NCR Safari 3115

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Recently, on ebay, I stumbled upon another NCR mobile, pen-based computer. In contrast to my beloved 3125s, I have never heard of it.

It looks like the older, smaller, much uglier brother to the 3125, but it is not. It is the much rarer, smaller, much uglier, younger brother of the 3125: the Safari 3115.

“Safari” already hints to the time it was released, because Safari is the family name of the AT&T mobile computers. NCR was taken over by AT&T in 1991/92, so this release must be later than that.

Now, the model designation 3115 puts it in the NCR 3000 family, below the 3125, but the “3000 family” was always a marketing lie as the computers in it differ a lot architecture-wise and OS-wise.

The operating system of the 3115 was Windows 3.1 with pen support. The RAM seems to consist of a DRAM card that is accessible via the interface bay. Mine is a Samsung 4 MB model. It is labelled “ICMC V4.1” which is the same as PCMCIA 2.0.

There is an “unofficial NCR (Safari) 3115 support page” which holds most of the information on this machine, but it seems to updated last in 2000…

It weighs 1700g, so it is even 200g heavier than the A4-sized 3125… And although the outer area of the 3115 is smaller than the one of the 3125, the outline volume is probably about the same or even larger!

The Computer History Museum even has a docking station called “CommStation” for the 3115.

I did not think that this machine even deserves more research, because, boy, it is ugly, and because there were a lot of Windows-based pen tablets out there after 1991.

However, I opened the case to see what’s inside because some things (like the concrete CPU model) are not even known. And I have to say, the inside is more advanced than what I thought it it would be.

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What I was surprised first was the fact that the computer seems to be at least splash-proof. There is a thick seal in between the case halves, and most of the interfaces are put behind rubber plugs. There is not even an electric interface connecting the machine to the docking station, but an array of infrared LEDs.

The second suprise was that most of the weight seems to be contained in the display which is secured in a metal case. The PCB is not very large, the case not that heavy.

The final suprise was the “harddisk”. It is not a harddisk, it is basically the second generation prosumer-grade SSD in form of a SunDisk(sic!) SDI-20 20 MB SSD with a date of 1992-1993. The first generation was developed by SunDisk (now SanDisk) for the original IBM ThinkPad in 1991. It had a capacity of 20 MB and costed $1000. Obviously, an SSD is much more suited for a rugged pen-based computer than a rotating harddisk.

Other things I found inside were: an Intel 80486SX CPU and 4 MB of soldered RAM.

So, here is my final verdict: This was an attempt to created a rugged, small, pen-based Windows tablet. Unfortunately, it is way too heavy and ugly. Although I don’t know the original price, it probably have not been cheap. It is more interesting that what meets the eye and it is a very, very rare thing.

Technical Data

Manufacturer: NCR
Model: Safari 3115
CPU: Intel 80486SX@25 MHz
RAM: 4MB (8 MB max)
HDD: 20-40MB
Weight: 1700 grams
External dimensions: 23cm*23cm*7cm
Pen: Cordless 1 button digitizer pen made by CalComp Inc, transmits on R/F ranges 0.0576Mhz and 0.0614Mhz, runs on 4(E 393 buttoncell batteries)
Display: 6.25″ Backlit Monochrome VGA
OS: MS-DOS 5.0/Windows 3.1 with pen support
Interfaces: 1 RS232C DB9 serial port, 1 Centronics 25-pin Parallel port, 1 PS/2 Keyboard port, 2 PCMCIA-II expansion slots, 1 PCMCIA-1 memory card slot, 1 Infrared communications/docking port, 1 external power/charging connector
Battery: 9.6V (NIMH) 1200mAh, 1.2A, good for 4hrs per charge?
Released: 1993
Initial price: ???

References

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