Let's build the perfect palmtop with todays tech...

Everything about vintage DOS based Palmtops goes in here...
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Kyodai
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Let's build the perfect palmtop with todays tech...

Post by Kyodai » Sun Nov 12, 2017 10:56 pm

This is a thought I've had since ages. If we were to built the perfect palmtop with todays tech - how would we design it, what features would it have and how would we do it?

There is no answer. Well not a single one since every person got a different oppinion and different preferences. So let's sum up what makes a palmtop important to you. I'll start with my own ideas.

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What's important to you about a palmtop?

- It must be x86 compatible, able to run at least MS-DOS and hopefully Windows (3.1 or 95?)
- It must be incredibly power saving. I loved how i took out my HP 200LX like 3 months after last playing with it and it turned on fine.
- Definitely use AA-Batteries. Rechargable ones would be OK, too, but it must work with ordinary non-rechargable AA-Batteries.
- It must fit in my pocket. I love how the HP 200LX fits in my pocket. At least it shouldn't be much larger.
- It must be able to synchronize data with my normal PC. PCMCIA was a solution but these days i would prefer USB i guess.
- Display should be VGA (640x480) compatible or better.
- Sound should be sound blaster compatiblea and a small internal speaker (nothing fancy though) would be included.
- Keyboard should be a bit better than the HP 200LX, maybe more like the "MBook" UMPC. I don't mind having a few keys on "FN" combinations.
- Main "HDD" should be an inexpensive Micro-SD card that the device boots from. So it could easily be replaced if broken or full.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

So how would you build your palmtop?

- I would use the lowest energy X86 chip possible. I was thinking of maybe an Intel Quark. I heard they are basically a 486 and extremely power saving.
- I would incorporate a latch to hold a rechargable AAA Battery and put solar panels on the lid. Rechargable AAA are easily available and the solar panel would charge that one whenever possible. The palmtop would try to at first run dry the rechargable AAA before using the normal AA Batteries.
- Display would be an e-ink display with VGA res (640x480). It would probably suck for games, but power saving should be enormous.
- I'd offer an option to build the case from aluminium or so - so unlike the HP 200LX i won't have broken hinges due to cheap plastic.

ratco
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Re: Let's build the perfect palmtop with todays tech...

Post by ratco » Fri Jun 14, 2019 10:33 pm

Hello,

Well, I don't have any palmtop or pocket pc (unfortunately) but I like to read about them and hope to get a couple to play with one day.

As for building the perfect one, I don't think we need the modern technology. What always amazed me was the fact that no company ever tried to "combine" different technologies into one single device.

Some ideas:

1. Include a radio chip similar to the ones used in the radio-watches that were popular. Small, lightweight, not very power-hungry. It would allow you to listen to radio while doing work on the palmtop computer. A DOS TSR program would be able to change frequency, turn on and off, etc.
2. BACKLIT SCREEN! Really... I hate devices that don't have that feature. I have a gadget at home that uses one of those screens and has no backlight, sometimes I can't read it. A button to turn it on and off would spare battery when not needed. Speaking of which...
3. AAA batteries. I mean, if the machine is power efficient those will provide many hours of usage, while being lightweight compared to AA batteries.
4. One really cool thing would be to have a MIDI synthesizer inside, that could play (hardware mode) midi files from the internal storage, with a TSR DOS program to play, pause, next, etc. I don't know how small those were but would be a nice addition. A device such as this couldn't play MP3, and the storage is always small. However a 256kB storage would hold dozens of files in MIDI format. Using the earphones output of the radio chip I mentioned in point1 would allow the user to listen to music while working on a word processor or doing email.


So, yeah, I just think the old tech was good enough to make a much better device than the ones that existed. Companies just never made them...

What do you think?

ratco
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Re: Let's build the perfect palmtop with todays tech...

Post by ratco » Fri Jun 14, 2019 10:38 pm

Oh and as for the OS... I would go with something new. FreeDOS ;)
Which would mean being able to flash new software into the device, or like you suggested, using a memory card. Not a bad idea, and I think there were some kind of "flash cards" already back in the day.

ratco
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Re: Let's build the perfect palmtop with todays tech...

Post by ratco » Fri Jun 14, 2019 11:54 pm

Hope you forgive me the triple posting, but I just thought of another thing that would be a KILLER...

Teletext receiver.
Granted, I don't know if such a receiver could be made small and energy efficient for a palmtop, but the idea is tempting... Being anywhere, and being able to read the news, updated throughout the day, as if you were at home in front of your TV. The teletext was already common in the 70s 80s an 90s. TV companies could even (if the idea became popular) have specific pages that would be designed to be easier to read in palmtop computers.

Even today my parents still check sports results in the teletext. So, yeah, I would want this in a palmtop computer ;)

Kyodai
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Re: Let's build the perfect palmtop with todays tech...

Post by Kyodai » Wed Jul 03, 2019 8:48 pm

OK late reply is late, but some good point here! So here's my 2 cents - please keep in mind: Just a personal opinion not final wisdom. :)

- Radio chip. Excellent idea. Could maybe even fumble and make it possible to turn on radio without the CPU or screen which would save even more power. Not sure how easy the TSR would be but I say at least "possible", I did have a PCI FM radio card back in the days.

- Backlit screen: Agreed as long as you can turn off the backlight and it's the most power saving solution ever.

- AAA Batteries. I have ONE palmtop which uses AAA instead of AA (Mitac 1600A). Keep in mind that AA usually have around double the capacity of AAA and for typical palmtop sizes I find their size still reasonable. Also they are the most common type. One of my favorites is the Instant tech PTP-20 which uses AA and is significantly thinner (Just 20 mm!) than the HP 200LX. Personal opinion but I won't need them thinner. Would stick with double capacity instead.

- About MIDI... I do have a DOS midi player (search lxmidi or midiplay DOS) that works fine on all DOS palmtops and I'm fine with that. I usually carry an excessive midi collection with me. But yeah maybe a midi synthesizer would save CPU power?

- Freedos is usally fine. I'd go for a memory card (CF) so you could boot any flavor of OS

- Teletext. Love it but difficult. To get Teleext you need...drummroll... a TV receiver. Here in germany analog TV has been shut down like a decade ago. DVB-T was shut down 2 years ago, now we got DVB-T 2. Not even sure if that got teletext. prolly yes. But I was tired of going with the tech every few years. Wish we still had old fashioned analog TV. Maybe suitable for some countries, but not here.

ratco
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Re: Let's build the perfect palmtop with todays tech...

Post by ratco » Thu Jul 11, 2019 4:37 pm

Hey there,

Yeah, pretty late but it's ok xD xD xD

Anyway, I agree with the need for backlit to be turned on/off at will. As a power saving mechanism maybe having a two backlit levels, one that is regular and another one that only gives some light but not full power...
Teletext is hard to know, there was never wide usage of it on computers. BUT I think you don't need a TV receiver. Only an antenna capable of receiving UHF/VHF signals. It's not the same thing. The decoder would only have to decode a small portion of the signal. But it's hard to be sure, I only thought of it because in some countries (England for example) Teletext was widely accepted and a very useful center of information, even better, free for all, unlike internet which you have to pay, expensively so. Also, in analogue form Teletext was available in many countries until 2010. So having that in a 70s machine and being able to use that machine up to 2010 was not a bad deal I guess ;)

Kyodai
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Re: Let's build the perfect palmtop with todays tech...

Post by Kyodai » Thu Jul 11, 2019 8:01 pm

Yeah a pretty dim super-power saving mode would be neat.

About Teletext - I do remember that in the 80s there were some teletext addon modules, but I guess these days if you wanna find an all-in-one chip you'll have to go for a TV receiver chip with teletext i fear. Well or create a custom chip or circuit, but after all is said and done it should still fit in a palmtop. :3

I am really sad that with the end of analogue TV Teletext is also dead. My dad always used it to read news, sports results, stock market stuff and so on. I must admit I never used it excessively but I'm still sad it's gone. I think it was also kinda popular here in Germany.

If we make a palmtop with a color screen it should definitely also have DVB-T TV built in. :)

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