Philadelphia Area HP Handheld Club Meeting

Tuesday, February 5th, 1996 - Drexel University

The 1996 Winter CES

The 1996 Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show came and went this past January and apparently was not the eye-opener of past years. I had to miss this show (due to the birth of our son Ben on 12/29), but friends who did make the trip said that news in handhelds was few and far between. Sharp Electronics showed some new Zaurus organizer models with a built-in spreadsheet function, Texas Instruments announced the TI-83 graphics calculator (comprising a TI-82 with some financial functions added), and Hewlett Packard announced nothing new in calculators, palmtops or organizers. (No word yet on Casio's offerings.)

The "latest big thing" at CES was digital video, presented in the two latest versions: digital CD-sized videodisc (DVD) and digital videotape (DV). Now that the two competing groups of manufacturers have agreed upon a common format, the DVD plans will go forward. Look for 5-inch discs with 130-minute (or higher) capacities for full-motion video (exceeding current 12-inch laserdiscs) and CD-quality audio appearing along with their players by late this year. The digital videotape format, already standardized by two dozen video companies, has been on the market now for a few months, and is getting significant attention in the press. Already Sony, Panasonic, JVC and Sharp have camcorders which use this new quarter-inch tape which produces 500-line resolution video (compared to 260 or 400 lines for VHS/8mm or S-VHS/Hi-8 formats respectively) and digital audio. Two tape cartridge sizes will be made: a small 60-minute capacity tape for the camcorders and a larger, 270-minute tape for the VCR units (which will also accept the small tapes). The DV format also conforms to the 1349 "Firewire" standard which will allow computer interfacing and digital editing.

Omnigo Early Feedback

The "early adopters" which have purchased the new HP Omnigo 100 organizer have begun to post their opinions on the comp.sys.handhelds and comp.sys.palmtops Usenet newsgroups. Generally, the opinions have been favorable. The people who don't seem to like the unit are those who already use HP 100LX or HP 200LX palmtop PCs, which contain much larger screens, infra red comms and offer more internal RAM memory. Considering that the Omnigo 100 is a whole new product category, geared more toward the user moving up from a cheaper Japanese organizer (and not over from an LX), this makes sense. At $349., the Omnigo is a good alternative to the Sharp Zaurus models (which cost at least $100. more) and the higher-end Casio BOSS models.

In each Omnigo box was an offer for a free copy of Intuit's Pocket Quicken for the GeoWorks operating system. It comes on floppy, requiring some way to be downloaded to the unit. The simple way is to use the HP Connectivity Kit costing around a hundred bucks, which contains software plus a PC-to-Omnigo cable. Some users out there with PCMCIA memory cards have managed to transfer the Quicken software by using a PC Card drive to load the card from the floppy, and then plugging this card into the slot on the Omnigo. Additional magic in manipulating the card data under GeoWorks was also involved.

Those waiting impatiently for the OTHER Omnigo product, the model 700 (which is a 200LX + Nokia cellphone attachment), will seemingly have to wait some more. The only word lately on this unit's introduction anywhere other than Europe, where the Glogal System for Mobile communication (GSM) digital cellular standard has taken hold, is "later this year". Perhaps HP will have to come up with some sort of flexible architecture so the various different digital cellular formats may be utilized here in the United States with the Omnigo 700.

HP48 Emulators Proliferate

Over the past year or so, there have been many discussions over the possibility of generating an HP48GX emulator program to run on personal computers. A year or so ago, such a program was developed in the C language to run on Unix-based platforms. Various people attempted to port it over to PCs and recently there have been reports of some success. These emulators provide access to the machine-code level of the calculator and allow full software development on the PC prior to porting the code directly to the calculator (or a plug-in card) for portable use. The latest WWW site claiming to have DOS and Windows-based emulator versions ready for download is (as of late January). One aspect of the emulators is that they require an image of the HP48GX's actual operating system code on which to operate. Hackers have also come up with a method by which the calculator may dump its own 512K-byte ROM contents over a cable to a computer for use this way. At in /pub/hp48g/uploads it is claimed that a file explaining the ROM dump may be found. I will be experimenting with these items in the coming weeks and will report back whatever successes or failures I encounter along the way.

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