Panasonic Toughbook CF-35

In 1990s Panasonic, division of Matsushita Inc., was known hardware manufacturer. Their Toughbook line was focused on a rugged notebooks which could withstand harsh environmental conditions. However, so durable computer was heavy and large. In 1997, Panasonic released two interesting machines: CF-25 and CF-35. While CF-25 was a heavily rugged unit, CF-35 was known as "slimline" - smaller, lighter, but less durable. Magnesium alloy has been substituted with metallized plastic, with a thick coating to prevent scratches, and the casing has no humidity and water protection known from Toughbooks.
The computer has quite nice hardware inside for its age: A Pentium MMX 200MHz (in other versions: 150MHz) with a small fan which turns on rarely, 32MB of RAM built-in (expandable by EDO SO-DIMMs) and a NeoMagic graphics adapter. The LCD (TFT) is also nice, 16bit 800x600 which in its time was definitely not a "budget". Inside, it is possible to install a floppy drive or probably CD-ROM in a bay. I/O ports are also totally sufficient: Serial, parallel, infrared and even USB. It came with 2 or 3GB hard disk. It has also a small touchpad, which was not common in 1997.
The problems were mostly related to unfinished CMOS part which caused lots of troubles when it came to re-configuration.

Manufacturer Panasonic

Origin Japan
Year of unit 1997
Year of introduction 1997
Type Laptop, PC
CPU Intel Pentium MMX 200MHz
(upgradeable with EDO SODIMM)
Floppy Disk In a bay
Hard Disk Originally 2 or 3GB, IDE 44-pin
Other media CD-ROM drive in a bay
Graphics and display: 800x600, 16-bit color
LCD, TFT, 12.1"
Sound: Stereo, speakers built-in.
Keyboard and pointing device: Small PC keyboard without numeric part.
Touchpad with buttons.
OS: Windows 95

Power supply:

1 - Ground
2 - +15.1V DC, 2.6A
(Socket is inverted - requires bolt in plug)

I/O:  - Serial port
 - Parallel port
 - VGA video out
 - PCMCIA x2
 - USB 1.1
 - PS/2
 - Dock connector
Possible upgrades: Memory
Additional peripherals:   

The history of my unit can be discovered. First, it had a promising military career: It has been bought and used in U.S. Navy in flight/mission planning, mapping and inventory management. From this usage it has a nice, although fatigued, sticker reading "N-PFPS". What is this? According to 2002 US Navy document, N-PFPS is a "the Navy-Marine Corps standard flight planning system that combines certified fuel performance, National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) charts, and a PC-based, intuitive user-interface presentation tool (FalconView) to interface flight and mission planning". Then we know what it was used for. With this software it is possible to plan a mission, with flight locations, alternative paths, possible obstacles or regions in which extended caution is needed and even track fuel or parts usage.
It was probably scrapped from inventory and sold, in Poland in 2000-2007 lots of small businesses bought scrapped stuff from EU and USA and sold refurbished.
Next is an unknown episode, which left trace only in form of a small piece of paper I found inside with the Polish auction number and name of some photographer. Most of auctions from these times got removed, so I don't know was it bought by him or sold, but some way it ended in a service as parts source. After the service shut down, their spare parts have been sold by a seller in a flea market. That's where I got it.
During its travel, it has been quite well sanitized so there was no hard disk drive nor its cable. Fortunately, an ordinary 44F-44F ribbon cable works if plugged from pin 1.
An interesting story is about this PFPS software package, especially about its mapping/visualization component called FalconView. Around 2009 some parts of this component have been released as open source, probably even releasing versions 4.0 - 4.3 with some sample data and then ... it just disappeared. Totally. Its website started to point to an article about commercial and open versions, and it looks like this does not work either. What's strange, there are even no forks.

Contents: Starting Disassembly CMOS battery, setup Drivers Links


Starting, setup

Press F1 at boot to enter Setup. Remember that there are numerous problems with it which will be considered later, if you encounter password for "Supervisor Setup" or settings reset options, proceed to disassembly and CMOS battery replacement. It is especially important that you have a fresh CMOS battery (CR2032) inside if you plan to use the notebook.
Most devices work out-of-the-box if Windows 98SE is installed. However, some hacks are necessary as by default BIOS after total reset disables some devices and cannot enable them without external intervention.

RAM upgrade
Quite standard for its time. A 3.3V 144-pin EDO SODIMM works well, tested at 64MB. According to manual 60/70ns will work.

Hard disk ribbon cable
A standard 1-to-1female-female 44-pin ribbon can be used. The first pin of hard drive is near the separate block of 4 pins for Master/Slave selection. In CF35, you have to connect 44-pin ribbon starting from the last pins, so start plugging from the rear side of notebook, the hard disk has then its 4-pin block in front. If you don't have caddy, use some isolation to avoid metal casing touching mainboard.





This disassembly procedure is for replacing CMOS battery. It is then described up to removing mainboard:
0. Remove memory, hard drive, battery, any PCMCIA cards.
1. Keyboard: Pry the upper latches and free the keyboard from it. Mind a single pair of side latches.
2. Slide the keyboard from the front (touchpad side) to the rear to finally unlock it. Do not lift it too much, rather open back towards you.
3. Disconnect two ribbon cables, then remove keyboard.
4. Now you have a general access to connectors. Remove touchpad connector and speaker connector.
5. Remove all screws in the bottom. One is covered by the rubber part in the center. Remove memory door too and a small screw in the corner. Remove two smaller screws near battery.
6. Gently pry the front (touchpad) part of casing on the join to remove the top part. Slowly go towards the hinges.
7. If you are near hinges, open the LCD 180 degrees, meanwhile unlocking the rear. Remove the part with touchpad.
8. Disconnect the smaller cable and larger multi-conductor cable. Do not pull its wires, lift the plug with a small screwdriver.
9. Remove two screws keeping hinges in place.
10. Lift the LCD.
11. Remove two screws in the rear part of mainboard. It is not needed to unplug auxiliary connectors board, it will go with chassis.
11. Slowly raise the mainboard from front to rear, finally sliding it from the rear towards you. WARNING: Watch the power switch! It's easy to break it.
12. The CMOS battery is in the bottom, it is a CR2032 in solderable form. Desolder or replace.

Non-standard CMOS battery replacement
OK, doing this circus every time to replace a battery is not a nice idea. How about locating it right under keyboard? Yes, it is possible. No, you should not locate it in a cavity on the top-left side of fan as it needs some air there. Let's go:
1. Solder one thin, but insulated wire into battery's "+" (closer to the edge).
2. Pass this wire through some cuts in PCB. There are technical cuts on the edge near main battery connector.
3. Reassemble until keyboard part is reached. Place the CR2032 socket in some more accessible place under keyboard. My choice was under flat +-like plastic part.
4. The "-" of the battery goes to ground. There is a comfortable soldering area near LCD connector. Do not connect to plastic metallization.

What should be done after replacing the battery:
1. Download KillCMOS.
2. Boot to DOS.
3. Run it. Warning: Clears CMOS without any warning and reboots.
Why? This computer has a peculiar security "feature". It sets the (probably) random supervisor password when the battery dies. This is the only way to clear it. Additionally, all values get default, unfortunately.

So after making all CMOS values default guess what happened to USB setting? Yes, it is disabled. And do we have an option to enable it in Setup? No, they forgot another setting. So, launch the system in command prompt mode by pressing F8 at boot (or boot from floppy), the most important thing is to have DIAG35.EXE file. Then run:

DIAG35 /CMOS 4A 80

And reboot. It should detect the USB now.




Drivers and their consequences

Drivers are still (2020) available at Canadian site  (type CF35 - without any "-") and they are downloadable. Older drivers are available at Panasonic FTP.
Windows 98 does not need any drivers, Yamaha sound chip will work out of the box, NeoMagic graphics will give its 800x600x16 in LCD.
The driver disk 2 for Mk3 CF35 available at Panasonic Canada site is bad. It does not even decompress into single floppy because it has remains of disk 1 too. It has to look this way:

A:\ (main directory)
A:\COMMAND.COM (may contain other bootable distribution-specific files, but you are tight in disk space!)
A:\SOUND (directory)
A:\SOUND\VSGM.VXD (1333986 bytes)

And that's all with it!
I have no idea how should I use the Setup disk to make hibernation work. The hibernation based on partition tends to work only with Win95 and hags 98 sometimes so I haven't tried this, but on the First Aid disk there are two undocumented tools for it, probably one for making partition and second for adding initial code also present in .BIN file.
Generally avoid their "restoring routine" as it blindly pushes files into different directories. Better copy these files manually and install drivers.

In Win9x, copy OEMLOGO.BMP and OEMINFO.INI to C:\Windows\System to get a nice Panasonic logo in "About" box. These files are accessible in their "Tools" disk or here.




Links: - type CF35 - without any "-" - for drivers. - A Review. - CF-25 Information page - System information