Archive for October, 2018

GridPad 1900: The first mobile pen computer

October 28, 2018

GridPad1900.jpg

As I wrote in my entry for the GRiD Convertible, GRiD was legendary computer manufacturer that produced a lot of “firsts”.

This one is (by and large) the first mobile pen computer. It was released in 1989, two years before NCR released their NCR 3125. It is quite heavy (2 kg) and the pen is connected to the tablet via wire, but it was the first time a company had the vision to give users something like an electronic notepad. In order to do that it offered (restricted) handwriting recognition. The project that led to the GRiDPAD was developed by Jeff Hawkins who would later on found Palm, and then Handspring.

Software- and hardware-wise it was quite far away from what GO and Apple would have in their (later) devices. Instead of an ARM-class CPU, and a special operating system fully exploiting and supporting the possibilities of an electronic notebook, the GRiDPAD has a meager 8086 and MS-DOS (the latter is at least built in and does not need to boot). Apart from a few applications, pen support mainly means that you can fill out text fields with the pen. No harddisk is needed (or offered) as it uses up to 2 battery buffered RAM storage cards as mass memory (up to 2 MB in total).

It is said that 10’000 GRiDPADs were sold in 1990 (probably its most successful year). It was marketed as a niche product mainly towards users with bookkeeping needs.

A later model 1910 had a built in 20MB harddisk, 2MB RAM, a NEC V20 CPU, and a backlit screen. The price for the 1910 was initially $3750.

The (probably) last model of the series was the GRiDPAD SL in 1993 that weighted 2.5 kg and costed initially $4395. This model could also run GO’s PenPoint operating system.

Technical Data

  • Manufacturer: GRiD
  • Model: GRiDPAD Model 1900
  • CPU: 80C86@10MHz
  • RAM: 1 MB
  • ROM: 256 kB
  • OS: MS-DOS 3.3 (built in)
  • Size: 31.4 x 23.5 x 3.6cm
  • Weight: 2 Kg incl. battery
  • Pen: passive, connected by a wire to the case
  • Display: 10“ LCD black&white, 640×480 pixel
  • Interfaces: RS232C (9 pin), keyboard (5 pin), external bus
  • Released: 1989
  • Initial price: $2370
  • Options:
    • Modem (2400 bps, MNP level 5 protocol=)
    • Hard disk extension unit (about the same size as the tablet): 40 MB HDD, 3.5″ FDD

Links

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HTC Dream – the first Android phone

October 28, 2018

HTCDream

The HTC Dream, also known as the T-Mobile G1, was the first Android phone on the market. It was released in September 2008.

According to Wikipedia, ” An early prototype had a close resemblance to a BlackBerry phone, with no touchscreen and a physical QWERTY keyboard, but the arrival of 2007’s Apple iPhone meant that Android “had to go back to the drawing board”. Google later changed its Android specification documents to state that “Touchscreens will be supported”, although “the Product was designed with the presence of discrete physical buttons as an assumption, therefore a touchscreen cannot completely replace physical buttons”. By 2008, both Nokia and BlackBerry announced touch-based smartphones to rival the iPhone 3G, and Android’s focus eventually switched to just touchscreens.”

Although probably done “after having gone to the drawing board”, it seems this phone still breathes the before-touchscreen era having not only a keyboard, but also dedicated “phone up” and “phone down” buttons, as well as a trackball(!).

Although a 2008 phone, you can already load the battery using (mini) USB so there is no need for a proprietary power supply.

So it is a historically important smartphone, but is it also a rare one? Wikipedia quotes “In April 2009, T-Mobile announced that it had sold over a million G1s in the United States, accounting for two thirds of the devices on its 3G network.” So, not really rare 🙂

VCFB 2018: Short Report

October 21, 2018

As you might know by now, I attended the VCFB 2018 in Berlin. I had an exhibit and a presentation. I was most kindly mentioned on a popular German news page. I met many nice people.

The location was held at and co-organised by the German Museum of Technology  which was enough space and resources to support this event in a succesful way. Speaking of success: 2600 visitors have been counted, even more than last year.

Things-to-see-and-hear-wise, it was equally interesting. All the presentations were recorded and are available. There were many interesting exhibits. To me, the most interesting was “Smalltalk, Unix, Plan 9” by Angelo Papenhoff.

DSC_0030.JPG

He showed off:

  • A Xerox Alto simulator (Contralto) showing a very early version of Smalltalk
  • Research Unix (Bell Labs) and their GUI for it(!)
  • Plan 9 and its 9front forks (they develop the system further despite the fact that there is noone “official” from the original project left)

He gave also a presentation on “The GUIs of Research Unix and Plan 9” (German).

For the next year, I offered to contribute to the organization of the event, so maybe next year there will be more information on this event in English.

My VCFB 2018 Exhibit: PDAs using Magic Cap

October 21, 2018

DSC_0027c.jpg

At the VCFB 2018 I had an exhibit called “PDAs using Magic Cap”. It showed off a Sony PIC 1000 and 2000, a Motorola Envoy 100, and an Icras/General Magic DataRover 840. As the focus of the VCFB this time was “Graphical User Interfaces”, I concentrated on the Magic Cap GUI a little bit. Except the Envoy, all devices were up and running (I still have no power supply for the Envoy).

Interest in the exhibit was ok, the biggest group of people said my favorite sentence (“I have never seen something like that”), some were enthusiastic about the comic strip quality of the Magic Cap GUI, and a few people always wanted to have such a device.

There was also one (German) article about the VCFB 2018 which featured my exhibit and the presentation quite prominently.

If you want to read the posters next to the exhibit, either refer to this older blog entry of mine (English) or find it here (German).

My VCFB 2018 Presentation on “Mobile Agents and Telescript”

October 21, 2018

I had a presentation at the VCFB 2018 in Berlin on two topics on one of which I actually am an expert in :-). The title was “Mobile Agents and Telescript” and it dealt with the third topic of the General Magic topic: What would have happened technically if the first wave of Magic Cap devices would have been successful?

I gave my presentation in English for the sole purpose that you can also watch it as it was recorded (as all talks) by a CCC crew. So, without further ado, here is the link to the video recording of the presentation. And here are the slides that I presented that I presented.

VCFB 2018: I’ll be there

October 11, 2018

I’ll be at the Vintage Computing Festival Berlin (VCFB) 2018 exhibiting some General Magic Magic Cap devices and holding a presentation on Mobile Agents and Telescript. The VCFB start October, 13th and 14th in Berlin, Germany.

I would be thrilled to meet some of you there (I never really met a reader except people that read this blog because they know me).

I tried to be able to show the General Magic documentation movie there, but to no avail. Would have been a nice thing, rounding up the General Magic, Magic Cap, Telescript trifecta. However, I’m sure I will see it one day.