Zenith MiniSport Laptop Hacker

1998-2021 by Brian Mork

8/2017 TimG wrote "I just wanted to send you a big thank you for explaining which pin is which the Zenith MiniSport power plug and how to use nonstandard adapters. I've had one of the machines in good cosmetic condition but with no power adapter for a while now, and with your information I'm a big step closer to seeing if it still works. :D"

9/2021 RC wrote, "I came only to say thank you for all your past work in documenting the Zenith miniSport. I recently purchased a non-working unit and was able to bring it back to life by fixing and restoring the DC/DC converter inside. Lots of fun, and definitely better and easier thanks to all the documentation available from your posts."

Before World Wide Web days, I distributed a regular newsletter called the Minisport Laptop Hacker to Amateur Radio and Usenet newsgroups via my UUCP host.  Back in 1992, Zenith offered only minimal and expensive support for this popular but discontinued ZL-1 and ZL-2 8088 based MSDOS-compatible Minisport notebook computer. My newsletters contain technical notes, construction projects, operating hints, resources, architecture details and other related goodies. The Minisport Laptop Hacker (TM) series is the result of owning and repairing Minisports and, probably most significantly, donations of hardware and information from others on Internet and the Amateur Radio packet networks.

Here are some contemporary resources that may help you:

Minisport Power SupplyBy far the most common failure associated with a Minisport is the power supply.  Good information about fixing the power supply is in at least MLHacker issues 1, 5, 12, 14 (schematics), 16, 17 (schematics), and 18.  Scanned jpg schematics can be downloaded from Minisport power supply left and Minisport power supply right. To the left is a picture of the culprit. Click on the picture if you'd like to see the full-size image. The second most common failure is the serial port, which also has some straightforward fixes documented in the MLHacker series. Not knowing hardware passwords seems to be another common problem, but I don't consider this a failure since deleting the hardware password is not difficult.

I found a museum computer webpage that highlights the Minisport. The Minisport is only one of several 8088 computers, and 8088 based computers, in turn, are only one of many other types. I actually owned an IBM-9000 for about 2 years that housed a 68000 based microprocessor!  For me, the coolest feature of the Minisport compture was the ROM-based FastLynx software. While deployed overseas, flying aircraft during Desert Storm, I used FastLynx and a cross-over serial cable to hook my Minisport up to any other contemporary Windows computer, and FastLynx would propagate itself over onto the other computer and then provide an ASCII-GUI interface like Midnight Commander to move files back and forth.

A thread in Bob Pease's (National Semiconductor) mailbox column (Sep 16th and Nov 18th 1997 (?) Electronic Design Magazine) speak of virtues of the older, but actually more useable notebook computers -- available at great prices. If you can't go first class with a Minisport, you may wish to look at a Tandy (Radio Shack) Model 100 notebook. No, it's not of the PC genre, but one served me well while I owned it. Although Richard Hanson (Club 100, PO Box 23438, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523-0438) passed away in April of 2011, his work is maintained at the Club 100 web page. Other contact info is in the Nov 18th issue of Electronic Design.

This page is maintained by Brian Mork, owner & operator of Increa TM // It was last modified Sep 2021. Suggestions for changes and comments are always welcome. The easiest way to contact me is via e-mail.

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