Compaq Personal Computers

In all the years I have been either studying or working in the computer industry, Compaq has been one of my favourite kinds of brand-name PC due to their innovative and imaginative design. Like most brand-names, Compaq don’t use bland, boxy generic cases, they have often gone out of their way to create designs that are visually appealing and incorporate clever features that set them apart from the competition as well as making them easy to service and upgrade. Other manufacturers in recent years have begun adopting some of these clever features, but for a long time the generic cases were a long way behind in innovation.

The first four pictures are of a Compaq Evo D5, which is a Pentium IV/1.6 GHz with 256MB of PC-133 SDRAM and a 20GB HDD. The last two pictures are a Compaq Deskpro EN, a Pentium III/1000 with 256 MB of PC-133 SDRAM and a 10 GB HDD.

Compaq EVO D5 front panel view.

Under the hood. The drive bays hinge up to give access to the motherboard underneath. Sound and USB sockets and the power switch are all mounted directly to the board; no need for front panel cabling here. Another nice Compaq feature is that a supply of the cheese head screws needed to mount the drives in the bays is included inside each case. In this picture you can see four black screws sitting in their holes just right of the lower right corner of the CD writer. The drives can be taken right out of the bays without any tools at all.

With the drive bays hinged forward we can see the mainboard. The CPU has, as is commonly the case in brandname PCs, a custom arrangement of fan and ducting to ensure proper airflow for cooling; in this case exhausting through the front panel vents. In the past Compaq has used the power supply cooling fan to good effect as well. This Compaq has a low profile AGP card in its own slot just to the right of the power supply. Two full height PCI slots are in a riser at right rear.
Back panel view of the D5. Even in this day and age it still has two DB-9 serial ports.

The PCI slot riser in the Deskpro EN SFF. This one is for three PCI slots and the card edge plugs into what looks like another PCI slot on the mainboard itself. The riser also carries the case open switch which can be seen lower left.

Deskpro EN SFF power supply hinged up for easy access underneath. Immediately left you can see another clever Compaq feature in some models – the case lock switch. Rather than having something you lock with a padlock, you just make a setting in the Bios to engage this switch and lock the case closed.

Most of the Compaqs I have ever seen are designed to come apart with a minimum of tools. The drive bays use clips and special screws to enable the drives to be removed and exchanged very quickly. The riser comes out as a complete unit – never been that easy in other low profile PCs before. Another important point is that you can use full height cards rather than low profile PCI which most low profile cases require today. The Deskpro EN even had the mainboard mounted on a metal baseplate which could be dropped out of the case very easily. You could have the PC dismantled into its major pieces in about five minutes.

Another Compaq innovation was the convertible desktop/tower case. These are a full height desktop, as they have to be. The drive bay which took three 5 1/4″ devices was designed in such a way that devices could be rotated through 90 degrees, making it possible to configure the same case as either a desktop or a tower – simply by removing the devices and reinserting them in the correct orientation.

Overall, Compaq has represented a trend of design innovation in PCs for years and it is hoped that HP will pick up the best aspects of Compaq design and continue that innovation in years to come.