Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Trends, Failures and Spotlight on HP 95LX

It's amazing how much money, time and brain power goes into making computers right. In the late 90s and early 2000s, everybody had to have a PDA of some sort. However, we're still yet to get things right. However, now that Apple and Microsoft are losing their temporary shared monopoly, we're seeing more innovation which brings us closer to perfection though Apple and Microsoft do deserve credit as they can afford to put more effort into R&D and take more risks than most independent players. The PDA popular in the late 90s failed as did Microsoft's attempt to make tablets popular in the early 2000s. For a few years in the late 2000s, netbooks were the craze. Last year, everybody just had to have an iPad.

We see something new and amazing each year and must have it. Certain things, like the iPod, become a classic hit and stay with us. Other items, like Microsoft's attempt at popularizing Windows tablets in the early 2000s, fade to obscurity. However, the customers who must be part of a new trend serve a very important purpose. They don't just fund liability, development and research. They also are the first to be able to tell designers what's done wrong on a product. After so many years of this in repeat, we're able to see computers take a larger role in our personal lives than anyone imagined possible ten years ago. Maybe a concept doesn't truely fail but instead, it morphs or gets assimilated into another, refined concept. PDAs getting absorbed into smartphones or the rounding out of basic netbooks and tablets into the iPad and various Android devices. Who knows what we will see introduced to us next year.

Now, let's take a gander at an early attempt at truely mobile computing. In my last post, I mentioned a second computer was visible in the photo of my Macintosh Performa and here it is. A circa 1991 Hewlett Packard 95LX. This has an NEC V20, 512kb memory, runs MS-DOS 3.2 and is powered by a pair of AA batteries. It literally puts a PC in your pocket and is, more or less, just like running an original circa 1981 IBM PC. It also has a powerful business/graphic calculator and Lotus 123 (in the 80s and early 90s, 123 was THE spreadsheet software for PC) embedded into rom. Devices like this mostly served a niche purpose but paved the way to handheld devices we know and love now.


  1. I used PocketDOS on Mobile Gear 900C, and it was an interesting experience. Maybe someday I'll find HP200LX or the sort... Jlime is very useful by the way...

  2. I'm sure a 200LX would be more useful than the HP palmtop I have. I used to use mine regularly up until late 2009 to do inventory spreadsheets. Now, it's mostly used as a calculator. The built in calculator app is pretty nice and has tons of features. It's on par with using one of HP's dedicated business calculators. Maybe better since the device has a large screen and ability to save files.

  3. It's interesting that 95LX is IBM PC/XT Compatible. I've never used those before, but someday I want to. I'm thinking of visiting Computer History Museum this August, if I can when I go the States.