Compaq Computer Corporation


Portable III




640k / 2048k


1x1.2Mb FDD, 1x20Mb HD


MS-DOS 3.31




Orange Plasma monochrome (CGA resolution)




Neat pop-up display. Lunch-box design


Compaq Portable III "Lunchbox"

Compaq Portable III

Compaq Portable III was definitely one of the finest portable computers of its day. The one pictured above is the base version of the computer. The basic configuration includes 640K of RAM memory, a 20MB internal hard drive, an internal 5.25", 1.2MB high-density floppy drive, and the adjustable gas plasma display. Also included are parallel, serial, and RGB monitor ports. The computer is AC powered. The base version of the Portable III (Model 20) had a list price of $4,999. Another version, the Model 40 (40 MB hard drive) was available at $5,799 DOS 3.3 was an extra $120. My unit has an optional 2400 baud internal modem. I don't know the price of that modem, but they listed the slower 1200 baud

version at $349. Compaq was a top-flight computer and the price was a little steep even for that time. Prices listed were in effect in 1988.

The original Compaq Portable was a fairly large unit that looked like a portable sewing machine when it was all packed up. The machine was followed by the Compaq Portable II. This second-generation machine was nearly as heavy as the original Portable, but had trimmer dimensions and the original machines' 8088 processor was upgraded to a 8 MHz 80286 processor. This brings us up to the introduction of the Portable III. For most uses, this was a much better machine. Probably the most noticeable drawback for some users was the Portable III lacked internal expansion ports. Compaq offered an external expansion unit that could hold two full-length expansion cards. The unit attached to the rear of the computer and listed for $199. The Compaq Portable III had been improved in several ways over the earlier machines. First of all, I would say it is roughly half the size of the original Portable. Secondly, though not exactly a lightweight, (at 20 lbs.), it was at least 6 lbs lighter than the earlier designs. The footprint of the "lunch box" style case occupies about half the space of the older designs, or a traditional desktop computer. The reductions in size and weight made it much less of a chore to shuttle the computer between home and the office.

The good news is that the Portable III performed as well as most decent desktop computers. The 12 MHz 80286 was fully twice as fast as the original IBM PC/AT and capable of running most applications. The RAM could be expanded all the way up to 6.6MB. Last, but certainly not least, the gas plasma display was quite useable. The screen had a maximum resolution of 640 x 400. It was much easier to read than most LCD screens available at the time. The thin folding screen was largely responsible for the size and weight reductions in the newer machine.

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