 120 MB Hard disk
- 1 MB RAM on board, 4 MB extra memory already installed. Can be upgraded to a total of 13 MB.
- TFT Display, 640x480, 256 colors
- WD 90C21 video chip, 256 KB RAM
Unfortunately the hard disk was no longer working so I decided to open the machine. A lot of screws later I was inside and found a pretty normal standard IDE harddisk. I removed the old defective drive and installed a newer harddisk with a capacity of 2 GB. Enough for this pretty little machine. The BIOS is not able to recognize this harddisk so it is necessary to tell the BIOS that no harddisk is installed. Otherwise it will end up in an error message and it is not able to boot. Yes, if you disable the harddisk in the BIOS you can't boot from it. But no problem. The machine has a floppy drive so I created a boot disk with a linux kernel on it. Linux recognizes the harddisk even if it is not enabled in the BIOS so the kernel can mount the harddisk as the Root-Partition.
As Operating System I decided to use Debian GNU/Linux. Fortunately there already was a running Debian installation on the hard disk I used so I didn't have to do a fresh installation. The machine has no CDROM drive and I don't have enough working floppy disks to create an installation disk set, so a fresh installation would have been difficult anyway.
Well, well, the laptop is now able to boot the latest Debian Linux distribution (3.0) with a current Linux kernel (2.4). Because the machine is pretty slow and sometimes I don't have the time to shut the system down properly I converted the file system to the journaling file system EXT3. Now I can switch the machine off at anytime without needing to check the harddisk on startup which takes VERY VERY long (Remember: The machine was never intended to run a harddisk with a capactiy of 2 GB!)
A linux laptop without a network connection is lame. But the T3200SXC comes with two standard ISA slots on-board. One of them is a 16 bit slot, the other is only 8 bit. After a little while I found an old ISA network interface card (A 3COM Etherlink III 3C509) and it is working flawlessly in this nice laptop. Now the machine can be used as a fully fledged internet terminal by using console tools like lynx, ncftp, ircii, etc.
With 5 MB of RAM linux is running pretty slow because the swap space is used very often. The machine has three paired memory banks to expand the memory. Two 2MB modules were already installed. To max out the memory another four 2MB modules are needed. Unfortunatelly I found only 1MB and 4MB modules. The 4MB modules are not working, but the 1MB modules are accepted so the machine has now 9 MB of RAM. Linux is running much faster now.
Accessing the BIOS
Thanks to Peter Ulrich Hinze who found the DOS program Test3.exe on the net. With this program you can setup the machine and do some basic diagnostics (i.E.: Memory check). Just put this program on a DOS boot disk, reboot your machine with this disk and then type test3 on the command line. If you are not able to access the BIOS of the T3200SXC, this program is VERY useful for you. By the way: If you know the key combination to access the BIOS without using the test3.exe program, please let me know!
Getting XFree86 to work on the Toshiba T3200SXC
The Toshiba T3200SXC has a 640x480 pixel display. Some specs says the graphic board has only 256 KB RAM but other specs says Windows runs in that resolution with 256 colors. But for 256 colors in 640x480 you need more than 256 KB RAM. It's a mystery. I tried to use XFree86 with 256 colors and ended up with a black bar on the bottom part of the screen, so I believe it's true, that the device has only 256 KB of video ram. So it's only possible to use 16 colors in 640x480. This works in XFree86 v3 (VGA16 server) and XFree86 v4 (vga driver). Here are working example configuration files:
If you know how to get it working with the SVGA server of XFree86 v3 (To get accelerated video display) let me know. I was not able to get the Western Digital WD 90C21 chip working with this xserver. And I have absolutely no idea which driver I have to use for XFree86 v4 to get accelerated video output. I think it would also be nice to have a 320x240 resolution with 256 colors but even this I can't get to work. So I'm currently stuck to only 16 colors.
If you want to use linux on the laptop I recommend putting a new IDE harddisk with some gigabytes capacity into the laptop. It's a good practice to install linux on the harddisk BEFORE you put it into the laptop by using a standard PC (Because it's much faster this way). After you have installed linux on the harddisk, put in into the laptop and create a boot disk with a linux kernel on it. I used 'syslinux' to create the boot disk. You have to prepare the kernel so it will mount the harddisk as the root device. You can do this with the following command:
# rdev kernelfile /dev/hda1
You can also use my bootdisk image. It has a 2.4.22 kernel with ext3 support. The bootdisk requires that linux is installed on the first partition of the harddisk (/dev/hda1).
How to open the Toshiba T3200 SXC
This small howto will explain how to open the chassis of the Toshiba T3200 SXC to get access to the memory banks and the harddrive. Click on the small pictures to view a larger version of them.
Now the top cover is released, but you can't remove it completely because of the cables to the video display. But the cables are long enough so you can rotate the display to get access to the harddrive. I can't really remember the first time I opened the device. Maybe the video cable was fixed with a cable tie or something like that. If there was such a thing I have forced it out of the way.