Highscreen Notebook 386SX-25 (Halikan NBA386SX-25)

German Retailer VOBIS was once popular, with some 800 branches accross Europe, pushing the HIGHSCREEN brand into many households. Here’s a HIGHSCREEN notebook which brought an appealing design to the clunky world of notebooks.

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Historic Overview

This nifty laptop computer made its debut around 1991 with german PC retailer VOBIS. While VOBIS branded this device with their own HIGHSCREEN label, the very same machine was also offered under the OKANO brand by Karstadt, and possible many others as well. Most notably, this system is known to be offered under the Halikan Brand by Chaplet Systems.

By disassembling the unit several stickers are revealed that at least the mainboard of this particular system might originally have been manufactured by Foxconn.

Highscreen 386SX-25

This machine debuted with a 386SX CPU clocked at 20 MHz, 2 MiB RAM and a 40 MiB hard drive. It sported a VGA monochrome passive matrix display, a replacable battery plus the usual connector options for the time, all in all an average machine pricing in at around 4700 Deutsch Mark.

Although I’ve never seen this personally, an external expansion box has been made for this device. The expansion box can be fitter with two ISA adapters and one 5.25″ form factor drive. It can be connected through the expansion port on the back.

While still available two years later, the widespread availability of 486 class machines put quiet some pressure on the price tag. In 1993, this machine got a minor overhaul, receiving a 25 MHz CPU and a 60 MiB hard drive, rushing out at 1795 Deutsch Mark, just little more than a third of the original price two years before.

Sure, its specs certainly were average at best, but the single-hinge design made this laptop an eye catcher. The case features a curved bulge on the backside, from which the hinge emerges. The display sits on top of this single hinge, separated from the base unit by several centimeters as if a hand would be carrying it in the air. All in all avery leight-weight and appealing appearance, which definitely stood out from the clunky design of the time.

VOBIS had a long history of providing alternative operating system choices. To keep prices low, VOBIS typically offered DR DOS (late 80s and early 90s), IBM PC DOS or OS/2 (mid 90s) with software bundles in favor to the typical MS-DOS+Windows setup, which often had to be paid extra.
While technically capable to run Microsoft Windows 3.0, it is more likely that it came with a purely DOS-based setup due to resource constraints. This particular machine has therefore been installed with a combination of DR DOS 5 (Highscreen OEM version of the time) and the DOS versions of Microsoft Works and Microsoft Word as the productivity suite. This should match the experience of this machine for the given period.

Specs

The PHINTAGE Collection currently holds an Highscreen-branded HALIKAN NBA386SX-25.

VendorVobis AG (whitelabeled)
ModelHIGHSCREEN Notebook, 386SX-25

aka

HALIKAN NBA386SX-25
Released1993
Original Streetprice1795 DM (4732 DM for the 386SX-20 in 1991)
Weight2.9 KG
Dimensions29.7cm x  21.5cm x 5.1cm
Builtin Displayyes, 10″ passive matrix LCD
Builtin Batteryyes, 2.8Ah
CPUIntel 80386SX @25 MHz
RAM2 MiB
Storage30 MiB (2.5″ PATA to CF adapter, replaced originally broken 60 MiB HDD)
Network Supportoptional, only via expansion box
USBno
Video Output1 VGA
Other1 RS232, 1 Parallel Port, 1 PS/2, 1 Expansion Connector
Operating SystemDR DOS 5
Overall Condition
  • fully working condition
  • case in good overall condition, hinge was broken and neatly fixed
  • floppy disk drive is broken
  • battery is worn down
Restoration Parts needed
  • replacement battery
  • floppy drive (Epson SMD-1040)

Gallery

Coming soon.

Downloads

Some fellows have archived some of original Vobis “Denkzettel” promotial material. The originals can be found at https://katzentier.de/_misc/Vobis/ and https://andydunkel.net/assets/uploads/2014/07/vobis_denkzettel_1991.pdf. I’ve extracted the significant parts related to this particular notebook computer.

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