NCR 3125


This mobile computer from 1991 is the second pen-based device (after Grid’s Gridpad from 1989), the first one with a separate pen (although it beats the Gridpad 2050 or Gripad SL by only a few months if any) and the first one from a big manufacturer. It is also one of the most expensive mobile computers with an initial price of a hefty $4795 (about $8200 in 2014 numbers). Finally, it is one of the few mobile computers designed in Germany (by NCR in Augsburg).

Operating systems-wise the device is very flexible because it came out at the right time. As a PC it can run MSDOS plus NCR’s proprietary “PenOS”, a.k.a. the software that let you use the pen as an input device to enter text in a DOS environment. From 1992 onwards it could execute also (Microsoft) Pen Windows. Finally, even GO’s PenPoint was available for this computer. Some people even got (PC-)GEOS running on it.

My machine (as far as I can see) has only DOS + PenOS. If you happen to have PenPoint for it, I would be very happy…

The model number of this device is 3125. According to some old NCR information (see links below) this makes is a member of the NCR 3000 family that spans from this tablet and a notebook all the way up to a multi-processor, 100,000 MIPS big iron computer system under Unix. As all these systems do not share the same architecture or even the operating system, that’s quite a stretch…

The design of the device is very sleek; it looks very streamlined and timeless. The pen for example is neatly contained in a small hidden compartment at the front. It was rewarded a “iF product design award 1992 – Best Of Category”.

There seems to be a successor to this model with the Model 3130 NotePad in 1992. The 3130 had a backlit screen and a 40 or 60MB HDD and comes with Pen Windows. The weight increased by a pound. The price was about $4000.

I am very unsure on the fate of this machine. It was expensive, not often mentioned in the news, and so I assume it was not very successful. Maybe it was also subject of the turmoil following the takeover by AT&T in 1991/1992.

Technical Data:

  • CPU: 80386SL @ 20 MHz (has about 15 MIPS)
  • RAM: 4MB
  • HDD: 20MB
  • Weight: 1500 grams
  • Pen: passive
  • Display: LCD 640 x 480, 16 gray shades
  • OS: MSDOS plus PenOS or PenPoint or PenWindows
  • Interfaces: VGA, keyboard, RS232C, Centronics, all via a “I/O Connector Adapter”
  • Released: 1991
  • Initial price: $4795


8 Responses to “NCR 3125”

  1. William Franklin Adams Says:

    Actually, the NCR-3125 had an active digitizer / stylus, a Wacom (but sans pressure-sensitivity)

  2. William Franklin Adams Says:

    Send me your e-mail address and I should be able to send you an archive of PenPoint and a bunch of apps.

  3. William Franklin Adams Says:

    One last note, the 3125 came first, then the 3130, which was the successor. You should be able to read up on these in the on-line archives of Byte magazine and similar publications from that time frame.

  4. Brian Musker Says:

    I have one of these, and it was my main mobile calendar, note-taking, and Word device, as well as my main Windows computer (when docked) in the early 90’s. At least until the batteries could no longer be charged. And in 2018, I haven’t found anything that works as well (except for battery life and LTE).

    It’s running Pen Windows which I mashed with Windows 3.1 (for Networks). So, with the Parallel port Ethernet adapter and Netscape, you CAN browse the web with it using nothing but the stylus.

    By putting it to sleep and hibernating carefully throughout the day, I could get through 1/2 a day without charging it. And modern versions of OneNote still seem to pale next to the version in Windows for Pen Computing.

  5. Brass Says:

    By the time 1994 came around, these were selling for $300 with Windows for Pen and 8MB, 20MB HD. Another $400 for a 60 MB (Huge!) Also – On the left side of the unit was the availability to insert a card in a slot for a floppy or possibly a CDRom, which my own came with it. Surprised theyy didn’t all come with it, considering all of the install disks were on floppy – though it was all preintalled

  6. Brass Says:

    Just some correctons to edit to my post. No 60G HD. Price was $199 in 1994with 4MB memory, that was for a refurbished demo 3125 unit with the 4M, I added 4MB memory later becaus it was cheaper than the extra $100 they wanted.

    The external 1.44 floppy I mentioned I added later for an additional $99 (ouch), It used a proprietary card installed nto the left side center — a slot in the center. I really don’t know if it supported any other peripherals. That center cover needed to be removed to install the card and reinstal a new cover plate..

    Curious if anyone knows what kind/brand of hard drive this unit used? Guess I coulld dig since I have a floppy!

    Neat unit, sleek build. Still I like the Grid 2260/2270 a lot better – backlit display made a world of difference.

  7. cyberfritz Says:

    The hard drive in the one 3125 I fiddled around with the HDD is a PrairieTek Prairie 120 20 MB model.

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