Zenith TurbosPort 386 Portable Computer

By Vesper Montruolo

Zenith TurbosPort 386
The Zenith TurbosPort is regularly available at computer shows and swap meets. This system, since it was battery powered, was one of the first true portables. This is compared to the "luggable" types (early COMPAQs, for example) that could be easily moved but still required an external source of 110 volt AC power for any operation. Despite the fact that it was designed to be self-powered, at 26 pounds, the Zenith TurbosPort is definitely not a laptop. I've joked that Arnold Swarzenegger originally only weighed 110 pounds. It was from carrying a TurbosPort day-in and day-out that he obtained his muscular development!

A TurbosPort can be a decent WINDOWS 3.1X system. Unfortunately, the battery will almost certainly be long past its useful lifespan and will not hold a charge. Even with a dead battery, these systems will still work OK plugged in with the AC adapter. Replacement batteries are on the market for about $150. Unless you really need remote use, I'd live without a new battery. Considering that you can buy a very nice 12 volt DC to 110 volt AC inverter that plugs into a car cigarette lighter, it seems silly to spend the money on the computer battery.
The Battery Will Probably Not Hold A Charge

AC Adapter
If a TurbosPort will not try to start when plugged into a 110 line, pass on it. The problem is probably either in the system board or the display. Neither will be easy to fix, unless you've got a number of other dead units to use for spare parts.

A Zenith TurbosPort Taken Apart To Install A Hard Drive
The other problem that you are likely to encounter is a dead hard drive. If the display and LEDs light up, give the system time to boot. It can take up to a half an hour for the hard drive to time out. The system will then probably try to boot from the floppy. If it does not, get into SETUP (see below) and change the BOOT sequence

These Rubber Tabs Need To Be Pulled Out In Order To Get At The Screws

This model is not hard to disassemble. The connection is for a standard 40 pin, IDE hard drive. The factory-installed drive was a 42 meg. unit with parameters cylinders:976, heads:5, and sectors:17 (Type 44). The problem is that the drive table in SETUP is very limited and does not allow for a USER DEFINED. All of the drives that a TurboSport can be configured for have not been sold for many years. Even if you do find one second-hand, the device will probably be ready to give up the ghost very soon.
An IDE Hard Drive Can Be Installed To The Right. The Cable Is The Amber Colored One In The Center. The Floppy Drive Is Just Visible On The Left.

This Screw - And The One On The Right Side - Need To Be Removed To Open The Machine

To get into the system SETUP for the Zenith TurbosPort hold down the Ctrl-Alt-Ins keys when starting the machine. It might take a LONG time for the system to respond. At first you will get the MONITOR prompt of:

At this prompt type in SETUP and hit ENTER.

Once in SETUP, most of the entries are self-explanatory. The one exception is Add-On RAM Size. For the standard 2 meg system this should be set to 1024k. For the 3 meg option (only if the extra meg is installed, of course), make it 2048k.

An Expansion Bus was available for the Zenith TurbosPort. This allowed for 3 (8 bit) ISA cards to be attached. This unit requires a separate source of 110 volt AC.
This Is The Connector For The Cable From The Expansion Bus

The CMOS and CMOS battery is combined into a single (black, rectangular) integrated circuit. DALLAS is the manufacturer and the model number is 1260. If a message of:

+++ ERROR: Please replace the back-up battery! +++
is given, then this component needs to be replaced. SETUP will have to be run to re-configure the system.

WINDOWS 95 will not run properly, if at all, on a Zenith TurbosPort. If you want to waste time trying, e-mail Bill Gates, not me!


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