The Toshiba T1200. 19 years in a cardboard box and still working.

Toshiba and Air Side 650x262 The Toshiba T1200. 19 years in a cardboard box and still working.There’s 26 years of design and innovation between these two laptops.

The Toshiba T1200, my first ever laptop (need I say on the bottom) and the latest 11″ Apple Macbook air on the top.

Both still work, but I am finding that the Macbook air has a habit of needing a hard restart once in a while.

I found the T1200 while clearing out the attic late last night. It’s lived in 4 different attics in three different counties.  At the bottom of the same cardboard box for 19 years.

Toshiba montage 650x524 The Toshiba T1200. 19 years in a cardboard box and still working.I plugged it in, flicked the on switch and to my amazement it came out of suspended animation.  The hard drive gave a grind, the blue/green screen flickered into life and the machine ran diagnostics on itself.  Like a piece of medical equipment reading out it’s own vital signs.

The sounds, the light and the cursor immediately flashed me back 22 years. This laptop, was handed to me by Grandparents I’d only just met after they’d tracked me down.  It had belonged to a father I’d never met.

He died in a car accident in the States in 1991 and this laptop containing his unpublished book was part of a small inheritance.

I used it to write letters, poems, thoughts, my first travel journal.  To save time I would read my scrawled diaries to my friend Rachael, who unlike me could actually type.

Too heavy to cart around the world with me I put it in storage.  The last time I typed on the keyboard was 1994. That’s according to the most recent date I found on a letter in a back-up folder on it’s tiny hard drive.

There are letters to people I don’t recall.  Reminding me of adventures I’d long forgotten.  Stories and thoughts I had committed to this device and then lost. Only to rediscover almost 20 years later.

I’m so impressed that it still works. That it’s looked after my forgotten memories for so long.

In amongst the files was my first CV.  It lists qualifications from a school now demolished.  Jobs with Laser manufacturing companies now defunct.  Hobbies like climbing, caving, camping and canoeing. Pastimes, well in the past.

Late last night I found myself madly trying to back up this precious data.  These rediscovered memories.  Despite the rear of the laptop being riddled with ports there was nothing I could use.  USB was designed in 1996. Nine years after this laptop. I tried photographing the screen with my phone and using OCR. In the end I just read the words into my phone and let the voice recognition software transpose.

I found myself looking at this hulking machine next to the phone in my hand and marveling at how far we have come.

I can only wonder what the next 26 years will bring.

Toshiba open 650x463 The Toshiba T1200. 19 years in a cardboard box and still working.

About Documentally

Talking, teaching and documenting using mobile tools. Running workshops and consulting worldwide with a focus on social technology.

  • Ian Kath

    I envy you for this experience. Sadly I didn’t embrace the technology until much later and even then didn’t realise the power of just telling stories.
    Welcome back to your youth.

    • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

      Thanks Ian. All these stories are treasure to me.

  • http://shkspr.mobi/blog/ TerenceEden

    It looks like it takes floppy disks. If you can save the contents to disk, I have a USB floppy disk reader you can borrow – which should work with your modern machine.

    • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

      Thanks man. I might take it to the next @StationX at @TNMOC. I’m sure they have the technology. If not i’ll ping you.
      That said, I’m not sure I’d be able to read the ancient files on there. :)

      • Paul M

        Chances are the file formats are quite primitive, so you should be able to extract the raw text.

        • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally


  • soothillexile

    Found a Compaq and Psion 5 during last year’s clutterfestskipparty.. Had some 3.5″ disks and copied the lot via USB floppy disk reader.. This site sorted out the conversion of the files into something readable. Then sold the aforementioned working technoclutter to hoarders on eBay!
    The poignant circumstances surrounding the laptop’s receipt sound like the beginnings of a Neal Stephenson story…

    • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

      Cheers. I think i may have to get myself a USB floppy disc reader.

  • Liam

    Looks quite modern compared to the first “laptop” i used, though must have been about the same age. Other option for backing up is a hard disk drive caddy – these may take old fashioned as well as new drives, and with a USB output easy to copy to something less dated!

    • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

      Thanks for tip Liam.

  • Rachael V

    I can’t wait to read your stories again! (If you’ll let me of course!)

    • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

      Ha! for sure :)

  • John Roberts !

    This has made me adamant now that I am now going to keep my current macbook pro and try and do the same! (although I can always back the files up easier now)

    Did you ever publish the book?

    • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

      I didn’t no. The formatting was a bit off when i printed it and it’s a complicated study called Motive Power. It focus’s on all kinds of Hippy related stuff. Energy lines, colour therapy etc etc. Maybe one day. :)

  • http://thirstforwine.co.uk thirstforwine

    Nice! I don’t have any of my old computers, laptops or otherwise. I wish I had my first computers, or at least the desktops I had at university. It has, however, inspired me to see what might happen if I fire up some of my oldest PDAs (which I kept). I have a Casio machine from 1996 (Cassiopeia) somewhere and it would be interesting to see what it might have on it

    • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

      Do it!.. Looking forward to see what you find. Digital archeology FTW.

      • http://thirstforwine.co.uk thirstforwine

        I did. Sadly, the battery will no longer hold a charge so it won’t turn on. I wonder whether there could be a spare somewhere, but it is a bit old-fashioned now. Probably defunct. Also probably empty as I believe the memory would have been wiped as soon as there was no power


        • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

          You never know. Try ebay for the battery. :)

          • http://thirstforwine.co.uk thirstforwine
          • Paul M

            If you have a serial port you can often use old PDAs as a secondary status display on your computer.
            The program which runs on the PDA is quite simple.
            People used to use things like Palm pilots as a status display on a home media computer.

  • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

    It will be 2040 in 26 years. What are your tech predictions?

    • Paul M

      in 2040, we will…
      * still be waiting for our flying cars
      * still be waiting for nuclear fusion to make that final breakthrough
      * be telling *our* grandchildren that yes, we really did think those big old clunky smartphones and computers in the boxes in the attic were state of the art, cost up to a week’s salary, and were really really cool.

  • James Vincent

    I read your email I received. That is great to find an old piece of tech that still works fine. And all those documents! But yeah, transferring them is a bitch!

    • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

      I’m ordering a USB floppy drive. It seems to be the ‘in’ thing :)

      • James Vincent

        I have no idea what one of them is! But YAY!

      • Paul M

        why not buy a bunch of them and create a RAID array of floppies?


  • MrRocking

    My old Toshiba HX10 MSX (bought in 86 or 87) is still running and playing carts. Only thing missing is a joystick. Back then I hacked a Kempston grip (Clicky microswitches) onto the analogue Toshiba base.

    1983 Microsoft extended Basic. 64K of Ram. What a beast. Mainly for games though I did attempt some music programming on it. Which was why musos bought the Yamaha.

    Somewhere I still have an Archimedes (My first video machine) Hoping the Jaz drives are still nearby.

    • http://Documentally.com/ Documentally

      I remember the Kempston. I had one with the interface for my spectrum. :)

  • Paul M

    if you can find a serial terminal emulator, for it, you should be able to transfer the files over the serial port to another computer – USB serial adaptors are only a few $ off ebay.

    look for a program called Kermit, which was a very popular utility for precisely that.

    wow, thinking about the days when computers didn’t have network ports drives it home how we take ubiquitous networking for granted.