Philadelphia Area HP Handheld Club Meeting

Thursday, January 21, 1993 - Drexel University

1993 Winter CES Report

Another winter CES is history and several exciting products were shown for the first time from both new and old exhibitors. The handheld world is growing a new category of product, spearheaded by Apple's (yet unreleased) Newton. Small computing/organizing/communicating devices were shown from IBM and a consortium of Tandy, Casio, GeoWorks and others. The Tandy/Casio unit is codenamed Zoomer and features a no-keyboard device with LCD touchsensitive screen, stylus-driven menuing software, handwriting recognition and two-way cellular communication. Internal hardware is proprietary but supposedly PC compatible. They said intro would be in the Summer with a cost between 600 and a thousand dollars. The IBM unit was based around a Motorola celluar phone and contained an XT compatible computer between the earpiece and microphone. A 640 by 200 backlit touch-sensitive LCD is the primary interface and the unit also has a single PCMCIA card port as well as two batteries. No word was given on estimated cost or intro time frame. The IBM booth exhibited several working units which were demonstrated in a hands-on fashion. The Casio/ Tandy device was demonstrated for the press with a single prototype operating under a video camera with the image projected onto a large screen. Although it was mentioned that Apple was showing a working Newton at the show, all I saw was a non-working prototype under plexiglass at their booth.

Several outfits showed their 1-pound palmtop PC compatible machines like Memorex's Commuter Computer and units from Omron and Lexicomp. Surprisingly, Sharp's PC-3000 and PC-3100 were absent. Then we were told that Sharp had just decided to pull these from the market with no planned replacements. The HP95LX was at the Hewlett-Packard booth (along with the calculator line) but no new HP devices were introduced. They did show working versions of their KittyHawk 1.3-inch 21-megabyte hard disk drive and mentioned that a handful of vendors are slated to be using them this year. The drive is small enough to fit in the old HP41 card reader case or the Motorola pager case which snaps into the HP95 cradle. However it's power comsumption is such that a separate battery pack would be needed for the drive, thus preventing it from appearing in any palmtop applications for now. There was also talk that a 40 meg version would appear very soon.

Most of HP's booth was dedicated to third-party products for the HP48 and HP95 machines. As expected, Sparcom had a large presence. Rumors still persist that at least 2 computers and as many as 2 new calculators will be introduced this year from the Corvallis division. The computers are a same-sized HP95 successor and the much-touted 3-pound 386-based "subnotebook". In the calculator line, now we're hearing that the HP48SX successor will be accompanied by an "HP48S"-type version without card ports as well. The prices of the current units should drop in order to better compete with the TI-81 and TI-85 graphics machines. (TI did not show any new exciting handhelds at CES despite their typically enormous booth.)

Neither Casio nor Sharp had any exciting calculators or computers to speak of. But I got my first hands-on tryout of Sharp's recently-introduced OZ9600 Wizard product with touch-sensitive LCD. The machine is extremely large as organizers go. The user interface is nice, but at $699, I think I'd want something perhaps more compatible with the rest of the universe.

Franklin's new "digital book system" seems to possibly be a wave of the future, with a 3 by 5 inch, $199. base unit holding up to two plug in ROM cartridges. These cartridges allegedly can hold compressed data up to 45 megabytes each and currently range in titles from dictionary, encyclopedia, word games, Physician's Desk Reference, Bible, video movie companion and many others slated to come.Cartridges will range try price from 50 to 130 dollars initially.

The CD-ROM and CD-1 camps are really churning out the hardware and software at an increasing rate, and many companies showed their wares from players to publishing software to new CD titles. Motorola and a new company called 3DO showed new systems which allow full-motion interactive graphics on a CD disk. The Motorola system works with CD-I players to also allow an hour of video on a CD. Many of these boxes now contain new digital signal processing chips and RISC processors to handle all the number crunching.

LCD displays continue to grow in size and capability. At the IBM booth was what they were billing as the second largest commercial LCD panel in the world: a 16-1/2 inch diagonal 1280 by 1024 active-matrix color LCD panel being demonstrated running on a Unix machine. The thing was displaying several windows of animated graphics moving all at the same time and was really impressive. They weren't saying how much the thing costs.

For those who have been keeping up with the latest audio introductions of digital compact cassettes (DCC) and mini discs (MD), there were a host of manufacturers showing hardware and software in both of these new categories. Although it seemed that the DCC players initially will be mostly table-top units, there were a handful of vendors showing off handheld portable mini disc machines, some smaller than the smallest cassette Walkman-type devices. Some of these products are in the stores now and the rest will follow in the coming months.

Kodak is still high on its Photo CD systems and not only showed the first 5-disk photo CD-compatible changer, but already lowered prices on all the players that are currently on the market. Prices range from around 350 to 500 dollars.

The Las Vegas HP Users' Meeting

On Saturday, January 9th, the annual HP users' meeting was held in conjunction with Winter CES. The usual old-timers were there (Richard Nelson, Joe Bell, Joe Horn, John Hansen, Karl Volkmar, Steve Thomas) as well as a handful of more recent handheld addicts. Discussion stayed mainly on highlights of the CES, recent EduCalc products and activities and Hewlett-Packard musings. Joseph Horn announced that he should be wrapping up HP48 Goodies Disk #8 in a few days, as well as being halfway through the next one. Richard Nelson mentioned EduCalc's new "News Line" which now acts like the old PPC Phone Bulletin, delivering messages on new products, activities and club information. The number is 714-582-3976 and takes the listener through a series of messages via a touch-tone menu system. The messages change every Tuesday. I spent some time discussing the HP16C emulator software for the HP48, which Rick Grevelle and I should have ready by the March time frame. We are hoping for it to be appearing in the next EduCalc catalog (#59).

The users' meeting (just over 3 hours) was videotaped along with around a half-hour of glimpses the CES show and will be available shortly.

HandiCalc Lowers Prices

Check out Jim Lawson's new lower prices for HP machines through his HandiCalc business. The prices are now slightly below EduCalcls, so if anyone locally needs HP hardware in a hurry, Jim probably can help out.

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