Notebook computing; Model 100 disk drive, spreadsheet package, barcode generator, management software, NEC8201 internal modem, Sharp peripherals. John Anderson.
The year 1985 promises to be an exciting one for computers, not the least of which will be the portable machines. In no single subcategory of the microcomputer industry has technology moved at so swift a pace. Already the full-screen LCD has made an appearance, in machines such as the new portable from Data General. Advances in liquied crystal design and power requirements are making displays clearer and more readable. LCD color displays will make their retail debut this year. Their appearance in portable computers therefore cannot be too far off.
Breath is bated for a new entry from Tandy on the notebook computing scene, and rumors of a full-screen "Model 200" are rife for 1985. The ubiquitous Model 100 is now discounted to under $500, making it one of the best buys in computing today.
Matsushita has demonstrated small-scale projection TV, using separate guns and a pop-up rear projection screen, in prototype units weighing less than 10 lbs. There is good reason to suspect that the Japanese might experiment with this approach to portable color computing as well. The Third Party Scene
While we wait fo all these wild and wonderful developments, let's catch up with the courrent third party scene in notebook computing. There is quite a lot going on, so let's have a look. Chipmunk Drive
Holmes Engineering of Murray, UT, has announced the Chipmunk, a 3.5" portable disk drive for the Radio Shack Model 100. The Chipmunk (so named because, according to the manufacturer, it is so "small and friendly") comes ready to plug into the Model 100--no software installation is necessary. Disk Basic and a powerful yet simple menu-driven operating system are included. Power is provided by built-in rechargeable batteries, or aC adaptor. The unit fits easily into a briefcase, along with the computer itself. Additional drives may be chained to the Chipmunk for multidrive capacity. The unit sells for $ 550, including all connecting cables, manuals, and master disk. Lucid Spreadsheet
Portable Computer Support Group, the first third party company to release software for the Model 100, has finally added a spreadsheet to its line. Lucid, a ROM catridge that snap into the ROM compartment on the back of the Model 100, offers a remarkable set of features. It takes no memory to load and no memory for operating overhead. It will let you build a very large spreadsheet--255 rows by 126 columns--while expending no memory on empty cells. This lets you use a 35K Model 100 to build spreadsheets that would consume 80 to 100K on a desktop computer. And it is fast.
Lucid has features that you can't find even in desktop spreadsheets. Cut, copy, and paste, for example, work within Lucid exactly as they do in Text. This makes manipulation of cell statements easy. Lucid takes all the formulas with it when you cut, and when you paste they all recalculate automatically with the entire sheet.
In addition, you can copy or cut from one spreadsheet to another spreadsheet or even from a Text file.
The program supports all Basic math functions as well as log, sine, cosine, tangent, exponentiation, and other sophisticated math functions. Lucid has expanded GOTO functions that remember and produce windowing capability. It also has a special block definition capacity that makes possible other features that refer to whatever section of the spreadsheet you designate.
Lucid is not only a spreadsheet program, but a program generator as well. You can protect all cells against entry or change, and unprotect just the cells you wish to designate as input fields. You can construct screen instructions, and then prompt for input. Lucid will process not only values, but text input as well. The program can refer to cells containing words and check user input against lookup tables. If-then branching can move you through a complicated survey process effortlessly.
The ROM cartridge is priced at $150. Quick Type Macros
PocketInfo Corp., a developer and marketer of software for handheld and lap computers, has introduced quicktype, a program that speeds typing on the Radio Shack Model 100 and NEC 8201 lap computers.
QuickType lets you define abbreviations one to three characters long for commonly used words, phrases, sentences, and paragraphs, providing a sort of "personal shorthand." The computer stores as many abbreviations as are needed, speeding input time by reducing the number of needed keystrokes. The program is a boon for those who often use standard phrase, sentences, or paragraphs in their writing.
After typing a text file with the abbreviations, you run QuickType to expand the abbreviations into the correct full forms, producing a finished document for printing or transmission. You can create abbreviations on the fly, while typing, for later definition. This is especially valuable when repetitious phrases are discovered in the middle of a task.
QuickType comes on cassette and is priced at $30. NEC Internal Modem
The major difference between the Radio Shack Model 100 and the NEC 8201 has up until now been the fact that the NEC machine does not sport an internal modem. But TouchBase Designs of Los Angeles has changed all that. They are offering a completely self-contained CMOS modem for the 8201 that installs in minutes without soldering or modification to your existing machine.
The TouchBase Design Modem is a compact (2" X 2") 300 baud modem card that installs inside the NEC portable computer. It does not interfere any way with the normal operation of the computer or its ports. A special RS-232 connector cable interfaces the computer with the telephone line (a loop-through is provided so that a telephone can remain simultaneously connected to the modem circuit).
to install the unit, you must open the NEC case, removing four screws. While the top and bottom covers lie apart, side by side, the modem is laid inside, and six small clips are attached to clearly visible and reachable points. The only necessary tools are a small Phillips head screwdriver and a wire cutter/ stripper.
The TouchBase Modem retails for $99 assembled. A similar unit is also available for the Epson HX-20. Model 100 Barcode
Optical Data Systems Inc. has announced the introduction of a barcode print-generator program called Strype Byte 100, for the Radio Shack Model 100 computer. Now the Model 100 can not only read bar code, but generate it as well.
Intended for use on a good quality dot-matrix printer, Strype Byte supports all three bar codes that the Model 100 can read: UPC-A, Code 3 of 9, and Modified Plessey. Barcodes can be produced in single or multiple copies, either randomly or sequentially, on labels or forms. The program allows you to design the format of a printout, including size, alphanumeric header and positioning.
Encoding programs are entirely in machine language, with control programs in Basic to facilitate customization. You are guided by menu-driven options throughout.
Strype Byte 100 is available on cassette or DVI format disk for $50. Traveling Software
Did you hear the one about the traveling salesman? He needs the power of a desktop packed into his Model 100, NEC 8201, or Olivetti M-10. Seven new programs from Traveling Software have come very close to granting his wish.
The Traveling Appointment Manager provides as easy-to-use, efficient way to keep track of business and personal appointments. It takes advantage of the clock and calendar built into your computer to log appointments and remind you later where you should be and when. You can even reschedule recurring appointments automatically. An accompanying program, Things-to-Do Manager, allows you to keep a list of things to accomplish them. Priced at $60.
The Traveling Sales Manager keeps not only a detailed log of your customers and contacts, but also a full record of what each customer purchased and when. It allows you to store important biographical data and notes about your customers. The program will even remind you to contact a customer on a particular date with a comment as to the nature of the contact.
You can also produce a variety of printed reports to: summarize all your data, give you instant access to information about customers, or list specific information by specific label. Priced at $60.
The Traveling Expense Manager allows you to stop wrestling with your company expense reports. You start by defining your expense categories and then, whenever they occur, record your expenses and designate which account they are to be charged to. You will see onscreen reports showing your current balances for each account and cumulative expenses for all projects or clients. You can produce printed reports for time periods you specify, by client, project, or expense category. Priced at $60.
The Traveling Writer puts the capabilities of a desktop text formatter into your notebook machine. It allows you to format files you have created using Text and design the way the type will look on the printed page. You can set left, right, top, and bottom margins; set line spacing; choose justified or proportional text; create tabulated printouts; print headers and/or footers; print underlines, italics, and boldface; and specify mail merge functions. Priced at $50.
The Traveling Time Manager can be used as a complete professional time accounting and billing system. Time expenditures can be recorded automatically or manually for projects or clients and categorized by type of work activity. Time expenditures may also be identified as billable or nonbillable with optional predefined activity labor rates applied. Printed reports can summarize billable and nonbillable time; indicate time expenditures by client, project, student, and/or work activity; show hour and minute totals and average billing rates per hour. Priced at $60.
The Traveling Project Manager can be used to manage small or large projects using a unique summary feature to track project expenditures over an extended period. You can manage several projects at the same time using work activities and tasks you define. Estimated and actual detailed expenses may be recorded as well as estimated and actual activity/task start and end dates. A variety of summaries and printed reports can be generated, including a project schedule bar chart; budget vs. actual, project, activity, and task dollar or unit expenditures; and percentage completion report by activity and task. Priced at $60.
T-Base is a relational database software product, designed specifically for the Model 100, NEC 8201, and Olivetti M-10 portables. Unlike simple filer programs, T-Base allows you to keep multiple files and forms of information. It allows the "borrowing" of information that relates to one file from data contained in another. And by allowing for file linkage, you can look at your data in any number of ways. T-Base has been priced at $100. Sharp Update
One year ago, in the January 1984 issue of Creative Computing, Dave Ahl reviewed the Sharp PC-5000 notebook portable. He was singularly enthusiastic, calling it "a full-capability, 16-bit desktop computer in a compact package." Well we remain enthusiastic about the machine, especially now that we have noticed it advertised at $1295 by New York discounters. That buys you a 128K MS-DOS compatible notebook machine with a fold-up 80-column x 8-line display and word processing/telecommunications programs in ROM. An optional inboard printer fits right into the body of the computer and provides 37 cps 80-column dot matrix hard copy. Also optional are a direct-connect modem/telephone and state-of-the-art bubble memory cartridges.
Now Sharp has introduced the CE-513 portable floppy disk drive. This AC or battery powered 3.5" Sony format disk drive can store 360K per double sided, double density disk. The unit weighs less than 6 lbs and measures 5.5" x9" x 2.5". That is portable, indeed. The unit lists for $699.
On the handheld scene, Sharp also has three new product debuts. The PC-1260 Pocket Computer features 4.4K of RAM, a 24-column x 2-line display, and built-in Basic for a list price of $129. If you need more memory, you can vie for the PC-1261, which packs a walloping 10K into the same diminutive size (5.5" x 2.75" x 0.4", 0.25 lbs). The PC-1261 lists for $195.
If a larger display is preferable, try the PC-1350 on for size. It provides four lines of 24 columns and 5K of RAM, expandable to 21K. Optional battery powered, credit card sized RAM cards are non-volatile, meaning they can be plugged in and out without altering their contents. Using the built-in serial interface, a PC-1350 can upload and download between itself and a PC-5000.
We hope to provide a full review of the PC-1350 in an upcoming issue.
Well, that's it for this go-round. Keep your batteries charged and maximum RAM free. See you next time.