Dmitry Brant's Stealth Laptop Packs a Raspberry Pi and Full-Color Display Into a Vintage Compaq LTE
Wikimedian and self-described "software enthusiast" Dmitry Brant has a vintage Compaq laptop with a difference: Its classic Intel 286 guts have been removed in favor of a Raspberry Pi single-board computer, hooked to a full-color display.
"A while ago a came across an old Compaq LTE 286 laptop. Unfortunately this particular unit was pretty much beyond repair, and my attempts to restore it to a functional state were fruitless," Brant explains of the inspiration behind his stealth build. "However, I realized that I could do the next best thing: remove the guts of the laptop and replace it with a Raspberry Pi!However, I realized that I could do the next best thing: remove the guts of the laptop and replace it with a Raspberry Pi!"
Using the Compaq LTE, a device originally released in the late 1980s as one of the first portable computers to resemble what would become the modern laptop, as a base, Brant set about gutting the device and installing considerably more modern internals.
The heart of the build is a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, housed roughly where the floppy drive would have been on the original — offering external access, if you're careful and equipped with tweezers, to the microSD card via the original floppy drive slot. There's a Teensy LC microcontroller board to connect the original keyboard to the Raspberry Pi, along with an HDMI driver board for a replacement full-color display where the original single-color panel lived.
"The closest modern replacement I could find is a 9-inch TFT display, ordered from AliExpress for US$30, which has an aspect ratio of 16:9," Brant explains of the replaced display. "This means I had to cut away some of the plastic to accommodate the extra vertical real estate of the new screen, but I don’t think this impacts the aesthetic too much."
Externally, bar the wider display, the laptop looks roughly original — and in surprisingly good shape for its age. Two key modifications offer a hint as to its internal secrets: A USB connection for powering the Raspberry Pi, plus a panel-mount connector for 3.5mm audio/video connectivity and USB.
"The whole thing works amazingly well as a retro gaming laptop! My happy place is playing old DOS games using the venerable DOSBox emulator, but the state of retro emulation for Raspberry Pi is much broader than that, and this beauty can handle all of it," Brant concludes. "And of course it also works as a general-purpose Linux PC, with WiFi, Bluetooth, and everything else you’d expect. Someday, if I’m feeling particularly masochistic, I’ll see if I can let this be my daily driver for a while!"
Brant's full write-up is available on his website.