Rex Wasn’t Really A PDA, It Was The First Great Digital Rolodex

Back in the 1990s I was fascinated with small computers. I used the HP200LX palmtop computer for almost ten years, which I wrote about back in December. Naturally, the Franklin Rex 3 PCMCIA-sized organizer caught my attention when it was released in 1997. Here was a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) the size of a credit card that could fit not just in your pocket, but in your shirt pocket.

Viewed today, it was an interesting paradigm. The screen takes up almost the entire front face of the device with a few buttons for navigation. But isn’t it a deal-breaker that you can’t enter or edit contact info on the device itself? This was long before cellphones were pervasive, and if you had the option to connect to the internet a telephone or Ethernet cable was involved. The ability to have a large data set in your pocket viewable without slapping a brick-like laptop on a table was pretty huge.

I think the killer feature was the PCMCIA interface. I challenged myself to reverse engineer the API so that I could sync data outside of the

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Give Workshop Pencils A Flush-Mounted Home

Pencils and pens are apt to go wandering in a busy workshop if they don’t have a handy storage spot. For most of us a soup can or an old coffee mug does the trick, but for a prettier and more useful holder [Stuff I Made] has a short video demonstrating a storage unit made from an elbow fitting and a scrap piece of plywood. He cuts a plywood disk that is friction-fit into one end of the elbow, then it gets screwed into a wall making an attractively flush-mounted holder in a convenient spot.

With the right joint the bottom of the holder remains accessible, as a 90 degree bend would be no good. With a shallower joint angle, a regular screwdriver can still reach the mounting screw and it’s possible to access the bottom of the holder just in case it needs cleaning or something small falls inside. You can see the process and results in the video embedded below. Not bad for one screw, a spare joint, and a scrap piece of plywood.

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Hackaday Links: Sunday, April 7th, 2013

hackaday-links-chain

Let’s wind down the weekend with some projects that didn’t quite warrant their own feature, but we think they’re still worth a look.

First up is a quick tip on cracking the lids on those hard to open jars of food. [Jason] says just grab about a foot of duct tape and the lid will come flying off. And while you’re searching for that roll of tape why not grab some foil tape to build a cooking oven. [Gabriel] built this solar oven by covering curved wedges of cardboard with foil tape and combining them to form a parabolic reflector.

Next we’ve got a trio of hacks that will come in useful in your home shop or at the local Hackerspace. Organization is key, and here’s a resistor storage system that uses #6 envelopes [via Reddit]. Also useful is the tip from [Felix] about using a tile saw to get clean cuts on your circuit boards. And if you’ve ever been plagued by a laser cutter job that doesn’t fully sever the material [Dan] wrote a guide on using a fence so that you can reposition the piece for another run.

Finally, we’re hoping we weren’t the only ones that didn’t realize the Raspberry Pi has an unpopulated footprint for a reset button. Now we’ve got to figure out if it’s okay to leave the PSU plugged in (based on it’s current consumption while the RPi is in power down) and hack together some sort of TV-based reset circuit for our RPi XBMC setup.