Sven Utcke's Olivetti Quaderno

The Olivetti Quaderno is a 1992 sub-miniature notebook. To my knowledge at least 3 different versions were released:
  1. Olivetti Quaderno (PT-XT-20)
  2. Olivetti Quaderno 33 (PT-AT-60)
  3. Olivetti Quaderno 33/J

This Page describes the original Olivetti Quaderno (PT-XT-20). Note that I also have a page on the Quaderno 33 (PT-AT-60).

In Germany, these were also sold by Vobis under the name Highscreen Laptalk. They made quite a splash in 1992 due to both their size and the fact that you could use them as a voice recorder - even with the lid closed! A builtin signal processor is creating the astounding compression rate of 10min per 1MB of disc-space.


Size: 21cm x 15cm x 3.3cm (A5 footprint) at 1050g.
Screen: 14cm x 10.5cm (7.5") reflective LCD-display, DCGA (640 x 400).
Keyboard: 14mm pitch (yes, this is small! Your keyboard at home is 19mm).
HDD: 2.5" (0.69"x2.75"x4"), 21MB, supposedly a Conner CP 2024. Users have reported C/H/S=653/2/32 (20.41MB) and CHS=615/4/17 (20.42MB). ide.exe identifies the drive in one of my Quadernos as C/H/S=612/4/17 (20.32MB). Unfortunately I can not boot my other Quaderno and verify its geometry. Power requirements have been quoted as
  • R/W 585ma, 3.0W
  • Seek 585ma, 3.0W
  • Idle 267ma, 1.5W
  • Standby 74ma, 0.45W
  • Sleep 58ma, 0.25W
  • Spin-up 832ma
Update 26.3.2001: I finally bought a new HDD for one of my Quadernos, as it was showing the following symptoms:
          Interrupts                Pass
          CMOS RAM Checksum Error - RUN SETUP
          RT Clock                  Pass
          Fixed Disk:               Not Present
The old disk was labelled:
          Conner CP2024 5V 640mA
          BE56421 KAT 2.38 SG3 N
and the new one was labelled
          Conner CP2024, 5V 640mA
          BE55421 K2.38 SG3 M
and, indeed, the Quaderno is now fully functional again. I think that the replacement disk is also newer (the old one said something about patents pending, while the new one says patented), so I keep my finger crossed that it will last me some more...
Processor: NEC V30HL at 16MHz, a low-power version of the 80186.
Norton: The Norton Utilities identify this as a 80186 running at 25MHz. Speed relative to the original IBM XT with its 8086 (8088?) running at 4.77MHz:
High speed: 5.9
Medium speed: 2.6
Low speed: 1.4
Extra-low speed: ?
Byte (2.2): Performance relative to Toshiba T2200SX (Notebook Class):
CPU: 0.57
Disk: 0.89
Video: 0.67
SST: This Test identifies the processor as an 8088/86 running at 21.15MHz.
CPU: 2096 Dhrystones
Math: 25k Whetstones
Video: 6312 CPS
Bios: I only know the date: Friday, the 13th of March 1992.
PCMCIA: One Type II slot. Unfortunately only rel. 1.0, which doesn't support I/O (the standard, that is, not the slot, which well might...).


You can even access the internet through this unit. I'm using a 1993 Practical Peripherals Pocket Modem which supports V.42bis - up to 2400bit/s as a modem, and up to 9600bit/s as FAX. I bought mine (new!) from Pendragon technologies which might still have some to sell. It comes with all the original papers, including advertisement for long disfunct BBSs and other periode-stuff. It's also small and battery-operated (allegedly up to 3.5 hours, but the batteries on mine weren't feeling to well, and still aren't). The downside is the extremely low speed. Also, it's white, which doesn't really go to well with the Quaderno's dark grey colour.

My internet-provider (the University of Freiburg) provides both a very simple dial-in account as well as PPP. For the first, the software that came with the modem proved mostly adequate. For the second, I use NetTamer. It not only does all the PPP-stuff, but POP3, SMTP, FTP, TELNET, HTTP, finger, ping and a couple of others. It comes in three different flavours: 386-based (which will not run on the Quaderno), XT-based (which runs nicely), and a version specifically designed for handhelds, allowing you to display graphics on a CGA and providing a much more readable font, but somewhat crippeled otherwise. Here's how to set it up for the University of Freiburg (in German).

DesqView/X 2.0 does not seem to work on this machine. It installs alright (but requires 13MB for a full install. These can later be reduced to approx. 2MB, but only after a full install), but fails to run with Error opening DESQVIEW.DVO file...
run-time error R6001
- null pointer assignment

Tips and Tricks

An instruction how to dissassemble the Quaderno. Use at your own risk.

AA Computech might be able to sell you a replacement HDD.

The connectors are from JAE's Tx20A Series, reportedly
TX20A-10PHI-D2P1-D1 10-pin male connector kit (serial)
TX20A-36PHI-D2P1-D1 36-pin male connector kit (prt/fdd)
In Germany, Rimec seems to distribute these connectors.

Franz Förth reports that in Germany these connectors are also available from:

Neuwieder Straße 10
D-90411 Nürnberg
Phone +49 (0)911 / 95 20 211
FAX +49 (0)911 / 52 11 05
Herr Kleist
at DM 25,-- per connector.

If you need a new switching power supply, because yours died (as did mine), or because you lost yours, or simply want something even smaller, have a look at the ones made by Egston - in my opinion the best (and best-priced) on the market.


Sites dedicated to the Quaderno

Olivetti page by Holger Lorenz (in English)
German version of the manual as WinWord 6.0 document, the original PA-software in several languages, several utilities, FAQ, guestbook, usenet-news
Olivetti page by Holger Lorenz (in German)
Olivetti page by Hans Olav Elsebø (in English)
Specs of the Olivetti Quaderno, software and utilities
Olivetti page by Denis Faivre (in French)
Specs of the Olivetti

Sites that mention the Quaderno

Computerwoche Nr. 21 vom 22.05.1992 (in German)
Article on the occasion of the Quaderno's introduction
Guardian 21/7/94 (in English)
Terry Pratchett used (?) to have a Quaderno. Yes, that's right, the famous author of the Discworld-Series.
Quaderno 33 Technical Features (in Japanese)
Well, I don't know any Japanese, so what can I say...
Olivetti Ouaderno, ein Erfahrungsbericht (in German)
Here's a report from someone who recently aquired a used Quaderno and has so far changed the disc and replaced the batteries.
List of old computers (in German)
Technical specifications of old and obsolete computers.
List of Palmtop, Pen or Small Computers (in English)
Technical specifications.

Sven Utcke
last modified: 17-Aug-2001