HP Handheld SIG News | February, 2000

The 2000 Winter Consumer Electronics Show

Another CES has come and gone, and both video and audio introductions highlighted this show. In the video world, more and more manufacturers and making HDTV-ready monitors available, and prices have begun to slowly decrease. The majority of the offerings still consist of rear-projection TVs, ranging from 40 to 70 inches, but the number of direct-view CRT models from 34 to 38 inches have increased. Also, since Sony started selling plateglass-flat ("FD Trinitron Wega") sets last year, the other Japanese makers all jumped to attention. Flat sets from Sharp, JVC, Panasonic and others were all prominently shown at CES.

Digital monitors continue to proliferate, with line doublers and other resolution- enhancing devices out there. For instance, two manufacturers are now offering DVD video players with built-in line doubling to produce 480-progressive-line output versus the traditional interlaced (frame with odd-lines followed by frame with even lines every 60th of a second) picture. At the high end, despite the top-end HDTV specification calling for a 1080-line interlaced picture, Farouja Labs is now offering a video scaling device which will convert even this to a 1080-progressive picture, with stunning results. Of course in order to see the difference, you would need a very expensive front-projection system and large screen on your wall. We're talking in the $80K range, all told.

The audio world was rocked in the past several months by the proliferation of personal solid-state audio players compatible with MPEG-1 Layer-3 ("MP3") audio format, and even more have appeared now. Additionally, a handful of manufacturers have begun showing CD players which will play personally recorded CD-R disks with MP3 audio files on them. These will no-doubt be in the tabletop, portable and even car in-dash versions very soon. To be able to carry 12 hours of music per CD disk is extremely appetizing, especially when the player does not have to be in one's computer. One device which caught my attention in the middle of last year (and was shown at CES) is MPEG Car, an in-dash combination FM tuner and MP3 player which contains a hard drive to store hundreds of hours of music. The unit pulls out of the dash and has both RS-232 and USB ports for transfer of files from the PC via supplied cable(s). I purchased on of these boxes with a 20-gig drive in it last November and have been enjoying hundreds of CDs worth of tunes in my car.

The handheld world did not see any significant announcements at CES. Neither TI nor HP showed handhelds at all, and the others continued to show their Windows CE-based units. Casio's latest algebraic/graphing calculator, the Algebra FX-2.0 was there, but this box seems to be fairly similar to the TI-89 in capability.

HP49G 32-level Grayscale Capability Devised

It seems that all the exciting handheld features are invented by the users, and this is no exception. Joel Bourquard came up with a method for the HP49 to display graphic objects with up to 32 levels of gray with very little flicker. The effect is stunning, and allows extremely viewable images to be displayed. His work also includes software for converting standard images to this format for use on the calculator. Joseph Horn created a couple of dozen sample images for demonstration, and they look great. The software is available for download from Eric Rechlin's website, located at http://www.hpcalc.org/hp49/graphics/grayscale on the web.

Latest HP49G Beta O.S. Version and Documentation Available

The latest beta version of the HP49 operating system is now version 1.17-7 with a handful bug fixes. Check this out at HP's web site at http://www.hp.com/calculators/graphing/rom/index.html. In addition, the latest HP49 documentation, consisting of the Users Guide and Advanced Users Guide may be downloaded at http://www.hp.com/calculators/techsupport/graphing/49g_useguide/ on the web. Some of these files have been updated in the past few months.