Lexicomp Gradebook (EGS) 2000

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molleraj
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Lexicomp Gradebook (EGS) 2000

Post by molleraj »

Hi all! Thank you for letting me join the board!

I just received a Lexicomp Gradebook (EGS) 2000 as a surprise Christmas present from a fellow vintage computer enthusiast (I am out of town and won't actually receive it for a few weeks). Looks like a wonderful machine in every way! I had a few quick questions about it I thought you all could answer.

Can I use CF cards with it directly, given it has a PCMCIA Type II (and I think Version 2.0) slot? Or do I need to install a driver? Based on the Tankraider pages, it sounds like it can handle ATA flash without any extra work. I did download the Tidalwave backup from here (http colon double slash tankraider.com slash forums slash viewtopic.php question mark t=306) since it seemed like the included system files might be super helpful.

Also, can I increase the system memory beyond 704K? That would be great. I'm hoping to run some alternate OSes (MS-DOS 6.22, PC-DOS, FreeDOS, ELKS or Minix) from different CF cards given it can boot (!!) from the PC Card slot.

Finally, what software is built-in?

Happy Holidays!

Thanks,
Jon

Kyodai
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Re: Lexicomp Gradebook (EGS) 2000

Post by Kyodai »

Hi Jon,

welcome to the forums.

The Lexicomp Gradebook 2000 can boot from PCMCIA. To use a CF card you have to use a PCMCIA to CF adapter, these are available rather cheap from ebay. Since it sports MS-DOS 5.0 it can access up to 2GB- which is a lot for these babys. The ROM installation will turn some memory into a RAMDisk - but if you boot another system then you're free to setup whatever you feel like.

Just curious if yours has any special EPROM in the bottom compartment. I guess there were supposed to be special Gradebook appz available as an EPROM. Mine actually searches fora PCMCIA flash card with data, but no clue what it expects here. I think the dip switches are supposed to enable special EPROMS. Mine also came with the neat 9.6K modem.

molleraj
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Posts: 12
Joined: Fri Dec 27, 2019 6:36 am
Favorite Palmtop: Lexicomp_Gradebook_2000

Re: Lexicomp Gradebook (EGS) 2000

Post by molleraj »

Hi Kyodai,
Kyodai wrote:
Fri Dec 27, 2019 6:57 pm
welcome to the forums.
Thank you!
The Lexicomp Gradebook 2000 can boot from PCMCIA. To use a CF card you have to use a PCMCIA to CF adapter, these are available rather cheap from ebay. Since it sports MS-DOS 5.0 it can access up to 2GB- which is a lot for these babys. The ROM installation will turn some memory into a RAMDisk - but if you boot another system then you're free to setup whatever you feel like.
That's great! No need for special drivers! I can't wait to plop in my 1GB industrial grade SanDisk CF card (in a PCMCIA to CF adapter of course). Also good to know that I can boost the system RAM given the EMM driver. It still might be good to keep a small amount as a RAM disk for any needed drivers.
Just curious if yours has any special EPROM in the bottom compartment. I guess there were supposed to be special Gradebook appz available as an EPROM. Mine actually searches fora PCMCIA flash card with data, but no clue what it expects here. I think the dip switches are supposed to enable special EPROMS. Mine also came with the neat 9.6K modem.
When I get it I will check. I believe mine also has a 9600 baud modem built-in. Can you install your own EPROM? Can you replace the EPROM with Flash RAM? Have you tried to do either?

How is the battery life (with each speed setting)?

Also, do you or anyone else have a manual for this or the LC-8600? There is a good review of the LC-8600 by Eric Lindsay.

Many thanks,
Jon

Kyodai
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Re: Lexicomp Gradebook (EGS) 2000

Post by Kyodai »

Well if you boot from PCMCIA I don't really see the need for RAMDisk, I mean 1 GB storage is already a lot. Does yours also have 2MB of RAM? Not sure but I thought they might also have sold these devices with 1 MB of RAM. Given the nature of the Gradebook software I fail to see how they utilized the additional RAM anyways.

If yours has the typical western phone socket behind the clasp at the back it also has the modem. The models without the modem just had a piece of plastic glued in there instead of the phone socket.

The EPROMs are meant to be replaced - that's why they have that maintenance hatch on the bottom. I'm not a die hard specialist about EPROMS, but from my understanding they are "read only" and I'm not sure there are flash units available in EPROM form factor...


Wish I had a manual, but never came across one. However - most stuff is rather self explaining (Minus the mysterious EPROMs and dip switches). I also got the Lexicomp 8600 in my collection - which comes with the neat 40MB Kittyhawk HDD but without the EPROM slots.

molleraj
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Favorite Palmtop: Lexicomp_Gradebook_2000

Re: Lexicomp Gradebook (EGS) 2000

Post by molleraj »

Kyodai wrote:
Sat Dec 28, 2019 9:30 am
Well if you boot from PCMCIA I don't really see the need for RAMDisk, I mean 1 GB storage is already a lot. Does yours also have 2MB of RAM? Not sure but I thought they might also have sold these devices with 1 MB of RAM. Given the nature of the Gradebook software I fail to see how they utilized the additional RAM anyways.
I think so. I will know for sure in a few weeks. Indeed if I can boot directly from CF, I may just use the whole 2MB of RAM.
If yours has the typical western phone socket behind the clasp at the back it also has the modem. The models without the modem just had a piece of plastic glued in there instead of the phone socket.
I think it does. Again, I will know in a few weeks.
The EPROMs are meant to be replaced - that's why they have that maintenance hatch on the bottom. I'm not a die hard specialist about EPROMS, but from my understanding they are "read only" and I'm not sure there are flash units available in EPROM form factor...


Wish I had a manual, but never came across one. However - most stuff is rather self explaining (Minus the mysterious EPROMs and dip switches). I also got the Lexicomp 8600 in my collection - which comes with the neat 40MB Kittyhawk HDD but without the EPROM slots.
Is there a Lexicomp LC-8600 manual by any chance? Indeed it seems that most stuff is self-explaining.

Have you seen any alternative EPROMs? Is their a built-in EPROM dump utility in the ROM disk, the way there is Flash ROM utility on the Poqet PC Plus?

Also, two other questions - 1) How is the hinge? Is it flaky like the one in the Poqet PC Plus, which seems to have gone bad for every owner I know? and 2) How is the battery life at the different CPU settings (normal/turbo)?

Kyodai
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Re: Lexicomp Gradebook (EGS) 2000

Post by Kyodai »

I'm already curious how you will like the Gradebook.

Unfortunately time didn't preserve many of these devices, even less accesories and barely any information. Keep in mind these are from a time when the internet was not really common.

Your gradebook is the 2nd one in the world I ever learned of - and I really skimmed the internet and all auction sites a lot for these devices.

So it is really rare if you get what I wanna say.

And to make it short - no clue about the EPROMS, no manuals on any lexicomp. Unfortunately.


I can only guess but if you wanna hear my thoughts - they included the EPROMS and hatch to make the application more flexible. So I guess the Gradebook software is on these EPROMS. If they would have put it on the system ROM (Along with DOS) it would not have been possible to upgrade the software. So their idea was prolly like "Let's put the gradebook software 1.0 on the EPROM and if we release gradebook 2.0 we can just send out new EPROMS and the customers change them". And guess #2 - it never happened because the gradebook wasn't really a big success.


But yeah - as with many devices - the only story I have are the devices itself.


the hinges and display are pretty good quality - so unlike the poqet you likely won't get it "dead on arrival".
Battery life is "OK". Rather in the lower section of the complete field of the whole DOS Palmtop spectrum, but still a lot if you compare to other devices from that era. Generally if you have the ption to throttle CPU and your appz work fine - always do it. Saves a lot of power.

molleraj
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Favorite Palmtop: Lexicomp_Gradebook_2000

Re: Lexicomp Gradebook (EGS) 2000

Post by molleraj »

Kyodai wrote:
Tue Dec 31, 2019 10:07 pm
I'm already curious how you will like the Gradebook.

Unfortunately time didn't preserve many of these devices, even less accesories and barely any information. Keep in mind these are from a time when the internet was not really common.

Your gradebook is the 2nd one in the world I ever learned of - and I really skimmed the internet and all auction sites a lot for these devices.

So it is really rare if you get what I wanna say.
That's true. Pre-internet indeed, although there's a good bit of stuff on the LC-8600 on the internet even beyond your wonderful site :)

There were a bunch of EGS 2000s sold on eBay in the US fairly recently. About $45-60 a piece. That's where my friend got this one. Where/how did you get yours?
And to make it short - no clue about the EPROMS, no manuals on any lexicomp. Unfortunately.


I can only guess but if you wanna hear my thoughts - they included the EPROMS and hatch to make the application more flexible. So I guess the Gradebook software is on these EPROMS. If they would have put it on the system ROM (Along with DOS) it would not have been possible to upgrade the software. So their idea was prolly like "Let's put the gradebook software 1.0 on the EPROM and if we release gradebook 2.0 we can just send out new EPROMS and the customers change them". And guess #2 - it never happened because the gradebook wasn't really a big success.


But yeah - as with many devices - the only story I have are the devices itself.
I believe you - that sounds plausible. I am glad they put the gradebook ROM in separately. I will post pictures (and videos of course - let me know how many posts are necessary for me to include links in my posts, or what special permission) of the EPROM once I unbox the machine. If indeed the EPROM just has non-essential gradebook software, it may be possible to flash this thing with something of my own. I do have a TL866CS EPROM programmer. It would be great to put in something actually useful in that EPROM, like VDE or MS-Kermit.

Do you have any idea how big the EPROM is (1MB? 128K?) and whether the startup sequence requires searching for this weird gradebook software? If the latter is true, indeed the gradebook software EPROM would be essential. What drive is the gradebook EPROM?
the hinges and display are pretty good quality - so unlike the poqet you likely won't get it "dead on arrival".
Battery life is "OK". Rather in the lower section of the complete field of the whole DOS Palmtop spectrum, but still a lot if you compare to other devices from that era. Generally if you have the ption to throttle CPU and your appz work fine - always do it. Saves a lot of power.
That's great! Regarding battery life, you mean 10-20 hours on a charge? Maybe 30? I'm planning to use 2550 mAh eneloop pros so I will get a longer battery life than I would with alkalines. I'll definitely be OK throttling the CPU down to 7 MHz.

Kyodai
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Re: Lexicomp Gradebook (EGS) 2000

Post by Kyodai »

I must admit that recently I didn't have the time and money to search for DOS Palmtops so much. Kids, Family, other expenses, you name it. Also since I'm from Germany there's many sellers who won't be shipping to my place anyways. But even though there was a wave of them selling recently - which I honestly missed - I'd still call them a rarity and at 45 Bucks they're definitely a steal and an investment you won't regret. Got mine like a decade ago on ebay for much more. Can't recall any exact figures, but prolly more like 100-150 USD which I think they are worth. Rather more since they used to be ultra rare and rock solid machines.

You're now a "regular user" - which is an automatism - but most bots and spammers fail to reach it. Which means you can now post links and such. Let me know if anything still doesn't work as it should, but the mechanism just tries to prevent users from posting spam links in their first 2 posts - which is enough to discourange the usual spammers.

Awesome that you know so much about EPROMs and stuff. Wish I did. Maybe you can dump the contents and experiment a bit more. I got no idea bout the size, but from my humble knowledge EPROMS were usually rather small, but back in the days a megabyte would mean a lot. If you use a 1GB CF then maybe not much sense to fumble with these. I can't really recall any details and I must admit I am too tired to try out tonight, but I guess soon you can discover yourself. The software was rather....crude. No space age programming I guess. Today we'd prolly programming something like that in a few coffee breaks. But yeah back then they didn't have the internet, no frameworks and prolly made everything from scratch. So still kudos to the programmers. Kinda.


About battery life - I must admit I didn't use any stress test utility or so. But for the Tidalwave, Poqet or HP the battery life was definitely better. The late poqet - no matter how bad the hinges were - they were extreme about that, halting the processor between any key stroke completely. When it comes to power saving they were great.
Personally I doubt that the total battery life was much better, but the HP, Poqet and Tidalwave has excellent routines for "deep power states", which means that even when not using them for a month you would just turn them on and still have loads of battery life left. The Lexicomp were sucking a bit more in hibernation.

molleraj
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Re: Lexicomp Gradebook (EGS) 2000

Post by molleraj »

OK, good to know! I posted links as you saw in the other post.

It would be nice to experiment with EPROM, but I'm not going to push it. I'll at least post photos of what I find.

Regarding power management, do you know of any DOS utilities that could further improve it? Maybe power.exe from MS-DOS 6.22 or something?

I will finally be opening my package tomorrow (finishing vacation with family), but I had a few other questions. First, what power supplies work with the machine and can the batteries be recharged inside? I think I read on your site that the latter is true. I also saw this power adapter in the eBay listings: https://www.ebay.com/itm/Power-Supply-A ... Sw2H1dxKyZ

Second, what OS would you prefer running on this palmtop? Is MS-DOS 5.0 good enough? Minix and ELKS seem pretty limited, but it seems DR-DOS has some nice features. I could also put Win3.0 on my CF card to run above MS-DOS with that built-in keyboard-based mouse driver.

Kyodai
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Re: Lexicomp Gradebook (EGS) 2000

Post by Kyodai »

Yeah thanks again for the insight regarding CF in the 95LX.

Would be nice if you could take a look at the EPROM. I'm curious myself but I don't have any skills and tools regarding that.

Power management-wise you won't get much from DOS. I think power.exe relies on APM which I doubt the lexicomp or any other palmtops support. Your best bet here is to throttle CPU and disable any unneeded ports.

Personally I think MS-DOS 5.0 is just fine. All appz and games run and it's pretty light weight and built-in. Windows 3.0 is fun but there's not that many appz and games (Most used Win 3.1).

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