NTS Dreamwriter T400

While I was wandering around Ebay looking for TRS-80 Model 100’s, I came across this device… I couldn’t find much info on it, but there were a bunch going fairly cheaply (I guess a school was getting rid of them) so I picked one up. Now while Rule 35 Of The Internet has a fairly specific focus in it’s subject matter, I tend to think that if information on something doesn’t exist on the internet, it should be added… Hence this post.

The magnificent Dreamwriter T400

The T400 is in the same vein as the Tandy WP-2 or Alphasmart devices – it’s a wordprocessor which is basically a keyboard and screen, it runs on 4xAA batteries (more on that shortly) and supposedly has a pretty good battery life. These devicees seem to have been made for school use – they actually have terminals on them so you can charge them from some sort of charging station, and mine came with a NiCd battery pack installed (which was of course completely dead)

That’s OK though, mine also came with a power adaptor – standard wall wart switched mode power supply which I plugged in an, and amazingly, everything came to life. Sweet, it lives! And then… It did not. Stopped working. I checked the power supply… Quite warm and only outputting 1V when it needs to be 6V. Then I noticed the power supply was 120V only, and I had just plugged it into our 240V power. Ouch. I’ve gotten so used to PSUs auto-ranging I forgot that old PSUs often didn’t do this. So that’s dead anyway, but luckily the Dreamwriter lived on.

The NiCd pack was not easily replaceable with standard AA batteries. For one, it’s just marginally too short (the NiCds in the pack don’t have the button top we’re used to on the positive terminal of a AA, so are much shorter) and for another there is no terminal in one end of the battery tray, and the pack was soldered/welded together. Hmm.

Ah well. Nothing that chipping out a small piece of plastic and installing a small piece of wire can’t fix.

It may not be pretty, but it works surprisingly well.

The device comes apart pretty easily and simply. You can see some interior shots below. There’s a nice spot under the batteries where I am hoping to install a Raspberry Pi Zero W.

My Dreamwriter also came with a manual, and I couldn’t find it online, so if needed it is here:

As mentioned, my goal is to install a RasPi Zero W inside and use the Dreamwriter as a serial console to the Zero. Unfortunately at this stage this doesn’t work that well – I guess the terminal program is very basic. I’m going to continue working on this one though.

3 thoughts on “NTS Dreamwriter T400

  1. Picked up one of these myself. Been making my blood boil trying to get the RS232-C serial working properly or at least consistently. Probably wasn’t a smart first pick for a serial dumb terminal… Have you had any luck?

  2. Interesting find! I happen to have PCHS#9, small world! Mine did not come with a battery pack so I just assumed the battery terminal had fallen out. I also got a software CD and a quick start guide. Will be looking to do something interesting with mine as well.

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