DOS Days

Compaq LTE Range


Compaq Portable (1982)First announced in 1989, Compaq's LTE range of 'notebook' computers were the successor to their SLT range of laptops, and initially comprised the Compaq LTE and Compaq LTE 286.

The LTE came with an Intel 8086 processor that ran at 9.55 MHz, 640 KB of memory, and supported CGA graphics (4 greyscales) on its monochrome 8.8" LCD display. It came with a 3.5" 720 KB floppy drive. The LTE/286 was the same but came with an Intel 80C286 (low-power CMOS version of the 80286) running at 12 MHz and a 3.5" 1.44 MB floppy drive. Other optional extras included an additional battery pack, an external fast charger, cigar-lighter power cable, external floppy disk drive, internal modem, memory upgrade board, and internal second serial port.

"Every new laptop computer released is touted as the breakthrough in portable computer technology. The Compaq LTE/286 is not excepted from that familiar marketing teaser, but it really does represent a breakthrough. It's perhaps the most significant development in portable computing since the Tandy/Radio Shack Model 100. We have seen no other machine that comes close to combining the power and battery life of the LTE/286 in so small and light a package.

To top it off, the price is competitive with other laptops that, while offering similar performance, weigh around twice as much and offer a much shorter battery life

InfoWorld, 1 Jan 1990


With the battery pack and a 20 MB hard disk it weighed in at a miniscule 7 lbs. Adding the slipcase, AC adapter and power cord it came in at 9 lbs. By comparison the Zenith SuperSport 286 with its battery weighed 14.8 lbs.

Compromises were of course made, given the design goal of the LTE range - to be small, light, and powerful. On the market around the same time was the LTE's larger cousins, the Compaq SLT and SLT/286, as well as direct competitors Zenith SuperSport 286 and Toshiba T1600. The 286 variants of these produced marginally better benchmark results than the LTE/286, even though they all ran the same 12 MHz 80C286 CPU. Competing directly with the LTE/286 on size and weight was the NEC Ultralite, and this clocked in at about 40% slower on the performance scale. Overal, the machine was given a score of 'Excellent' for performance. The hard disk performance was also considered 'Excellent', though not beating the Compaq SLT/286.

Another compromise made to keep the weight and price down and battery life up was the LCD panel and CGA graphics capability. Its larger cousin, the SLT/286 came with VGA graphics.

With its 1.5 lb battery, battery life was an excellent 3 hours 46 minutes in benchmark testing. The only machine that beat it at the time was the Zenith SuperSport 286 with 4 hours 43 minutes, but that machine came with a hefty 4.5 lb battery! Due to the low weight of the LTE battery, buying extras for on-the-go computing was an easy decision to make.

In August 1990, Compaq reduced the price of the LTE and LTE/286 by 10% after Tandy's release of their $1,999 6-lb notebook PC with 20 MB hard disk and 3.5" floppy drive. This meant you could get an LTE for as low as $1,999 (no hard disk) or $2,699 (20 MB hard disk), or an LTE/286 with 20 MB hard disk for $3,499. One of the reasons for the price drop was the reduction in cost of flat-panel displays coming out of Hong Kong and Taiwan.

In October 1990 the Compaq LTE 386s/20 arrived. It resembled its two older siblings, but was much more full-featured in every way. As the name suggests, it ran a 20 MHz 386SX processor which provided excellent performance, came with 2 MB of RAM as standard, a 16-greyscale VGA edge-lit 'Supertwist' (STN) monochrome 9" display, and a 30 MB hard disk. This base machine would cost $6,499. Other optional upgrades included memory upgrades (up to a maximum of 10 MB), a 387SX math coproce ssor, and external 5.25" 1.2 MB or 360 KB floppy drives.

Versions Available

Compaq LTE: No HDD ($2,399), 20 MB version ($2,999)
Compaq LTE/286: No HDD ($?), 20 MB version ($3,999), 40 MB version ($4,499)
Compaq LTE 386s/20: 30 MB version ($6,499), 60 MB version ($6,999)

*Prices are original MSRP at the time of release.


Supplied Software

The only software bundled with the LTE range comprised a BIOS configuration utility, diagnostic tool, RAM cache utility, RAM disk utility, built-in password protection utility, and a few other utilities. No operating system was supplied with the machine.

Expansion / Compatibility


The LTE and LTE/286 came with a 9-pin serial port, 25-pin parallel port, external RGB monitor, and external floppy drive ports on the rear of the unit.





Monitors / Graphics

The LTE and LTE/286 came with a 9" electroluminescent backlit LCD display. This provided CGA 640 x 200 graphics resolution and colour emulation through four levels of grey.

Keyboard / Mouse

The keyboard on the LTE and LTE/286 is an 81-key full-sized keyboard with embedded numeric keypad, as was typical of notebook computers.

A separate external numeric keypad could also be purchased and connected to a special port on the rear of the unit.

Floppy Disk Drives

Two types of internal floppy drive came with the Compaq LTE rage - A 3.5" 720 KB (double-sided, double-density) one, or a 3.5" 1.44 MB (double-sided, high-density) drive.

There is also a port on the rear for connectivity to a Compaq external floppy drive. You could purchase either a 3.5" or 5.25" external floppy drive from Compaq, with all capacities supported (360 KB, 720 KB, 1.2 MB and 1.44 MB). A 40 MB tape drive was also an optional extra!

Hard Disks

Hard disk options for the LTE and LTE/286 ranged from no hard disk at all (just the floppy drive), 20 MB or 40 MB.


The LTE/286's memory could be expanded with the installation of either a 1 MB or 2 MB memory expansion board. This could be configured as any combination of extended or expanded (LIM/EMS 4.0) memory in half-megabyte increments.


The CPU was soldered-in on the laptop's motherboard, so there's no option to upgrade, but a socket for an 8087 or 80287 math coprocessor was provided.

Expansion Slots

An internal expansion slot was also present - this only supported a 2400-baud modem or a second serial port.


Operating System

The LTE and LTE/286 did not ship with any operating system, so you either had to purchase it from Compaq at the time of buying the laptop, or buy a copy of DOS separately on 3.5" floppy disk.

Compaq sold MS-DOS 3.31, MS-DOS 4.0, and OS/2 separately. MS-DOS 3.31 cost $120 from Compaq at the time.





Physical Attributes

Item Dimensions (mm) Weight (kg)