Category Archives: vTech Laser 128E

vTech Laser 128 expansion slot card:

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There were some interesting periphals for the vTech Laser 128 series including the external expansion box. It was externally powered, external box that held two slots inside for Apple II compatible expansion cards. 

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Original expanion box (picture by Javier Rivera (c)).

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Original expansion box inside (picture by Javier Rivera (c))

The box is now obiously quite rare and hard to find but luckily A2heaven.com had a new version made. It doesn’t come in a box but in a plain expansion card you can plug in the side expansion connector of the Laser 128 providing now two more slots (5 and 7) to be used.

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A2heaven.com Laser 128 expansion slot card features:

-Adds two external slots to Laser 128 (Slot 5 & 7, congifurable)
-It can use internal or external power supply (USB).
-Build in LED to control all voltages
-Build in jumper to select ON/OFF of all power lines (+5,+12,-5,-12V)
-Provides -5V power on slot.
-Legs attached to card so it touches the table surface and not cause bending.

This is fantastic solution for Laser 128 users, otherwise you’d be limited to ONLY one expansion slot. The slot assignments can be altered from the switches from bottom of the unit, either enabling the slot 5 and 7 internal OR external use. WIth the adapter, you can have both slots 5 and 7 as external as pluggable slots.

The “Chinese Education Computer”-models (CEC-I and CEC-E) had also one expansion slot, either on top (CEC-I) or on left side (CEC-E) like Laser 128 does. No idea if this would work the CEC-I or CEC-E as well. They also actually have setting dips on their motherboards but naturally just for one slot.

 

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So i went ahead and tested some cards that i was intereted to run with the Laser 128, either alone or together:

And these cards worked fine, i have no reason to believe other’s would not work but these gave the most benefit when added on.

-Booti-card #7 (hdd, by David Mutimer)
-Fastchip //e #5 (Acceration up to 16.6MHz by a2heaven.com)
-ReActiveMicro Drive/Turbo IDE Controller #7 (hdd with CF – Reactivemicro.com)
-MegaAudio #5 (Mockingboard etc emulation by a2heaven.com)
-Atari/SNES joystick adapter (byteboosters/console5)

After testing i used the unit for few weeks for playing and found no issues or problems with it. There might be some exotic cards that have issues but that goes for everything. But having cards like booti that adds hardisk functionality or accelerator like Fastchip or Megaudio speaks for itself really. That’s something not otherwise could be added to Laser 128 by any means. I am not sure how popular the original expansion box was – maybe mostly used by the powerusers of the day. That’s really something that we missed with Apple //c.

I found the expansion card being very usefull if not essential for using Laser 128 users.

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Laser 128 Expansion Slot Card is available from a2heaven.com 

The card used used here wasn’t sponsored by a2heaven.com

 

FinApple 2020 (c)
Apple II Forever.

 

vTech Laser 128E/EX/EX2 memory expansion card:

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This is a clone of memory expansion card for Laser 128E, EX and EX/2 models, 702175 Rev.C – made by Renee Harke. It’s not compatible with the FIRST revision of 128 but is with the later, 128E. I have the -E revision (later motherboard design with the RAM-expansion port).

It provides up to 1MB of “Slinky” RAM for the Laser 128 aka you can use it as RAM-disk etc.

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See more details a:
https://reneeharke.com/tech/2019/12/31/laser-128-memory-expansion.html?fbclid=IwAR0qxykFwOPGudYMXQEdqquYckDdlJE7JZo2yfnLaZVZBsJCILKgBvyK0HY

Renee sells this either as a kit with all parts included or fully soldered ready-to-be-installed.

I bought this as a kit with all parts included because soldering is fun!

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After soldering (took few evenings as i didn’t have the time to put on this project in one-go) i used the quite handy tool sold in ebay (few euro’s) that bends the IC-legs (it has two different sizes) to correct angle – so they are easier to install to the sockets.

 

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I had removed the metal shield already as it’s pain to install back .. so installing the card was pretty easy and straightforward. Renee even included the 3 little screws needed for installation – that’s nice detail and good thinking.

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Installing the case back together is slightly more frustating compared to //c – even it’s very similar design. I’m really not a fan of the plastics vTech used…

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Also need to configure the Slot 5 as “INTERNAL” for the RAM.

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The internal RAM test can be found from the monitor (CALL-151) and then typing C50AG  … i was happy my soldering was successfull…. it worked!

 

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..and it was seen by the ProDOS as correct size.

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FinApple 2020 (c)
Apple II Forever.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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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).

 

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

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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.

 

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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:

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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.. 

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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.

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

 

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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:

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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).

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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 

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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.