Philadelphia Area HP Handheld Club Meeting

Wednesday April 28th, 1993 - Drexel University

An Exciting 1993

Apparently all the rumors are indeed true about upcoming machines from Hewlett-Packard. We now have confirmation of two new calculators and at least one new palmtop coming in the first half of 1993. Here are the details:

HP48G/GX Calculators

Back on April 1st, Hewlett-Packard demonstrated a prototype of a new calculator to a mathematics teachers conference in Seattle. This came with the statement that it would be officially presented in early June. In the March 29th issue of HFD Magazine (a home-furnishings/appliance/consumer electronics rag) an article and picture appeared, describing the upcoming HP48GX (for Graphics eXpandable) and HP48G (without card ports) calculators. The article quoted an HP press release, and was apparently printed 8 weeks too early, giving the public a rare "officially sanctioned" advanced look at the machines.

The HP48GX will sell for $350. (same as the SX now) and the HP48G will retail at $165. (which is thirty dollars less than the current HP48S price). Both machines have the exact same physical case, key layout, display, card ports and I/O ports as the originals. In fact, the labelling on the key tops is the same as the S and SX models. However, some of the shifted key functions have been moved and others have been added. Also, we hear that the color scheme may have been changed to a dark blue case (from dark brown) with yellow and turquoise shifted key labels (in place of orange and sky blue).

Internally, a significant amount of enhancements have been made. First and foremost, the CPU speed has been doubled from 2 to 4 megahertz. According to reports from beta testers, the overall throughput increases around fifty percent from the original S/SX units. The amount of ROM inside has been doubled from 256 Kilobytes to 512 K. Although the built-in RAM in the "G" model remains at 32K like the original "S" model, the standard RAM in the "GX" is 128K, or quadruple that of the "SX".

The card ports are supposed to be able to accept any RAM or ROM cards that are currently being sold, however the ports themselves play different roles than before. A RAM card in port number one may be "merged" into a contiguous space with built-in memory, offering up to 256 Kilobytes of RAM for standard usage. (This is actually a slight decrease from the HP48SX's capacity to link up to two 128 K cards with its internal 32K to allow 288 Kilobytes to be merged.) Port two is used exclusively for "bank-switchable" RAM and ROM only, with cards holding up to 32 banks of 128 K each, or 4 megabytes. In fact, the HFD article mentioned that Sparcom would be offering bank-switching RAM cards on the day of calculator introduction, with capacities ranging from 256K (for $199.) to 4 meg (for $1099.).

As far as internal functionality is concerned, the G and GX are a superset of the S and SX. Additionally 3-D plotting has been added, along with the apparent inclusion of as much as the entire HP Solve Equation Library ROM card's contents. We're also told that some alternate methods of input have been added for complex operations (such as plotting) so the user does not have to remember what goes where. With a special key press, a display form apparently pops up, simplifying the entry process. Other details will no doubt be coming out of the woodwork in the next month.

HP100LX Palmtop Computer

A week or so ago, an Australian individual posted an article to one of the electronic bulletin boards on the upcoming HP100LX (codenamed "Cougar"). This is the successor to the HP95LX that has been the topic of speculation since last September's HP Handheld Conference in London. The writer of the article claimed to have just examined a prototype of the new machine and was impressed. The word on the street is that HP will introduce it formally at Spring Comdex in Atlanta at the end of May.

From what we know so far, this unit (like the HP48 successors) comes in the same physical case as the HP95, with some modifications. The LCD display has been changed from the 16-line by 40-character to a full CGA resoution unit at 640 by 200, supporting 25 lines of 80 characters. It is supposedly easier to read than the original as well. In addition, the unit has a 9-pin serial connector. Whether this is a replacement for the 4-wire serial on the existing unit or an additional port is not known. My feeling is that since the snap-on cradle device (which adapts the HP95 to modems, pagers and other peripherals) supports the 4-pin connector, then perhaps the 9-pin connector is in addition to the other one. That would be a good solution to preventing third-party product incompatibility.

The gentleman also mentioned that while Lotus 1-2-3 is still in the product, the number of built-in applications has been doubled to 14, including some sort of data-base software as well as cc:Mail and other sorts of things. The built-in MS-DOS is now version 5.0 and the card port has been upped from PCMCIA version 1.0 to version 2.0. Since the physical case size is unchanged, this probably means that the card port is a thin "type I" port as opposed to the thicker type II and type III versions which could accomodate 1.8-inch card-based disk drives. The price is still unknown, but guesses seem to place it in the 800-dollar range. It will be interesting to see how this unit fares against the "PDA" products from Apple/Sharp (Newton) and Tandy/Casio (Zoomer).

Even More Later On

Still later in 1993, we are supposed to be seeing an HP sub-notebook which is being called the "Omnipoint 300". This may be the product that was codenamed "Lion" as of a few years ago. They are still saying it's a 2-pound box with DOS and Windows in ROM, VGA touch-sensitive screen and Kittyhawk 1.3-inch hard disk drive built in. Any details beyond this would be wild speculation. It should definitely be an interesting Summer for HP enthusiasts.

The HP16C Emulator Takes Off

By the time this article reaches the readers, the HP16C Emulator Library for the HP48SX should be on EduCalc's shelves. Rick Grevelle and I worked on this project steadily over the past twelve months and have finally reached an opportunity to rest a bit. This disk-based or ROM card-based library allows the HP48 to completely emulate the functionality of the HP16C "Computer Scientist" calculator inside the RPL environment. A supplied keyboard overlay allows the library to redefine just about every HP48 key to a function for bit manipulation, base arithmetic and format conversion. The 126-page manual should do justice to explaining the nuances of the system.

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