Monthly Archives: February 2020

vTech Laser 128E

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Finally got an another Apple II clone i had wanted for ages, the vTech Laser 128. Thanks to Mr. Retr0bright, Javier Rivera for this! This is not the EX-model that i prefered, but it’s a start with the Laser models. It is basicly Apple //c 128k clone but with one external expansion slot, just like the Chinese Apple II+ (64k) clone CEC-E had.

 

boxes_opened_s
vTech Laser 128E with some other things arrived the same day.

 

Video Technology:

Video Technology (vTech) is company based in Hongkong and produced different kinds of 8-bit computers back in 1980’s. They produced their computers in Hongkong & Mainland China at Dongguan, Guangdong Province.

Laser 100
Laser 128
Laser 128EX
Laser 128EX/2
Laser 200
Laser 305
Laser 310 
Laser 500

I have no idea if the vTech Laser 128 were actually ever sold in Nordics area even there is 220V/50HZ, PAL version made according to the User’s Manual. I just haven’t seen one. I’ve heard they had these in Stockholm, Sweden, but were they imported or not thru offical channels, sadly i have no further information. 

At “KT-86 messut” here in Finland, Teledata Oy had a booth and exhibited Laser PC/XT model and also advertisements about 128 but no actual units were shown so far i know of. Listed price was 3250 FIM for the Laser 128, external floppy drive 900FIM, Z80 Processor 200, 512k expansion memory 1400FIM etc. Wonder if they actually ever sold any of those here? I’m trying to investigate about this..

 

vTech Laser 128 hardware specs:

Video Technology Laser 128
1984

Manufactured by : Video Technology (Hongkong), 1984
Basic : Video Techonology version of AppleSoft BASIC
Keyboard : Full-stroke 91 keys with numeric keypad and arrow keys
CPU : 6502 @ 1MHz
Chipset : 3 x V.T. custom chips
RAM : 128 KB (up to 1MB)
VRAM : 64 KB
ROM : 192 KB
Text modes :40 / 80 x 24 (monochrome)
Graphics modes : All the Apple IIc modes, with an extra set for RGB: 40 x 48 / 80 x 48 / 280 x 192 / 560 x 192. 4 lines of text mode can be mixed with a truncated the 40 x 48 and 280 x 192 modes.
Colors : 16 (40 – 80 x 48) / 6 (280 x 192) / 16 (560 x 192)
Sound : Built-in speaker
Size/ Weight : 38 (W) x 32.5 (D) x 7.7 (H) cm.
I/O PORTS : RS232 (2), MIDI, Centronics, Tape, Composite, LCD output (for flat panel display), RGB, External Drive
Drive : Built-in 5.25 floppy disc drive
OS : DOS 3.3, ProDOS
Power : External power supply (115V dc, 12A, 18w) (Apple //c powersupply works, same pinout, in europe modified laptop replacement works as well).

 

 floppydrive_s

The 128E is equiped with 5.25″ floppy drive as one would expect. It’s quite quiet compared to Apple //c’s drive mechanism..

expansion_port_closeup_s

In the other side there’s an expansion slot in the left side of the enclosure that allows installation of Apple II compatible cards, either setup as slot 5 or 7. This is very similar construction with other Chinese clones, like CEC-I and CEC-E. The CEC-E have similar expansion slot in left side as well.

 

 bottom_s

In the bottom of the case there’s door and underneath there’s the system ROM. Also switches for different functions like :
-(For PAL version only) Not using LCD/Using LCD (50/60Hz)
-External  Slot 5 enable / Internal Slot 5 Enable 
-External Slot 7 Enable / Internal Slot 7 Enable 

 

Cleaning:

opened_s

The keyboard needed some cleaning as it started to act up, the pressed key’s resulted nothing on screen. So i took the whole unit a part.. 

lots_of_screws_s

What a huge ammount of screws was used to hold the metal (RF) gages! The unit was really clean inside. I got some tips how to diassemble and clean the keyboard from Javier Rivera. The keyboard is quite cheaply made, just stem that presses the plastic membrane. Genius in a way but… well. Not my favorite construction.

keyboard_cleanup_s

Took everything apart, cleaned with 99.9% IPA and put together. It works way better now.

 

board_s

The board was later revision, totally different to the original 128 model. It’s not the same as 128EX but it’s close. My 128 was marked  as “L128E” i assume the “E” meaning the memory expansion – that is nice to have. Just haven’t found the expansion card yet and there’s no modern replacement for it as of now (yet).

 

New monitor:

with_rgb_cable_s

I had been looking for better LCD monitor (TV model) that would display NTSC better. The one i had (LG) did not – the screen would jump and it would output only black/white. I got lucky and found Samsung SyncMaster 941MP locally with the remote and it worked pretty well, being 4:3 is bonus as well. This picture is taken with the RGB-scart cable (no rgb support on display).

with_composite_cable_s

With composite the colors are closer what they are supposed to be.

 

Testing and playing:

As the Laser 128E have the Apple II compatible expansion port, i installed the Laser 128 expansion slot-card by a2heaven.com that add’s two more slots and tested few cool cards to add some features to the Laser. And these worked fine, i have no reason to believe other’s would not work but these gave the most benefit when added on.

-Laser 128 expansion slot-card (by a2heaven.com)
-Booti-card (hdd, by David Mutimer)
-Fastchip //e (Acceration up to 16.6MHz by a2heaven.com)
-ReActiveMicro Drive/Turbo IDE Controller (hdd with CF – Reactivemicro.com)
-MegaAudio (Mockingboard etc emulation by a2heaven.com)
-Atari/SNES joystick adapter 

setup_for_playing_s
Really nice setup for gaming! 🙂

 

It surely is not Apple //c or //c+ but it’s nice compact Apple II compatible model. The expansion port is really nice feature on this model that so often i miss with when using the Apple //c (sorry Javier!). And still i would be very interested getting PAL model of this. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_128
http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?c=13

FinApple 2020 (c)
Apple II Forever.

 

Pravetz 8M

pravetz_company_logo_s

 

setup_arrived_s
This is a unit i got from Plamen Vaysilov (a2heaven.com). Luckily it didn’t get busted by the several shipping companies on it’s way over here so i considered myself lucky. Only small crack on the power supply backpanel (plastic) but it’s not serious.

 

broken_psu_s
Power supply that took a hit during transportation. It’s just cosmetic.

 

pravetz_floppy_drive_s
Cloned Disk II – drive.

The thing i noticed right away was how heavy the thing was. The power supply is really built from old skool heavy components! Real bulgarian iron. The plastic used is similar, almost like bakelite, quite hard. They used similar plastic on those Chinese Apple II+ clones (CEC-I).


Specs:
Pravetz 8M – Integrated second CPU Zilog Z80A at 4 MHz to be able to run CP/M and its software.  The military version features integrated terminal design. It was essentially a version of Apple II+ with the optional CP/M card integrated on the motherboard. It had 48K of RAM on-board, a switching  power supply and an off-white plastic case with an improved design.

Timeline around 1985-1987
Processor – Synertek 6502@1MHz + Z80/4MHz (upgradeable to Intel i8080)
RAM 48KB 
ROM 12KB
DOS 3.1 – 3.3, ProDOS, CP/M (Z80)

pravetz_8m_video_connector_with_adapter_s
As the video output is BNC i needed to get an adapter, BNC > RCA but those are easily available, even locally.

 

switch_s
There is switch with 8 dips on board. That is for different configurations, enabling the Z80 prosessor, different  keyboard layouts as well turning audio on/off. I haven’t yet figured out how to get Z80 running and CP/M loaded.

pravetz_disk_ii_interface_cards_s
Found few floppy drive interface cards and they suit perfect for it. Naturally the original Apple II Interface card also works.

pravetz_8m_frogger_quikload_s
Tested few Apple II cards for the fun of it:

-wDrive (works)
-quikLoad (works)
-Saturn 128k rebooted (works)
-MultiROM-card (works)

 

I really like this clone! It’s design is kind of Sovjet-era style, quite bulky but technically much more advanced what the Sovjets were able to produce. Bulgaria was the leading “east block” country what came to computers and electronics.

Hope to find the Pravetz ’82 someday as well.

pravetz_and_a2heaven_logo_s
Thanks to Plamen Vaysilov of a2heaven.com!

 

FinApple 2020 (c)
Pravetz Forever.