Philadelphia Area HP Handheld Club Meeting | Thursday, February 25, 1999
Hints of a New HP Handheld
Just recently on the comp.sys.hp48 Usenet newsgroup, Jean-Yves Avenard of the HP Australian Calculator Organization started responding to users' messages with little hints of a new calculator to come. Following a user's comparison between the HP48GX and the newly-released TI89, Jean-Yves questioned whether it made sense to compare a new TI machine with a years-old HP unit. He completed the message indicating that fairly soon, this comparison won't have to be made. In response to another's posting, discussing the 2400-baud limitation of the HP48's infrared I/O, Jean-Yves followed with something like "...and soon, a hundred times as fast." Perhaps something interesting is coming this year. (These postings appear later in this handout.) There is still a rumbling about another HP calculator conference to be held in late summer in the Pacific Northwest, as well as a Dutch conference in late September. Perhaps there will be something to shout about at these gatherings.
Dave Hicks of WWW HP Calculator Museum Beats Me to the Punch
Just recently, Dave Hicks, who maintains the fabulous web site called the HP Calculator Museum (at www.hpmuseum.org) , made a Usenet posting, indicating that he is now offering a 2-CD set containing not only the full contents of his site, but also the scanned pages of just about every old HP calculator. This appeared as a surprise since I had begun doing the same effort myself, upon recently having received the go-ahead from the Australians to do so. Dave indicated in email to me that he started this effort prior to the HP conference last August in Vancouver, where I announced my intentions to attempt to scan the manuals as my next project. In any case, he is still missing some materials which I may be able to provide for him.
Texas Instruments Beefs Up the TI-83
A couple of days ago, I was perusing the TI calculator web pages and noticed something new - there is now a TI-83 Plus, which incorporates 160K bytes of flash memory to the original TI-83 calculator. The pages state that up to ten applications may be developed and archived to the flash memory for recall and use later.
Is Hewlett-Packard Shooting Itself In The Foot (Again)?
A few weeks ago, Jim Lawson contacted me to mention a customer who recently informed him that he was able to purchase an HP calculator direct from Hewlett-Packard via an on-line purchase from the HP calculator web site (located at http://www.hp.com/calculators). I checked this out and not only confirmed it to be true, but found that HP's direct-sale prices were extremely discounted. Some are lower than Jim can charge in order to make a respectable profit. It has been around twenty or so years since HP did direct calculator sales, and in those days, there weren't any retailers. Now, they appear to be trying to compete with their own dealers, which could be considered a suicidal tactic. I have emailed Jeff Blough (director of sales and marketing for U.S. calculator operations), asking him about this practice and await an explanation.
The 1999 Winter Consumer Electronics Show
The latest Las Vegas CES brought some expected and some unexpected items to the show floor. As expected, high-definition TV in the form of projection, CRT and plasma and LCD flat-panels. The vast majority of the screens were the projection type, ranging from 6 thousand (Zenith) to 40 thousand dollars (Runco). Unless you buy one form the high-end, you probably won't get a picture comparable to those of the direct-view CRT type, of which Sony and RCA/ProScan showed. All of the above sets are compatible with the eighteen digital formats topping out at "1080i" - providing a 1920-by-1080-pixel interlaced display. On the other hand, the flat-panel sets do not quite yet have enough pixels to handle the top resolutions, requiring down-conversion to 1280-by-720 pixels. Perhaps when the average price for HDTV falls below a couple of thousand dollars, we'll all give some consideration to stepping up to this amazing format.
Everywhere did one not only find HDTV, but also DVD. Since the price of the movie players has slipped below $300., it looks like it has become a winner. With features of DVD meeting and even surpassing both videotape (playback) and laserdisk, plus computer compatibility, we should see this medium for a number of years to come. The step-cousin offshoot format called DIVX (which allows time-limited pay-per-view), is still alive but nobody knows how long it will last. Also, the newly-finalized audio-only DVD format should allow compact disks to eventually dovetail into something enabling higher sampling rates, wider bit widths and as many as six-channel sound.
One TV doo-dad which looks promising is a device called RePlay. This hard-disk-based video recorder will save a show while you are playing back either another one or the beginning of the one you are currently recording. It downloads information over your phone line and then allows the user to select shows to tape from the on-screen directory. The three versions of RePlay have capacities ranging from 6 to 28 hours of television.
In the handheld world, much of the news centered around things which weren't calculators or computers. For instance, Philips promoted its new touchscreen-based Pronto learning remote control, which may be programmed via computer. A handful of companies showed off first-generation solid-state handheld music players which download MPEG-1 layer-3 ("mp3") audio files from a computer and play them back through headphones. One (called "Clickman") even allows music files to be loaded via the new Iomega "Click" 40-megabyte 2-inch disks. IBM showed off working versions of its new "microdrive" 340-meg 1-inch disk drive which fits inside a compact-flash enclosure, and which is destined to be plugged into digital cameras, palmtop computers, PDAs and anywhere else it will fit. Speaking of fitting memory devices into small spaces, Sony started pushing its new memory module dubbed the "Memory Stick" for various applications. You can already find it plugging into Sony camcorders and soon will see it in laptop computers, digital cameras and possibly some music players. Also, the Rocket Ebook will probably be the first of a whole host of handheld LCD-panel-based devices which allows a user to download the text and images of a book and read it anywhere.
Actually, Casio did introduce a new high-end graphing calculator (dubbed CFX-9970G) which has 64K of RAM and includes symbolic algebra for the first time. (See the photo accompanying this article.) There is a computer link but no expansion capability, so it follows TI and Sharp in that limitation. Hewlett-Packard was conspicuously absent at CES, but some of their products were present, such as the Jornada 820 Windows CE laptop and some inkjet printers here and there. Subsequently, HP did announce it first palm-sized PC dubbed the Jornada 420 with the first color LCD for this category. Availabililty may be as soon as March. See further info on the '420 in this handout.
There's always too much at CES to mention in a few paragraphs. This year I shot a couple of hundred digital photos with the Sony FD91 digital camera. I will offer them along with scanned images of much of the CES press releases and printed brochures on a CD for anybody interested.
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