Archive for the ‘NCR’ Category

NCR 3125 under PenPoint

December 3, 2017

Yesss, finally. After having a presentation on GO and PenPoint and a booth on “A short history of Mobile Computing” at VCFB 2017 (I’ll soon report on both) with a NCR 3125 and an EO 440 but no working computer running PenPoint, I finally acquired another NCR 3125. And this time running PenPoint!

pp

Oh, yes, plus a (probably) complete set of PenPoint developer documentation (only 2 volumes are missing).

books

Plus some replacement tips for the WACOM pen (comes in handy as the tip of the other pen disappeared).

pens

You’ll get some photos soon and then I can submit one to Wikipedia (for their PenPoint entry).

My plan is to extract an HDD image of PenPoint and provide it on this blog. I think some people might be interested in that… If this image from oldcomputers.net is true also for my model, the HDD is a 2.5″ PrairieTek Prairie 120 IDE model (20 MB). So this sounds manageable. Update: Yes, the HDD is the model above. I was a little bit confused upon opening the computer when all I saw coming from the HDD were 2 flat flexible cables (I was looking for IDE connectors). Upon closer inspection I noticed that the HDD controller (usually screwed on top of the HDD) was mounted detached positioned next to the HDD body obviously to make the package more flat. You can see this in this picture quite well, the HDD is the black box on the top left corner plus the controller on the right:

ncr-3125-motherboard

(Picture taken from oldcomputers.net, in this case this page on the 3125)

The controller, of course, has the IDE connector.

In contrast to my old 3125, this one is equipped with 8 MB of RAM. I wonder whether this is required by PenPoint. Hmm, all the early mobile computers being able to run PenPoint (3125, EO 440, IBM 701T) had minimally 4 MB of RAM, so probably not. BTW, the PenPoint is a 1.0a version. Sounds quite early.

My first impression of this version of PenPoint on the 3125: quite slow! You have to be patient to work with this system… The computer came with a bare PenPoint, no additional software seems to be installed. The most fun part after the tutorial on how to use PenPoint is the feature to getting the gestures explained and then being able to train them.

practice

Upon playing with the new system I realised the first time that the on/off switch of the 3125 is located on the (detachable) battery pack, so no switching on the system without a battery. Even the manufacturer’s name and the model name on the front is printed on the battery. I never saw a battery made an integral part of the system so clearly 🙂

Oh, yes, and a word of advice on starting an NCR 3125. Sometimes (e.g. when the battery was dead), it seems to employ a strange double booting procedure (probably due to the usual dead battery). First, the “BIOS” part of the computer is started and the memory tested (namely the main PC memory (640kB) and the extended memory). The computer will complain about invalid CMOS memory content and stuff and will allow to enter the BIOS settings. But do not worry. Simply exit this stage, and the real OS booting process will start. Again with a RAM test, but this time including 3 memory parts. For exiting the first stage your pen needs to work (maybe a keyboard will do, too). Clicking on the “<EXIT>” text usually does the trick.

NCR 3125

May 29, 2014

Image

This mobile computer from 1991 is the second pen-based device (after Grid’s Gridpad from 1989), the first one with a separate pen (although it beats the Gridpad 2050 or Gripad SL by only a few months if any) and the first one from a big manufacturer. It is also one of the most expensive mobile computers with an initial price of a hefty $4795 (about $8200 in 2014 numbers). Finally, it is one of the few mobile computers designed in Germany (by NCR in Augsburg).

Operating systems-wise the device is very flexible because it came out at the right time. As a PC it can run MSDOS plus NCR’s proprietary “PenOS”, a.k.a. the software that let you use the pen as an input device to enter text in a DOS environment. From 1992 onwards it could execute also (Microsoft) Pen Windows. Finally, even GO’s PenPoint was available for this computer. Some people even got (PC-)GEOS running on it.

My machine (as far as I can see) has only DOS + PenOS. If you happen to have PenPoint for it, I would be very happy…

The model number of this device is 3125. According to some old NCR information (see links below) this makes is a member of the NCR 3000 family that spans from this tablet and a notebook all the way up to a multi-processor, 100,000 MIPS big iron computer system under Unix. As all these systems do not share the same architecture or even the operating system, that’s quite a stretch…

The design of the device is very sleek; it looks very streamlined and timeless. The pen for example is neatly contained in a small hidden compartment at the front. It was rewarded a “iF product design award 1992 – Best Of Category”.

There seems to be a successor to this model with the Model 3130 NotePad in 1992. The 3130 had a backlit screen and a 40 or 60MB HDD and comes with Pen Windows. The weight increased by a pound. The price was about $4000.

I am very unsure on the fate of this machine. It was expensive, not often mentioned in the news, and so I assume it was not very successful. Maybe it was also subject of the turmoil following the takeover by AT&T in 1991/1992.

Technical Data:

  • CPU: 80386SL @ 20 MHz (has about 15 MIPS)
  • RAM: 4MB
  • HDD: 20MB
  • Weight: 1500 grams
  • Pen: passive
  • Display: LCD 640 x 480, 16 gray shades
  • OS: MSDOS plus PenOS or PenPoint or PenWindows
  • Interfaces: VGA, keyboard, RS232C, Centronics, all via a “I/O Connector Adapter”
  • Released: 1991
  • Initial price: $4795

Links