Philadelphia Area HP Handheld Club Meeting

Wed. Jan 25, 1995 - Drexel University

HP Announces Price Reductions

As of January 1st, Hewlett-Packard announced price reductions on the HP12C business calculator and the HP48G and GX scientific calculators. For HP48 users, the net result is an approximate reduction in price of 25 percent. For instance, Service Merchandise's new prices for the 48G and GX are around $99. and $199. respectively. This move was a direct result of the Singapore Division's goal of making HP pricing more palatable for the main-stream student market.

New Low-End HP Graphics Calc on the Horizon

Several sources tell us that a new student graphics calculator will be announced by HP in the next few months. Rumors say it is an RPL-language machine such as the HP48, but lower-powered than the 48G. If the price of this beast falls below 100 dollars, then it should impact sales of the venerable HP42S (which uses traditional 4-level RPN logic). The only other known feature of this unit is that it will connect to a new classroom-style overhead display device for teaching purposes.

Winter CES 1995 Report

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (running Jan 6-9) was interesting as usual. The show is so large now (with over a million square feet of exhibits spanning five locations) that 4 days is hardly enough time to see it all in depth. One overall feeling gained from this show was the continual attempts at merging the PC, TV and telephone into a single device. AT&T showed the first of what should be an eventual parade of so-called TV "set-top boxes", which can not only enable cable and pay- per-view television watching, but can answer phonecalls, store voice and electronic mail, pay bills with interactive banking services and a host of other two-way activities. Several other companies are said to be readying such devices in the next year or so. Both Casio and Sharp demonstrated still-video-over-the-phone equipment; Casio's being a computer-monitor- top box which transmits still frames from its camera every 3.5 seconds while Sharp's was a "video modem" which their Viewcam camcorder could utilize to transfer live or taped still images over phone lines to another video modem on the receiving end. A new company called Play Inc. showed off their "Snappy" still video capture board for PCs. This device, which looks like a small gender-changer plugged into the PC parallel port, accepts an RCA-plug style video input from a video source and captures video stills into a dizzying 1500-by-1000 picture resolution by interpolating the incoming analog data. The Snappy comes with software and costs only $199.

On the PDA front, Motorola (with its "Marco"), Panasonic (with its "Personal Electronic Communicator") and Sharp (with its "Zaurus") showed off new handheld devices to compete with the Newton, Zoomer and HP LX models. Prices are still in the 600 to 700-dollar range, and the general feeling is that these are too high to catch on in a big way with the public. It is still rumored that Hewlett-Packard will show off a PDA of its own this year with Geoworks, touch-screen and keyboard for only around $300. One of these days, someone will get it right.

In the calculator world, two units were discussed in print, but no prototypes were shown. First, Texas Instruments described in their press kit a new TI-80 low-end graphing calculator which is aimed at middle-school students. Although the list price is to be $110., the street price was expected to be around $60-70. Casio, also showed a new model on paper only. This is the CFX-9800G, a top-of-the-line graphing unit with a unique color LCD screen. This screen is shown in their brochure to be able to do plots or text in either red, green or blue (with no mixing of colors), so it is assumed that it may actually be three glass LCD's sandwiched on top of each other. Other than the RGB screen, no new features appeared in the documentation to differentiate it from Casio's previous flagship product, the FX-9700G. Hewlett-Packard's CES booth was fairly quiet, with the usual rundown of existing handhelds, palmtops and other things.

Another place where one usually sees innovation is at the Sony booth, and this CES was no exception. Called "Defining the Digital Future", the booth showed off several new goodies which one should see in the stores in both the near and not-quite-near future. Three units which are currently available include (1) the MD-Data portable computer disk drive utilizing minidiscs as removable, rewriteable optical 140-meg platters; (2) a new CD-ROM Discman portable computer drive which also plays Audio CDs; and (3) the second generation NT-2 digital voice recorder utilizing Sony's new "non-tracking" digital tapes which are the size of large postage stamps and have a recording capacity of up to two hours.

Stretching slightly farther out into the future, Sony also showed two new digital video products: The first is a prototype of their new proposed Digital Video Disc (DVD) player, which plays CD-sized disks containing 3.8 gigabytes, or 5 times a regular CD disk. These disks will be able to hold up to 135 minutes of high-quality digital video and sound on a single side, thus virtually replacing the larger 12-inch videodiscs. The other device was the first prototype videocassette player for the upcoming Digital Video Cassette tape standard which has been agreed upon by just about all the current VCR manufacturers. These new digital VCRs are to support current standard as well as the upcoming high-definition TV standards.

The Annual HP Users' Meeting

Our Annual Winter CES HP Users' Meeting at Dennys was sparsely attended, as only out-of-towners showed up this year. At least a half dozen local Las Vegas regulars were no-shows, much to our surprise. Nevertheless, we had an enjoyable evening. Paul Hubbert from the Chicago CHIP group started off the night talking about laser and ink-jet printers, comparing their various attributes across a handful of brands, such as HP, Epson and Canon. Next, Richard Nelson spoke on various handheld-related issues. Finally, Joseph Horn did some demonstrations of recent acquisitions of HP48 public-domain software which should be appearing on his next HP48 "Goodies" Disk, number ten. Due to the cancellation of the 1995 Spring/Summer CES which was to be in Philly in May, the next "official" HP Users get-together will probably not be until the HP Handheld Users' Conference in early August in Minnesota, sponsored by Craig Finseth.

Dutch PROMPT Conference Materials are Here

As promised, the PROMPT group's leader, Gerlof Donga shipped to me a copy of the proceedings from last October's two-day HP conference, along with the PAL-format videotapes from the event. As soon as I can convert these tapes to American NTSC format, copies will be offered to whomever is interested. Stay tuned.

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