HP-200LX Runs Website Like It’s The 90s

The HP-200LX palmtop was a fascinating machine for its time, and [Terrence Vergauwen] proves that its time is not yet over, given that one is responsible for serving up the website for Palmtop Tube, a website and YouTube channel dedicated to vintage palmtops.

All by itself a HP-200LX doesn’t have quite what it takes to act as a modern web server, but it doesn’t take much to provide the missing pieces. A PCMCIA network adapter provides an Ethernet connection, and a NAS contains the website content while networking and web server software run locally. Steady power comes from a wall adapter, but two rechargeable AA cells in the 200LX itself act as a mini-UPS, providing backup power in case of outages.

The HP-200LX was a breakthrough product that came just at the right time, preceding other true palm top computers like the IBM PC 110. In the early 90s, it was unimaginable that one could have a fully functional MS-DOS based machine in one’s pocket, let alone one that could last weeks on a couple of AA cells. It didn’t have some proprietary OS and weird ports, and that kind of functionality is part of why, roughly 30 years later, one is able to competently serve up web traffic.

A video overview of the machine and how it all works is in the video embedded below. And if you’re more interested in what an HP-200LX looks like on the inside? This video is all about taking apart and repairing a 200LX.

Continue reading “HP-200LX Runs Website Like It’s The 90s”

IBM PalmTop Running Modern (Modified) Linux

The handheld computing market might seem dominated by smartphones today, but before their mass adoption there were other offerings for those who needed some computing power on-the-go. If a 90s laptop was too bulky, there was always the IBM PalmTop which packed punch for its size-to-weight ratio, and for the era it was created in. [Mingcong Bai] still has one of these antiques and decided to see if it was still usable by loading a customized Linux distribution on it.

The PalmTop sported modest hardware even for its time with an Intel 486SL running at 33 MHz with 20 MiB of RAM. This one also makes use of a 1 GB CompactFlash card for storage and while [Mingcong Bai] notes that it is possible to run Windows 95 on it, it’s not a particularly great user experience. A Linux distribution customized for antique hardware, AOSC/Retro, helps solve some of these usability issues. With this it’s possible to boot into a command line and even do some limited text-based web browsing as long as the Ethernet adapter is included.

While the computer is running at its maximum capacity just to boot and perform basic system functions, it’s admirable that an antique computer such as this still works, especially given its small size and limited hardware functionality. If you’re curious about more PalmTop-style computers, take a look at the first one ever produced: the HP-200LX.

Continue reading “IBM PalmTop Running Modern (Modified) Linux”

HPi95LX Puts Linux In Your Palm

A few decades ago, palmtop computers were mostly based on MS-DOS, and while many users tried to mimic the UNIX experience, the results were mixed. Fast forward to the present and business-card-sized Linux computers modules abound. Canadian tinkerer [Rune Kyndal] decided to make his own Linux palmtop by sacrificing an old HP-95LX and replacing the guts with a Raspberry Pi Zero and a color LCD screen. We’re impressed with the rich set of features he has crammed into the limited volume of the case:

Inside View: Everything fits, barely
  • Raspberry Pi Zero W
  • Color LCD, 4.3 inch, 800×480 w/Backlight
  • Capacitive touch screen (not connected yet)
  • Stereo speakers + microphone
  • Ethernet 10/100
  • USB 2.0, 2 each
  • RS-232, DE-9 connector
  • microSD card
  • HDMI
  • IR dataport
  • Webcam (TBD)
  • LiPo Battery w/Charger

One problem that any palmtop faces is how to make a usable keyboard, and HP had one of the better designs. The keys are the same famous style as used in HP calculators. And while no human with normal hands could touch-type on it, the keyboard’s layout and tactile feel was well-suited to “thumb typing”. [Rune] made a good decision by keeping the original keyboard.

While fully functional, this is more of a proof of concept than a polished project. [Rune] primarily used bits and pieces that he had laying around. [Rune] says if he did it again, he would replace all the hot-glued accessory parts with a custom PCB, which is probably good advice. If you want to make your own, check out the project comments for some suggestions.

The First Real Palmtop

Back before COVID-19, I was walking through the airport towards the gate when suddenly I remembered a document I wanted to read on the flight but had forgotten to bring along. No worry, I paused for a bit on the concourse, reached into my pocket and proceeded to download the document from the Internet. Once comfortably seated on the plane, I relaxed and began reading. Afterwards, I did a little programming in C on a shareware program I was developing.

Today this would be an ordinary if not boring recollection, except for one thing: this happened in the 1990s, and what I pulled out of my pocket was a fully functional MS-DOS computer:

Introducing the HP-200LX, the first real palmtop computer. I used one of these daily up until the mid-2000s, and still have an operational one in my desk drawer. Let’s step back in time and see how this powerful pocket computer began its life. Continue reading “The First Real Palmtop”

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Hackaday Links: May 19, 2019

Cheap nostalgia, that’s the name of the game. If you can somehow build and ship ‘cheap nostalgia’, you’re going to be raking in the bucks. For the ‘musicians’ in the crowd, the king of cheap nostalgia has something great. Behringer is cloning the Yamaha CS-80. and it was announced at this month’s Superbooth.

The Yamaha CS-80 is the synth in Blade Runner, and since Toto’s Africa is making a comeback on top-40 radio, it’s the instrument of our time. A Wonderful Christmas Time, it seems. Aaaannnyway, yes, there might be a huge and inexpensive version of one of the greatest synthesizers ever made real soon. The cheap 808s and 909s are making their way to stores soon, and the 101 needs a firmware update but you can buy it now. Cheap nostalgia. That’s how you do it.

The PiDP-11/70 is a project we’ve been neglecting for some time, which is an absolute shame. This is a miniature simulation of what is objectively the best-looking minicomputer of all time, the PDP-11/70. This version is smaller, though, and it runs on a Pi with the help of SimH. There are injection molded switches, everything is perfect, and now there are a whole bunch of instructional videos on how to get a PiDP-11/70 up and running. Check it out, you want this kit.

Considering you can put a phone screen in anything, and anyone can make a keyboard, it’s a wonder no one is making real, well-designed palmtop computers anymore. The Vaio P series of PCs would be great with WiFi, Bluetooth, and a slight upgrade in memory and storage. This was [NFM[‘s recent project. This palmtop gets an SSD. The object of modification is a decade-old Sony Vaio CPCP11 palmtop modified with a 256 GB SSD. The Vaio only supports PATA, and the SSD is mSATA, so this is really a project of many weird adapters that also have to be built on flex connectors.

Here’s something for the brain trust in the Hackaday comments. First, take a look at this picture. It’s the inside of a rotary encoder. On the top, you have a Gray code (or what have you) that tracks the absolute position of a shaft. On the bottom, you have some sort of optical detection device with 13 photodiodes (or something) that keeps track of each track in the Gray code. This is then translated to some output, hopefully an I2C bus. What is this device, circled in red? I know what it is — it’s an optical decoder, but that phrase is utterly ungooglable, unmouserable, and undigikeyable. If you were me, what would you use to build your own custom absolute rotary encoder and you only needed the sensor? I technically only need 10 tracks/sensors/resolution of 1024, but really I only need a name.

Lol, someone should apply to Y Combinator and pitch yourself as a B Corp.

This Is The Raspberry Pi Mini Laptop That We Want

In the seven years since the Raspberry Pi was first launched to an expectant audience we have seen many laptops featuring the fruit-themed single board computers. Some of them have been pretty jaw-dropping in their quality, so for a new one to make us stop and gape it needs to be something really special. On cue, here comes [Igor Brkić] with one of the neatest efforts we’ve seen, a high quality Pi laptop that’s smaller in frontal area than many smartphones.

At its heart is a Pimoroni Hyperpixel touchscreen HAT, and a Pi sitting behind it that has been stripped of all bulky connectors to reduce its height. The keyboard is a mini Bluetooth affair, and power comes courtesy of a deconstructed USB power bank with a lithium-ion pouch cell. The whole is contained within a neatly designed 3D-printed clamshell enclosure, making for a tiny and very neat laptop. We want one, and now you probably do too. (We wouldn’t say “no” to some level shifters and a GPIO port…)

If we had to pick another high-quality Pi laptop to compare this one with, it would have to be this one with a Psion-inspired hinge.

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Hackaday Links: December 3, 2017

Remember the Psion? Back when PDAs were a thing, the Psion was the best you could get. It was, effectively, a palm-top computer with a real qwerty keyboard. It didn’t have Bluetooth, it couldn’t browse the web, and it didn’t have WiFi, but this was an AA-powered productivity machine that could fit in your pocket. Now there’s a new palmtop from Psion engineers. The Gemini PDA is basically a smartphone with a real keyboard that runs Ubuntu. It’s also has a smaller battery than other devices with this form factor, meaning the TSA thinks it’s a smartphone. This thing is going to be cool.

TechShop, Inc. has reached an agreement to sell the company to TechShop 2.0, LLC. New ownership seeks to re-open, continue running makerspaces. Details coming soon.

Arcade monitors are cool, and vector monitors are even cooler. [Arcade Jason] created a gigantic 36″ vector monitor. It’s thirty-six inches of Gravitar, in all its vector glory.

A few links posts ago, I pointed out someone was selling really awesome, really cheap LED panels on eBay. I got my ten panels, and [Ian Hanschen] bought sixty or some other absurd amount. Now, these panels are going for $300 for a 10-pack instead of $50. Sorry about that. Nevertheless, the reverse engineering adventure is still ongoing, and eventually, someone is going to play Mario on these things.

The ESP32 is finding its way into all sorts of consumer electronics. Check this thing out. It’s an ESP32, four buttons, and a circular display. If you want to make your own Nest thermostat, or anything else that needs an awesome circular display, there you go.

Speaking of circular displays, are there any non-CRT displays that come with a polar coordinate system? Every circular LCD or OLED I’ve ever seen uses a Cartesian system, which doesn’t really make sense when you can’t see 30% of the pixels.

Hold the phone, this is far too clever. [Eduardo] needed to flash an ESP-12 module before soldering it onto a PCB. The usual way of doing this is with an absurd pogo pin jig. You know what’s cheaper than pogo pins? Safety pins. Clever overwhelming.