The Toshiba Libretto 100CT is a marvel of engineering. Launched in April 1996, it manages to fit a powerful Pentium processor and 32MB RAM (up to 64MB) in a laptop less than one kilogram, squeezing a full Windows 95 PC into a device the size of a paperback book.
While the I/O on the laptop itself is pretty barren at first sight, a closer look makes us see that it brings everything that you need. The back has the DC in connector, along with separate microphone and headphones jacks, while the left side has an infrared port, along with not one, but two PCMCIA expansion cards. Basically, the possibilities are endless here, as you could connect USB ports, Ethernet, Dial-up Modems, even expanding the storage. The most impressive feat of engineering is the tracking nipple next to the screen, with the mouse button on the back of the display.
There are two expansion docks, available for the Libretto series. The smaller one, I/O Adaptor, Model No. CAB0356A features one PS/2 mouse/keyboard input, VGA monitor Output, DC Power in, Serial and Parallel Connectors, which are more than enough to complement the built-in I/O of the laptop These are complemented by a Kensington Lock on the left side.
The bigger expansion dock, called Enhanced Port Replicator, Model No. PA2719U offers not only separate PS/2 ports for mouse and keyboard, but Serial, Parallel and VGA connectors, along with a Kensington lock (all these on the back), but also an USB port on the right side and two PCMCIA slots, one on each side. The left side provides DC Power in, making this Port Replicator a great addition to the little gem.
Unfortunately, as it sometimes happens with these units when they’re not in use for long periods of time (mine have sit for more than three years), something inside them broke. Both units (which were known as working) seem to show some activity. The power LED turns on, there is hard disk activity, even the battery is charging, but when powering on, there seems to be no screen activity. I tried to use an external display, but it would get no signal, which makes me believe some capacitors blew up. This means they get on a list of devices I need to repair first before I get more into depth with playing around them.
Luckily, I was able to locate some photos from 2019, when I got the unit from OLX and it was working, so you can find in the gallery some activity on the Libretto, especially Winamp and Nokia Suite :)
Unlike some people mentioned online, the Libretto suffers from a bad build quality, especially the plastic of the case is very brittle, both my laptops have cracks on the display bezel and one of them had a hinge tightened so hard, it cracked the back of the display case and the entire hinge mounting system, a pretty bad minus for a portable device. Additionally, there’s a very frail ribbon cable that connects the display to the mainboard, which makes almost all displays get some dead/stuck lines of pixels on the sides.
The Libretto is still a beautifully looking device, one that has set a nice trend for small laptops, which continues to this day in a form factor or the other. I had some fun times with it, installed Windows 98, installed cygwin and ran a http server, swapped the 2.1 GB hard drive for a blazing fast 32GB Compact Flash card, used Nokia Suite to send operator logos and images to my old Nokia phones, all in all, a nice device to play with and to use for a nice small project.
More info about it: Wikipedia | sudonull | Muzeul de calculatoare | Home Computer Museum NL