Dauphin DTR-1

DTR-1 pictureReleased in 1994, the optimistically named “DeskTop Replacement 1” is an early pen-based, mobile computer. Like the NCR 3125 3 years earlier it’s a PC that you can carry in your hand and that  you can operate using a pen as a mouse. Of course, the DTR-1 used updated hard- and software, but the idea is the same. Therefore, the architecture of these devices did not allow much freedom and required a desktop-class performance CPU. As a result, all these devices are the most heavy mobile pen computers with a weight almost twice as much as  the one of an Apple Newton or a Magic Cap-based PDA. Not only were they heavy, the PC architecture also meant that the price was double or triple the price of a Newton or a Magic Cap device (a similar problem exist nowadays
in a lesser form for Windows-based tablets as opposed to Android-based tablets).  The upside of the used PC architecture was that it sported all the standard interfaces also found on desktop PCs.

The machine ran on NiMH batteries. They were advertised to last for 3.5 hours.  The pen ran on SR48 batteries and lasted for 350 hours.

The Dauphin DTR-1 could recognize handwriting and convert it to text on the fly.

The DTR-1 was manufactured by IBM.

The operating system was “Windows 3.1 for Pen Computing”.

Another very interesting feature about this computer is that it uses a tiny HP Kittyhawk 1.3″ harddisk.  It seems to be the only computer where this drive came as a standard (it was an option in AT&T’s EO 440 Personal Communicator).

Of course, the DTR-1 was not a success (else this blog would not write about it 🙂 ). A quite steep price tag of  over $2500 dollars where the initial Apple Newton costed only $700 a year earlier, a high weight, and  an OS that was very exotic in the mobile market made the company starting to collapse in 1995. From the reported assets and debts, divided  by the price for a DTR-1 I assume that Dauphin made at least 18000 units. Dauphin, however seemed to survived  somehow at least until the year 2000.

The power supply of the DTR-1 is notoriously bad. People who own DTR-1’s recommend to use modern 12V DC power  supplies instead of the original one. The original one is specified at 2.1A. The plug is center-positive. As a pen replacement old Fujitsu pens can be used.

In 1996 Dauphin also released a second model (called DTR-2) which was selling for $4445, but very few of them (in the few hundreds)  seem to exist. The DTR-2 had a 486SLC2@50 MHz CPU, a 120 MB HDD, and 2 PCMCIA2 slots.

There are articles from 1999 about a “Dauphin Orasis” computer based on a Pentium@266 MHz, and there are people  that report that they once had such a device, but these machines seem to be even more rare.

Technical Data

  • CPU: Cyrix 486SLC @ 25 MHz (has about 35 MIPS)
  • RAM: 4MB(expandable to 6MB)
  • HDD: HP 1.3″ Kittyhawk microdrive 40MB
  • Size: 5 x 9″
  • Weight: 1100 grams
  • Pen: active, requires batteries
  • Display: pen-sensitive, backlit, passive-matrix, monochrome VGA (640 x 480)
  • Interfaces: VGA (800 x 600, 256 colors), parallel and serial ports, Ethernet, Modem
  • Modem: Hayes-compatible (the modem and serial port are set to the same interrupt, so they can’t be used simultaneously)
  • Ethernet: the Ethernet module (apart from the connector) is an option
  • Keyboard: separate, but included
  • Released: 1994
  • Initial price: $2595
  • Options:
    •  3.5″ floppy disk drive $200
    •  Ethernet module $300



2 Responses to “Dauphin DTR-1”

  1. Marcus Says:

    My DTR-1 was fantastic and purchased in Australia from Harvey Normans for just under $1500 AUD. The weakness was the pen which was delicate for a mobile person. It had an inbuilt modem so you could plug into any phone connection with an RJ45 and it worked very well. We loaded a great software package called 8in1 from Spinnaker that had eight desktop tools including full WYSIWIG, word, powerpoint, database, spreadsheet, etc., all integrated that could work with all the software around at the time. It easily interfaced with printers in any office you turned up at.

    The reason it was stopped so we are told is that most factories were geared to transition from PC to Laptop and so a tablet surge at the time could have put at risk the laptop market. We could have been at tablets 15 years earlier!!!!!!!

  2. William Franklin Adams Says:

    Actually, HP’s Kittyhawk drive as standard in an early HP portable (the one w/ the pop-out mouse)

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