Philadelphia Area HP Handheld Club Meeting
Thursday, January 23, 1992 - 7 PM - Drexel University
1992 Winter CES Report
The 1992 Winter Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas was held on January 9-12 and hosted a record number of exhibitors. Among these were many of the ones we have grown accustomed to visiting to learn what new technologies will be appearing in mainstream products over the next 6 to 12 months. Except for Sony (which has now missed two consecutive CES shows), all the larger players (Panasonic, Sharp, Casio, Samsung, Magnavox, Pioneer, Philips, etc.) were present.
The makers of handheld calculators, computers and small personal information devices had their usual array of showings. This category of the market has not produced a blockbuster product in a while (perhaps since the HP95LX), with this CES only offering incremental advances to the state of the art. Personal organizers have become common in several vendors' lines of products, with a few new software cards and a new mid-line product from Sharp's Wizard series. Casio introduced two devices of interest - a new flagship organizer product, the SF-R10 QWERTY unit with a 10 by 40 LCD screen; and a pager card for existing models which is supposed to have two-way capability.
One of the hottest handheld product categories has been the handheld (or palmtop) computer a la Poqet Computer's unit. Sharp revealed their new PC-3000 palmtop which seems like it will garner a good deal of interest. This machine has 1 meg of RAM, a CGA 25 by 80 LCD screen, type-able keyboard, two card ports, both serial AND parallel ports and weighs around a pound and runs on AA batteries. In addition, Memorex (of all companies) showed their "Commuter computer" palmtop machine which is similar but has only one card port. The list prices were advertised as $699. for the Sharp machine and $599. for the Memorex device. There was talk of a possible one thousand-dollar Memorex unit with a built-in 1.8-inch 20 meg hard drive by the end of the year.
In the scientific calculator category, Texas Instruments' new TI-85 looks like a potential winner with its 110-dollar price tag. This machine has an LCD graphics screen roughly the size of the HP48 and 32K of built-in RAM. A solver, graphics and many other advanced features are included. In addition, its menu/soft key facility is more intelligent than the HP48 with arrows in the display reminding of more key rows, plus display of two levels of depth of menus at the same time. Although hardly anyone saw them, Sharp introduced two new graphing calculators, the EL-9200 and EL-9300 units which have large LCDs as well and are supposed to be priced for students. Apparently, they were removed from the show after day one so they could be shown at another show elsewhere. A Sharp spokesman described these machines at the HP users' meeting on Saturday evening, 1/11/92.
Unfortunately, Hewlett-Packard showed no new products at their booth. They did advertise that January 4th was the 20th anniversary of the HP35's introduction, and ceremoneously shared an HP48-shaped cake and champagne with people at the booth toward the end of the first day of CES. Rumors still persist that there will soon be a 1-meg RAM HP95 and a higher-speed HP48. In addition, the real Jaguar (HP95) followon machine codenamed "Cougar" is supposedly occupying the majority of the HP Corvallis Lab's efforts at the present time. Although we were told that HP also had another software ROM card for the HP48 under beta testing, nothing has showed to this point.
The Las Vegas HP Users' Meeting
At the HP users' meeting, Scott Burke of Sparcom made an appearance especially to show off eight new products. For the HP95LX is a disk drive called "Drive95" which is small and runs on rechargable batteries for 15 hours at a time. In addition, the "Station95" is a docking station that allows the machine to connect to PC,s and other devices. This unit is a plastic shell that Sparcom intends to fill with useful gear in the future (such as disk drive, interfaces, perhaps modem, etc). They are now offering a full-range of RAM cards from 512K to 2 meg in size for the HP95. For the HP48, a handful of new ROM application cards were announced: Physics, Statistics, Solid-State Electronics and SPICE48 circuit simulator cards.
Also, Andy Fu of ACE Technologies talked about their new up-to-2 meg RAM cards for the HP95. The new twist on these is that they are pre-formatted with data compression software so as to appear twice as large to the 95 as their actual capacities. Since 2 meg is the upper limit on memory in a port, this is a sensible solution which avoids bank switching.
Brian Walsh demonstrated some of the features of an HP48 package forthcoming from Brian Maguire which provides System RPL development tools in the palm of the hand. This 128K card will do much to allow HP's advanced development tools for the PC to be go anywhere with the calculator.
The proceedings were videotaped, for those interested.
In other consumer electronics categories, here are some CES highlights:
Digital Compact Cassette (DCC) prototype units seemed to be everywhere. These accept the original analog tapes as well as the new digital ones which will be data-compressed digitized material which "approaches" CD quality. The press says the DCC machines will be in the stores by September along with a rollout of several hundred prerecorded tapes in the format. Of course, there will be blank tapes available (up to 120-minutes) for home recording as well.
A handful of DAT units were still at CES although they seem to be disappearing. In spite of DAT preserving the original uncompressed data and offering sampling rate of 48 KHz (which is higher than CD's 44.1 KHz rate), it's lack of format compatibility will probably cause its demise in the consumer market. (I'm still hooked on DAT, personally.)
Sony's MiniDisc format is still supposed to have an introduction in the 4th quarter of this year. I'm told that TDK had samples of both DCC and MiniDisk blank media in their booth.
Fuji showed their handheld video projector unit which is the size of a VHS tape and projects a color image up to 40 inches across. It did take a rather dark area of their booth to see the image, but this $799. one-pound device should do rather well as an alternative for showing 8mm tapes through cables hooked from camcorder to VCR or TV.
Sony, TDK and Denon have now each announced 150-minute-long 8mm-format videotapes. The longer they get, the more that this format will distance itself from compact VHS (or VHS-C) which is currently limited to 40 minutes per tape in high-speed (high-quality) mode.
In addition to its 3/6/9-hour T-180 super high grade tapes, BASF continues to convey that T-200 (ten-hour) tapes will be available in the U.S. soon.
Go Video, the U.S. company which makes the dual-deck VHS VCR (and seems to be starting to turn a profit) showed in its hospitality suite a new unit which sports 8 mm and VHS format tape wells side by side. This deck will be favorably received from folks who would rather not play back their 8 mm tapes through the camcorder.
Sharp made its first offering in the 8mm mini-compact camcorder with its "Twin-Cam" unit. It actually has two lenses and two CCD imagers - one for wide angle shots and one for regular shooting. These can be electronically switched back and forth as well as superimposed, one image inside the other. In addition, the camera's viewfinder is a color LCD as opposed to the usual miniature monochrome CRT.
Since many companies recognize that High-Definition Television (HDTV) will not be a reality for 5 years or so, they are attempting to produce an intermediate format to tantalize our eyes. This is the wide-screen 16-to-9 aspect ratio standard NTSC-format TV, and units were shown by Sharp and Thomson Electronics (under the RCA name). Thomson also announced intentions to produce wide-screen VCRs and camcorders within a year or so.
Faroudja laboratories has shown a piece of video gear which interpolates in real time the information between the individual lines in television signals and produces a 1050-line picture similar in quality to HDTV. The format has been dubbed "SuperNTSC" and this "Line Doubler" box costs a mere 14 thousand dollars.
A T & T showed a videophone with a 4-inch color LCD which displays still pictures of the caller, changing every few seconds. A little camera lens sits just above the screen.
Casio continued to roll out various LCD watches to do many things such as measure blood pressure, body temperature and more, as well as new models with "databank" capabilities, barometric pressure, altitude and air temperature sensors. The sky's the limit on watch features, it seems.
HP Conference Update
To this day, we have nine prospective speakers at our conference, but only one (Brian Maguire) has actually said he would definitely speak. Brian is developing a 128K HP48 ROM card which provides system RPL development capabilities from the calculator keyboard. (See more descripton above.)
Professor Jim Pool, head of Drexells Math & Computer Science Department, is working to get us Drexells Mandell Theater for our conference activity room. If this can be done, the exhibitors will be just outside the theater in the large foyer area adjacent to the doors. There will also be an additional classroom-sized area for locking up equipment in the evening between conference days. Jim also suggested that we might be able to use some Drexel students to help out during the weekend, and indeed a list of times when help is needed (such as registration, audio-visual setup, etc.) Ed Dunlop has been keeping in contact with the Drexel people to make sure that we're up to date on facilities happenings. In addition, Ed informed us that PACS president Steve Longo okayed the inclusion of a free full-page advertisement for our conference in the PACS DataBus newsletter for each of the next two months. Such an ad will probably have been developed by the time this sheet is in the readers, hands.
John Murphy has volunteered to perform the ambitious task of putting together the conference proceedings. We have a deadline of March 10th for submission of all papers in order to give John a fair shot at doing a respectable job. If any local people wish to speak, please contact me. As always with HP conferences, spekers attend for free.
Mike Minard has volunteered to produce conference attendee identification badges and badge holders. He also is in the process of getting HP's permission to "desktop-publish" the documentation which accompanies the HP48 advanced (system RPL) development tools software for the PC. If he gets the ligo", we will attempt to have enough copies for every conference attendee. Brian Maguire will also be able to use these docs as a guide for his talk on system RPL development.
If anyone knows others who might be interested in attending our conference, please feel free to spread the word. Extra registration forms certainly can be provided for those who need them.
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