Philadelphia Area HP Handheld Club Meeting

Wednesday, January 19, 1994 - Drexel University

Winter Consumer Electronics Show Report

Las Vegas was interesting as usual. The CES was pretty crowded with the tally published in TWICE's daily magazine issue for the final day mentioning that over 82,000 had attended. I ended up "collecting" 70 pounds of literature and magazines and shipped it home via UPS on the last day. If you heard Richard Nelson's recent EduCalc Newsline (714-582-3976) messages, you'd know that the "big four" showed very little new stuff. HP's booth was all faxes, scanners and printers with not a hint of Corvallis gear (which meant that there were no handhelds or palmtops to be found). TI had virtually no new handhelds of interest, and their plug-in analog data sampling device for the TI-8X series handhelds (which was mentioned in the newsline) was not shown prominently - in fact, I never saw it.

Casio has a new FX-9700 graphing top-of-the-line machine which has a slightly wider LCD (8 by 21 instead of 8 by 16) than its predecessors, and the person in the booth was promoting its new capability to produce two graphic plots side by side. Casio also showed a line of 3 or 4 new watches which all contain universal remote controls for TV, VCR,etc. (Last year there was only one model.) They also now have a kid's clashell-case organizer with the remote as well. The transmitting range on these things is supposed to be 25 feet. The other new feature in Casio watches that seems to be their latest push is electronic compass capability, and there was one there that caught my eye with a compass, altimeter, barometer and thermometer.

Sharp really had no new products to speak of, either in the calculator, organizer or video area. They pushed their "Viewcam" camcorders (of which there are now around 4 models) which replace the small viewfinders with 3-inch or 4-inch color LCDs. These have been around for a year now.

Franklin was highlighting their one-year-old DBS-2 "Digital Book System" again, and showed dozens of existing and planned cartridges. The box holds two plug-in cartridges at once, each which holds up to 25 meg of data-compressed information. They also showed a new version called the DBS-3 which is the size of their larger electronic encyclopedia, dictionary and bible devices and has large LCD and slots for THREE plug-ins in the back. Both the DBS-2 and DBS-3 devices have earphone/headphone jacks for cartridges which produce sound as well as data retrieval.

Electronic "Cone of Silence"?

A fairly new company called Noise Cancellation Technologies (which recently produced an electronic car muffler if I remember correctly) showed a personal set of headphones which has a small box connected to it containing battery pack, electronics and microphone. When you put these over your ears in the noisy CES and turned it on, a few seconds later the background noise diminished significantly (perhaps as much as 10-20 decibels). The unit also has a jack to pipe in music from a stereo which would not be affected by the noise suppression circuitry. They are promoting this device for use in noisy environments such as while running a vacuum or lawn mower. Talking can take place while the headphones are worn with no problems. The show special price was $99. with a regular price around $149 (if I remember correctly).

On to Video and Audio

In the video world, Goldstar and Go Video (and perhaps one other company as well) were showing prototypes of dual-deck VCR's with 8 mm format on one side and VHS on the other. This, I think, will be a really successful product with all the 8 mm camcorders out there and most of those folks not crazy (like me) to purchase Sony tabletop 8 mm and Hi-8 format VCRs for the home. Although Goldstar's box will have the 8 mm side be playback only, the higher-powered Go Video unit not only allowed record and playback from either deck but provided Hi-8 format on the 8 mm side. (Why the VHS side was not planned to be S-VHS puzzled me and when I asked, the exhibitor smiled and said that this question was being asked constantly. The VHS side will have hi-fi audio capability, however.)

Sony devoted it's room exclusively to promoting MiniDisc products, including a whole new (second generation) line of player/recorders. The new handheld ones are smaller than an audio cassette box and really fit into a shirt pocket with ease. These are accompanied by 2-1/2 hour Lithium-ion rechargable battery packs, just slightly larger than a single AA battery. They also showed a regular "DIN"-sized in-dash car MiniDisc unit which is a 4-disc changer. A working unit with the top off revealed a six-inch or so wide turntable which held up to 4 discs and rotated around to play them. (I shot video tape of most of this soon as I get the tapes edited, I'll make it available to the group - totalling around 4 hours including the users' meeting.)

In the full-sized compact disc world, the larger disk changers are getting more and more popular (which I think is great), with at least four companies now producing them to hold 24 or more discs. Fisher introduced their "Studio24" 24-disk changer last year along with Sony's 100-disc unit (with a list price of $1200. and commonly selling for $999 or so). This year, a few more companies joined the bunch, including two eye-opening units from Pioneer. They have a 50-disc changer for their mini-component line and it's really physically small and LISTS for only $499., plus a regular-sized 100-disc changer which LISTS for only $599.00. These should do very well in the marketplace, I think. On the high end, Nakamichi showed a 7-disc changer in a full-sized tabletop box. Still, Alpine and also JVC now have 3-disc car in-dish CD units.

Lots of Computer Companies

In the computer world, a great deal of exhibitors were there, including Apple, IBM, Compaq Toshiba and even Intel. Most of the booths highlighted multimedia-based systems, with Intel promoting the Pentium-based systems in general and showing off units from around ten different manufacturers. In addition, there must have been at least twenty other companies showing off CD-ROM gear or software. The Newton was there at Apple, with some additional software (as well as the Zoomer being shown at Casio's booth), but no new models. (Psion also exhibited at CES, but highlighted the existing model 3a organizer.) In actuality, the Motorola booth had some exciting handheld-based stuff, including pager and cellular modem modules for both Newton and Zoomer.

Motorola also had the HP100LX there with the cradle. In the video game area, it seems that all the major players were either introducing new systems or showing prototypes of new systems based on alliances with computer companies. For instance, Atari showed (and now is shipping) its new "Jaguar" 64-bit game machine and Nintendo showed early software prototypes of its "Reality" system which will be built around Silicon Graphics hardware. Panasonic and others in the 3DO consortium were showing off new game software based on the 3DO box.

Las Vegas HP Users' Meeting at Denny's

The users meeting was held on Saturday, Jan 8th at the same Denny's as last year. We met at 7 PM, ate dinner and started the meeting around 9 o'clock. Eleven people showed up and none were vendors, but Henry Horn and his wife attended (like last year). Others included RJN, Joe Horn, John Hansen, Alan Goldberg and Karl Volkmar. Richard reviewed the CES and talked some about HP and where things seem to be going in the scientific calculator world. Joe Horn introduced Goodies Disk 9 and distributed copies as well as printed material. He also did some nice demos with the new InVision overhead display for the HP48GX. There was talk about perhaps as many as three different "flavors" of the HP100LX being released in 1994, including a 2-meg-RAM version. No dates were mentioned, and the other versions supposedly are rumored to simply have different combinations of ROM-based applications inside. None of them include fancy math packages such as Derive, however. It was mentioned that some new '100LX pricing structure would be coming down the pike which would eventually cause it to be cheaper than the 95LX and thus would "kill" the 95. This might even allow EduCalc to make some profit on the 100 as well.

Philly HP48 Programming Class

With some interest mentioned by a handful of people, the HP Handheld SIG shall be starting an HP48 introductory programming class with the upcoming Saturday at Drexel. We will meet each month at 11AM in Matheson 306 (that's in our regular room but two hours earlier than our regular meeting) and attempt to progress through the RPL programming language. The notes from EduCalc's Friday-evening programming classes probably will be a good guide on which we can base our discussions. So, if any HP48 users are out there who never got around to really learn how to program the beast, this will be an opportunity to get in on the ground floor.

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