Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 3rd May 2007 23:26 UTC
Hardware, Embedded Systems It's the original UMPC: Epson's HX-20, announced in 1981 - 25 years before Intel and Microsoft formally launched the ultra-mobile PC category, in April 2006. Epson's machine wasn't the first portable computer - that honour goes to the Osborne 1. But while the Osborne was a beast of a machine, designed more as a desktop you could take from place to place, the HX-20 was a truly a system for computing on the move. So while the HX-20 combined not only a full QWERTY keyboard, a display, storage and even a printer into its 28.4 x 21.3 x 4.4cm casing, but also a rechargeable Ni-Cad battery.
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Tandy TRS-80 m100
by helf on Thu 3rd May 2007 23:51 UTC
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I have a trash-80 model 100 ;) Came out a bit after the HX-20. Its awesome... Get months of use out of 4 AAs ;)

Reply Score: 2

RE: Tandy TRS-80 m100
by Almafeta on Fri 4th May 2007 00:07 UTC in reply to "Tandy TRS-80 m100"
Almafeta Member since:

Wasn't there an article about those things just lately? Apparently, many (not most, but more than a few) m100s are still in use.

Edited 2007-05-04 00:09 UTC

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Tandy TRS-80 m100
by helf on Fri 4th May 2007 01:11 UTC in reply to "RE: Tandy TRS-80 m100"
helf Member since:

I vaguely remember one...

They really are great machines. You cant break them. I think the only units out there that get as good of battery life and are as rugged are the old husky hunters. Those things are military spec! ;)

Here is a slashdot posting from a few years back about trs-80s still in use.

some of the comments have some interesting info as well.

Club 100 has a lot of cool information about them too.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Tandy TRS-80 m100
by bhhenry on Fri 4th May 2007 01:15 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Tandy TRS-80 m100"
bhhenry Member since:

A professor of mine had one of these just to do writing on the go. Try this link for info:

Reply Score: 2

UMPC at that size?
by fryke on Fri 4th May 2007 00:06 UTC
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The title is strangely misleading. At 28x21x4 cm, it might be an early notebook, but CERTAINLY not an ultraportable...

Reply Score: 1

RE: UMPC at that size?
by Almafeta on Fri 4th May 2007 00:09 UTC in reply to "UMPC at that size?"
Almafeta Member since:

Well, that's including the printer in the dimensions and mass.

*sighs and resists the urge to let retro-computing nostaliga overwhelm reason*

Reply Score: 1

RE: UMPC at that size?
by vege on Fri 4th May 2007 18:39 UTC in reply to "UMPC at that size?"
vege Member since:

In the early 80s, men and women were way much larger and stronger, so - related to them - the device can be considered as ultra portable.

Less ironically: just think of what they called a mobile phone at that age.

Reply Score: 1

It was the first Portable!
by Accident on Fri 4th May 2007 00:16 UTC
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I have a HX-20 and it was a true portable. The Osborne 1 was a transportable and could not run on batteries. I have the HX-20 and the QX-10 from Epson. The where very advance for their time. I wish it have a bigger screen. But hell it still run, unlike my HP Prosario X1000.



Reply Score: 1

RE: It was the first Portable!
by richmassena on Fri 4th May 2007 03:01 UTC in reply to "It was the first Portable!"
richmassena Member since:

I'm almost certain you could by an external battery unit for the Osborne 1. I don't think it was at all practical, given the Osborne by itself weighed about 30 lbs.

I think the definition of portable is too vague to support either the Osborne or the HX-20 as truly portable, though the HX-20 would better fit the definition. From my perspective portable would mean that work could easily be done with the computer sitting in a bus or on an airplane. I can envision the HX-20 with its tape deck saving documents sitting on someones lap. You would have to hire a second seat for the Osborne.

Reply Score: 1

by hobgoblin on Fri 4th May 2007 02:14 UTC
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It can make a person wonder what we are doing with our high speed connections, large, colorfull displays, massive storage and 64-bit cpus. I guess the obvious answer is: porn...

Browser: Opera/8.01 (J2ME/MIDP; Opera Mini/3.1.7139/1662; nb; U; ssr)

Reply Score: 5

Voyage 200
by DigitalAxis on Fri 4th May 2007 04:38 UTC
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On much the same note, I occasionally wonder if they could make a computer as robust as my 5 year old first-model-run TI Voyage 200 Graphing Calculator.

It's in that wacky GBA-esque form factor the TI-92 and TI-92+ were in; tiny QWERTY keypad, does complex calculus (hooray!), plays grayscale games with a 14 MHz 68000, lasts for hours on 4 AAA batteries... and still works perfectly even though I've lost count of the number of times I've dropped it. It could, and there ARE apps specially for such a purpose, serve as a word processor if I really needed it to be...

Now, the TI-V200 is 2002 (ish) graphing calculator technology and it's quite durable, so the mystic art of durable computing clearly isn't lost...

Could they do that with a PC nowadays? Would anyone/enough buy one?

PDAs and now smartphones are similar but far less robust from what I've been led to believe.

Edited 2007-05-04 04:40

Reply Score: 2

RE: Voyage 200
by Soulbender on Fri 4th May 2007 05:33 UTC in reply to "Voyage 200"
Soulbender Member since:

"On much the same note, I occasionally wonder if they could make a computer as robust as my 5 year old first-model-run TI Voyage 200 Graphing Calculator."

Reply Score: 2

by Bobthearch on Fri 4th May 2007 05:01 UTC
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That Epson weighs about thirty pounds less than my Kaypro, and lacks the painful sharp metal corners. New computers are so wussy...

The Osbornes and early Kaypros were made to fit under an airplane seat; you couldn't actually use one when flying. ;)

According to there ~was~ a battery pack for the Osborne. Never seen one though, and I can only imagine how large and heavy it was.

I'm a fan of the Compaq Portable III, much lighter and smaller than the "luggable" monsters, but not ready to be called a "laptop" either.


Reply Score: 1

I had one !
by Kochise on Fri 4th May 2007 07:17 UTC
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The HX-20 was unbelievabely usable, even in the 90's ;) The perfect geek's gift ! Handling it out in the street or the reastaurant and making your own addition while the waitress was at lost was kind of fun, especialy when the matrix printer started to rumble and output the result in no time...


Reply Score: 1

Ahh, memories...
by mwtomlinson on Fri 4th May 2007 10:31 UTC
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I started working for EPSON in 1981, one of a group of people brought on-board to provide support for their entry into the computer side of the business. I well remember the HX-20 and QX-10. The QX-10...

...sometimes I wake up at night still missing my old QX, the HASCI keyboard...<sniff>

Reply Score: 1

Nice Device
by Silent_Seer on Fri 4th May 2007 20:05 UTC
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Would make a good POS system, even today.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Nice Device
by Doc Pain on Fri 4th May 2007 21:23 UTC in reply to "Nice Device"
Doc Pain Member since:

"Would make a good POS system, even today."

Right. I was installing (and programming) POS systems many years ago when the 80286 was the heart of the machine. A table full of devices (CPU, monitor, keyboard, printer) and people not able to handle them all... Would have been great to use HX-20s for this purpose. :-)

BTW, I like this one: :-)

From the same year (1981), I still own a bunch of these:

Edited 2007-05-04 21:26

Reply Score: 2

Model 100
by whartung on Sat 5th May 2007 20:36 UTC
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It's really intersting to compare this machine to the TRS-80 Model 100.

It truly depended on the application, but I do think that the Model 100 got the balance right in terms of features vs the Epson.

The Model 100 had a larger display (40 x 8), and a built in modem while the HX-20 had a built in cassette and printer.

I think for someone on the go, making the cassette external was a smart choice. Especially since, unlike normal computers at the time, the Model 100 used battery backed up memory -- so you only needed the cassette to load a program once, rather than every time you started the machine up.

I assume that the HX-20 had a similar persistent memory system.

Combined with the modem, which was a simple modular jack in to the phone line, the Model 100 was a greate remote terminal.

One of the clever things that is did was that it let you compose text in its text editor, much like a word processsor, but when you went to upload the file, you could tell it where to set the margin for a hard carriage return.

So, even though you had a 40 character screen, you could post 80 character messages, and the terminal proram would word wrap at the specified margin rather than being stuck at 40 columns.

I would use it daily for BBSes and mail Back In The Day. I'd read my messages, and compose my answers offline, then log back in and upload them. I got a fast, full screen editor I could use in my bed, and then upload the messages to our Cyber 730 computer systems.

Also, the Model 100 (IMHO) has one of the finest keyboards ever placed on any computer. It's simply fabulous with a soft touch, but determined "poppy" feedback.

It also was simple to cut a couple of pencils to length and use the eraser ends to plug in the back as cheap legs to give you a nice typing angle.

It's hard to go back, it's hard to justify a typing appliance, and even today, while 32K is a lot of text, it's not THAT much. With as much as folks type today, many people would bump in to the that memory limit quickly.

Today, a modern PDA with a keyboard is a more than adequate replacement for something like the Model 100, save for old farts with failing eyesight. A PDA with a folding keyboard is more durable. A $20 Palm Pilot has VASTLY more storage, but they all lack in the display department.

I don't quite know how they would compare to a Psion 5, they are supposed to have pretty good, if a bit cramped, keyboards on them, and they have an even better display (due to form factor) than a Palm size PDA.

But the Model 100 was a great machine, and a great platform for all sorts of mobile applications.

Reply Score: 1