Philadelphia Area HP Handheld Club Meeting
December 4th, 1996 - Drexel University
MS Windows CE Machines Announced
At and just before COMDEX in Las Vegas, seven companies announced handheld computers (dubbed handheld PCs", or HPCs) which support the Microsoft Windows CE ("Consumer Electronics") operating system. This OS, formerly known as Pegasus, runs on hardware which includes a RISC CPU Chip, clamshell case with QWERTY keyboard and touch-screen LCD (usually back-lit), at least 2 megs of RAM, single PC type-II card slot, two-way infrared port, serial port, speaker, and at least 3 megs of ROM. So far, we have learned that two CPU chips have been chosen for the initial batch of machines: these are the Hitachi SH-3 and the NEC VR4101. See below for web sites which reference the various manufacturers of the CPUs and the machines themselves.
Built-in standard applications include subset versions of Microsoft's more popular software packages, namely Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, Internet Explorer, plus Inbox (email), Information Manager (PIM), a calculator and on-line help. The user interface resembles Windows 95. Apparently, each company will be developing its own add-on packages as well as the expected third-party support.
One wonders how each of the many HPC manufacturers will be able to differentiate themselves from each other in the marketplace. Some of the answers are beginning to come to light. For instance, it's been said that Compaq's Companion HPC will have sockets for upgrading the internal ROM chips, should the need arise. Philips' Velo contains a built-in low-power modem in some configurations. While all other units' LCD consists of a 480 by 240 dot matrix with 4 levels of gray, Hewlett-Packard has announced that its offerings will sport a larger, 640 by 240 half-VGA screen for wider representations of text, spreadsheets, etc. (HP's announcements indicate that it's machines will not be offered for sale until mid-1997.) In addition, at least one version from HP will offer support for Compact Flash plug-in cards, as well as full-sized PCMCIA cards. It is certain that additional facts will be revealed in the coming weeks. The Casio Cassiopeia is already on the store shelves at $499 for the 2-meg RAM model and $599 for the 4-meg unit. Initial opinions from individuals posting on Usenet News range all the way from disappointment to delight.
World Wide Web sites for the major HPC/Windows CE players:
|Microsoft Win CE site:||http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsce/default.asp|
|Hitachi SH-3 CPU site:||http://www.halsp.hitachi.com/news/html/n13pr007.htm|
|NEC VR4101 CPU :||See NEC, below|
|HP press release:||http://hpcc998.external.hp.com:80/pressrel/nov96/18nov96b.htm|
|LG Electronics HPC:||http://www.lge.co.kr/hpc/index.html|
|NEC Mobile Pro:||http://www.nec.com/company/RecentPR/961118aa.html|
Don't Count Apple Out
One recently-announced PDA which shouldn't be discounted is Apple's latest Newton model, the Message Pad 2000. This slightly-larger-than-before unit has a 480-by-320 back-lit touch-screen LCD with 16 levels of gray, 5 meg of RAM, 8 meg of ROM, runs the updated Newton 2.1 Operating System with improved handwriting recognition, contains TWO PC card slots, plus microphone and speaker for digital-audio message recording/playback, infrared and serial I/O and more. But the big news is that the CPU is the StrongARM RISC chip running at a whopping 162 Mhz. Apple claims that this baby will run at least ten times as fast as any Newton predecessor. It's possible that the MP2000 may have leapfrogged entirely over the whole WinCE bunch. Check out the Message Pad 2000 at http://www.newton.apple.com/newton/productinfo/MP2000.html on the web.
New HP48 Emulator for Windows 95
Just recently, a 17-year-old French student by the name of Sebastien Carlier posted a new HP48 emulator which runs on PCs under Win 95. I have yet to download the shareware version of this program from his web site at http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/5948/, but from the looks of it, he may have a winner. This version displays the entire calculator keyboard on the PC screen, allowing mouse-clicking on the keys. There is fast uploading to and downloading from the PC, it runs 2.5 times as fast as the DOS-based EMU48 emulator, allows keyboard customization and display copying to the clipboard for document illustration. I'm sure, many people will be trying this one out, and feedback is sure to follow.
HPShell - A Freeware HP48 Development Environment
Still another hotshot HP48 user from Germany, Tom Wellige, has developed an updated PC-based development environment for the HP48. Many features expand beyond HP's original Program Development Link software. Some of these include character translation into HP48 font, uploads directly to a PC editor window, freely defineable buttonbar and hotkeys, macro generation capabilities, character and command-table reference for quick insertion into programs and much more. Check this out at http://www.kst.dit.ie/people/twellige/hps.html on the web.
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