Category Archives: vTech Laser 128EX

vTech Laser 128 expansion slot card:

ad_from_in_cider_s

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. 

javier_2_s
Original expanion box (picture by Javier Rivera (c)).

javier_1_s
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.

parts_s

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.

 

setup_for_playing_s

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.

a2heaven_logo
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 128EX:

laser_128ex_logo_s

Latest acquisition to my collection is finally here: the vTech Laser 128EX !

laser_128ex_unit_s

Compared to the 128E that i already have, the EX is slightly different, internally. It have added 64k of Video RAM on board as well the the board design itself is slightly diffrent. It have the faster 65C02 processor with possiblity to adjust the speed from standard 1MHz to 2.3 or even to 3.6MHz. So in a way it makes it something between Apple //c and Apple //c+ in a odd clone way.

The 128E had also the memory expansion slot (just no card preinstalled) as the EX model does. The EX however was delivered from the factory with the card, i’m not certain how much, if any, RAM they included. I’ve heard 128k and 256k but i’m not sure of it.

256k_ram_originally_s

Mine came with 256K RAM on the expansion card and i thought adding it to full 1MB – as of – why not?

RAM card : 256k X 1 chips (41256) 120ns

8  chips = 256K *installed*
16 chips = 512k
24 chips = 768k
32 chips = 1MB

ram_borrowed_from_s

I had an extra original Apple IIGS RAM card that had the same memory type installed so i just “borrowed” the chips from to this card so it have now full 1MB (256k x 1 DRAM).

I saw in facebook that you can test the installed ram with internal ram test with C50AG from monitor. It showed no errors.

The unit came with the correct ROM version, 6.0. That was the last revision for EX. The version 6.1 was then later released for the EX/2 that was the last of the Apple II compatible models they produced. There were more-or-less secret plans of clone model of Apple IIGS but it never materialized. I believe it was shown/demoed at some Applefest in early 90’s in the States but very little information is available about it. Now think of that…

Changing the speed of CPU is fairly easy, either from the boot by pressing “1” = 1 Mhz, “2” = 2.3MHz, “3” = 3.6MHz or simply  CTRL+RESET+1, 2 or 3. The cursor shoud flicker faster in faster modes, or just CTRL+G giving the different pitched beeb.

 

port_configuration_menu_s

There’s also port setup menu that you can access by CTRL+RESET+P.

switches_bottom_s

Undermeath of the unit there’s the same options for altering the setup of the slot assignments as in Laser 128E. You can enable the external or internal slots 5 and 7. I’ve wondered if i should change the crystal and add the switch for LCD panel for one and see if it would work as PAL unit… but both my Laser’s are so good condition i don’t really want to mess with them. I need project unit for that….

The slot assignments are:

SLOT 0 = Built-in 40-col display
SLOT 1 = Parallel/Serial printer interface 
SLOT 2 = Serial communication interface
SLOT 3 = Built-in 80-col display 
SLOT 4 = Mouse interface 
SLOT 5 = 1 Megabyte expansion RAM interface // External slot 
SLOT 6 = Built-in 5.25″ disk drive interface 
SLOT 7 = Built-in 3.5″ disk drive interface // External slot 

laser128ex_advertisement_s

I actually like this model – yes the plastic is bit cheap(ish) and the keyboard is not really that great compared to let’s say 4100-serie Apple //c or //c+ but it’s good in it’s own way. The model is almost like tuned up //c with Zipchip 4000, ROM4x, Unidisk 3.5″ and 1MB RAM added to it. Wish to have the VGA-adapter for it however.

 

FinApple 2020 (c)
Apple II Forever.