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Portables Power Hardware

Inside the TRS-80 Model 100 228

enalbro writes "What wouldn't you give for a laptop that starts instantly, weighs 3 pounds and gets 20 hours of battery life? That's the TRS-80 Model 100 in a nutshell. Granted, it displays only 8 lines of text and has just 28 kilobytes of memory, but it's a classic, the first truly popular portable in the U.S. At PC World we have a teardown that'll show you the guts of this featherweight champ." And, like many of the best things in life, it's powered by AA batteries (as is the Apple eMate).
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Inside the TRS-80 Model 100

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  • Eh (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @01:18PM (#23640539)
    No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by pak9rabid ( 1011935 )

      No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.
      Yeah, the engineers totally should have teleported 20 years into the future and brought back wifi and SSD drives for it.
    • Wrong! (Score:2, Funny)

      by seandiggity ( 992657 )
      You can have wireless, you just have to try harder [].
    • Re:Eh (Score:5, Funny)

      by phulegart ( 997083 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @03:11PM (#23642201)
      Actually, this comment really shows how no one bothers to do a little more research than just reading titles.

      For instance... did you know...

      These computers, as well as the TRS-80 CoCos and the Model I, III, and IV units... the units that saved programs to cassette, have greater wireless capabilities than our current hardware. All it takes is to plug in the input and output that are supposed to go to the cassette recorder, and patch it into a HAM radio. It's already being done. People are sending programs and information half-way around the world, without wires and without the assistance of satellites.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tompaulco ( 629533 )
        TRS-80s were awesome. I worked with a hardware guy once and he built a seismometer and we used a TRS-80 to read the seismometer output from the serial port and make a graph.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dadoo ( 899435 )
      No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.

      Maybe, but the form factor of the machine is perfect for a lot of uses. I wonder how difficult it would be to develop a new motherboard, based on modern components. If you could put together an ultra-low-power ARM CPU, 128 meg, or so, of memory, and a CompactFlash slot for storage, you could run Linux on it. Replace the 25-pin serial port and the printer port with 9-pin serial and USB ports, replace the phone port with an actual modem jack, replace the bar code rea
  • by JoeCommodore ( 567479 ) <> on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @01:20PM (#23640569) Homepage
    One of which the previous owner had ran over with her car. Except for the missing LCD (was cracked) the unit worked; keyboard and all.

    Had a nice little BASIC and lots of cool ports. Trivia: the OS was the last major coding work by Bill Gates himself.
    • by eck011219 ( 851729 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @01:28PM (#23640721)
      We had one that my dad left in the trunk of the car for about a week in the summer so the keys partially melted. It was hard to type (you really had to pound on a couple of the keys to get them to register) but it still worked like a charm. Now I worry about my Dell laptop on humid days.
    • by Ooblek ( 544753 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @01:42PM (#23640929)
      A friend was cleaning out his garage once and had one of these in a box. He gave it to me. I like tinkering with antique computers on occasion. (I still have my C64 programmers handbook that has the fold-out motherboard schematic in the back.)

      A few years later, I velcroed it to a pull-out rack shelf and hooked a null modem cable to it to monitor the console output of a SSL Screen Sound setup (proprietary pro-audio digital mixer/editor in the days before Pro-tools). It couldn't quite keep up with the 9600 baud stream if there was a lot of data streaming fast like during bootup. It did the trick, however, when you just needed to go in and check some of the statuses while the system was running. I think I mostly used it to go in and low-level format the hard drives on occasion.

      It was useful for a while, and that must have been somewhere in the mid-90s that I used it.

    • by f8l_0e ( 775982 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @02:02PM (#23641203)
      From page 4 of the article: "Peeking in from the left is the reset button, which the user needs from time to time due to a few pesky bugs in the ROM code, reminding us that even non-Windows systems can crash." I guess the quality of Microsoft software has stayed the same as the days when Bill was writing code.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Had a nice little BASIC and lots of cool ports. Trivia: the OS was the last major coding work by Bill Gates himself.

      Yep. Witness these 'screenshots':

      Jan 12, 1908 Tue 14:03:54 (C)Microsoft
      SCHEDL MYFILE.DO -.- -.-

      Select: _ 24121 Bytes free

      (edited for slashdot's junk characters filter)

      BASIC was highlighted. Press Enter:

      Jan 12, 1908 Tue 14:03:54 (C)Microsoft
      You are about to run BASIC. This

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by sgt scrub ( 869860 )
      I loved mine. The coupler for it was a breakthrough. Storing files on the 3.5" floppy was cool but time consuming. It was physically indestructable but didn't hold up to high temps for very long. I blew mine up twice sitting cross legged with a blanket on my lap. I wouldn't realize how hot it was getting because I was busy writing. The add on ROM was wonderful. Gates did a fantastic job on it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by wass ( 72082 )
      Back in 1999, a guy at my old workplace still used a TRS-80 Model 100 for field testing portable RS-232 devices he was building. And they had a huge budget, yet the TRS-80 was the best and easiest thing to enable rapid field testing.
  • GK Chesterton once wrote, 'there has never been a revolution that was not a reinstitution' - or something very similar to that.

    With the new crop of machines like the EEE PC it seems that we're moving back to small, power-efficient machines as opposed to huge hulkers.

    Hopefully, as people become more conscience of the cost of energy, both in economic and environmental terms, we'll see more applications of low-power consumption chips like ARM and 20hours of battery life won't seem so amazing anymore.
    • With the new crop of machines like the EEE PC it seems that we're moving back to small, power-efficient machines as opposed to huge hulkers.

      With OLED screens coming as the next big thing in the next few years, processors like VIA's Nano (formerly Isiah, I think), Intel's Atom, SSD storage, integrated graphics, things are definitely looking up on this front. Along with fewer moving parts to improve useful life, this is all great news.

      I just hope the usability improves as well. Keyboards like on the Model 100
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by bhtooefr ( 649901 )
        Quick question, have you tried ThinkPad keyboards, especially the 600 series, T20-24, X20-23, T40-43, R50-52, X60-61,or T60-61?

        Those are by far the best laptop keyboards I've ever typed on, and I greatly prefer them to most rubber dome keyboards. (However, I prefer a good buckling spring keyboard.)
        • Quick question, have you tried ThinkPad keyboards

          I have, and they're easily the best of the laptop lot these days. I shudder to think what Lenovo is going to do to that line, though.

          Sadly, I cannot afford a Thinkpad right now. :(
    • Re:GK Chesterton (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Applekid ( 993327 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @01:37PM (#23640873)

      With the new crop of machines like the EEE PC it seems that we're moving back to small, power-efficient machines as opposed to huge hulkers.
      People have been predicting the death of the hulker desktop now for what, 10 years? Sure the move to smaller and efficient is what's going to make computing truly ubiquitous by hiding them everywhere (well, that and economics), but full-sized machines will always have more power and reflect the state-of-the-art computing muscle the industry has to offer.

      But muscle isn't everything? Lalalala, I can't hear you. ;)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bsDaemon ( 87307 )
        I plan on experimenting with Pico-ITX, or perhaps ARM systems this year, trying to see if I can't power a reasonably useful system on solar or so. I probably wouldn't want to be doing a buildworld every week on one, but it'd be nice to have something power efficient to idle IRC...

        there is always going to be a place for hulking, massive systems -- however, we should try and make them as power efficient as possible.
    • by hurfy ( 735314 )

      I just finished rebuilding a 386 laptop to use for home inventory as well as add to my collection of working vintage. Soldered up a new CMOS battery and built a new battery pack. Hopefully destroying the 'equalizer' battery (a stack of 10 button cells soldered together, connector on MB is shot) won't cause any long-time problems.
      The floppy drive is seperate but the computer is smaller than my real laptop and runs forever. Complete with original DOS 6 and Windows 3.1 :)

      Always wanted one of those RS bugger
    • Re:GK Chesterton (Score:5, Interesting)

      by schwaang ( 667808 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @03:24PM (#23642389)

      With the new crop of machines like the EEE PC it seems that we're moving back to small, power-efficient machines as opposed to huge hulkers.

      What's interesting to me is the tension this sets up with operating systems like Vista which are moving in the opposite direction.

      Just when the ultimate in MS bloatware comes out, suddenly a new (again) market appears for ultra-portable general-purpose PCs that can't run Vista.

      So we have WinXP on the OLPC XO-1 and Asus EEE PC, etc., because Vista's too big and WinCE is too small. XP or linux+xfce are juuust right.

      Personally I *want* my desktop to handle speech recognition and swooshy graphics if it has the beef. And I want my portable to have a huge battery life AND a general-purpose OS.

      So I think this OS bloat bifurcation should continue.
  • by thesolo ( 131008 ) * <> on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @01:21PM (#23640585) Homepage
    And the best part of it is...the control key is in the proper place! That is to say, it's directly left of the A key, on the home row. Just like the Happy Hacker or Sun keyboards. Amen.
    • Or indeed MacBook keyboards.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by ISoldat53 ( 977164 )
      Nearly every main frame at the time had a terminal description for it. It was the most widely used device for reporters. They would write their stories and dial the home office using a phone coupler that attached to the phone mouth piece and download the story. They could be used as terminals for Tandy's TRS80 model 2 Xenix systems. One thing it did not handle was leap year. I had an Otis elevator engineer call up on leap day to tell me he used them to start and log the error codes for elevator controllers
  • keyboards (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tumbleweed ( 3706 ) * on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @01:21PM (#23640597)
    Laptop makers could learn a thing or two from that keyboard - WAY better feel than those stupid flat keys that so many laptops use today (Apple, Sony, etc.). If you can't do something better than they did 20 years ago, just don't even try, m'kay?
    • by Quadraginta ( 902985 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @01:27PM (#23640715)
      If you can't do something better than they did 20 years ago, just don't even try, m'kay?

      Bad news for virgins, huh?
    • I have a first revision Commodore 64 with a keyboard like the TRS-80 Model 1000's. If it's all the same to you, I'd rather keep my flat-key MacBook keyboard. Typing on the C64 is not something I'd like to do on a regular basis. But typing on my MacBook? That is something I already do on a regular basis.

      Sorry, but nostalgia is not a good stand-in for real-world superiority. (And I say that as a classic video game/computer collector.)
      • by R2.0 ( 532027 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @01:47PM (#23640993)
        "Sorry, but nostalgia is not a good stand-in for real-world superiority."

        I sense a great disturbance in the Force, as if thousands of Model M users cried out in rage, and then continued typing.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by AKAImBatman ( 238306 )
          The difference is that the Model M really was an excellent keyboard. With every key exceptionally well sprung, the keyboard was so heavy you could kill someone with it. (Hmmm... Colonel Mustard did it in the office with the keyboard?) Yet the keys were very responsive, well spaced, and easy to type on. I'm not sure I'd go as far as to demand that all modern keyboards should emulate the Model M, but it was a good keyboard.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by bhtooefr ( 649901 )
            I'll just note that the past tense isn't correct - I'm typing this post on a Model M manufactured 2008-03-06, and with native USB. ;)

            (Granted, it's an EnduraPro 104, and the construction isn't nearly as heavy duty as an IBM Model M, but it does say Model M on the bottom, and has buckling springs. :))
      • Your point would be good if a C64 keyboard was actually like the TRS-80 Model 100 keyboard. It isn't, though.

        I have a MacBook on my desk next to me at work, and that keyboard blows. All form over function. :(

        Apple is hardly alone in this, though, as Sony proves (and that Optimus keyboard).
    • Looking at some of the replies, I guess some people just like typing on those flat, no-travel keys. Myself, I love the "ka-chunk" that the M-100 provides. It's also superior to many "regular" keyboards you can buy today.

      I suspect that modern laptops keep their keyboards slim so as to keep the units slim as a whole. But I would gladly sacrifice a the slim profile for a "real" keyboard.

      • I suspect that modern laptops keep their keyboards slim so as to keep the units slim as a whole. But I would gladly sacrifice a the slim profile for a "real" keyboard.

        Probably, plus for the fancy looks. I'd love for Lenovo to put a buckling-spring keyboard in the ThinkPads. Hell, you could probably put a little generator in each key and partially power the thing just with your typing! :) Then if they made it cheaper, I could maybe buy one. Someday.
    • Noise and Braces (Score:3, Informative)

      by alcmaeon ( 684971 )
      When we used those TRS-80 Model 100 computers back in the day, the keyboards were too noisy for taking notes in class, so we popped the keys and placed those little rubber bands for orthodontic braces over the posts, put the keys back on and the keyboard was virtually silent.
  • Love it! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Saint Aardvark ( 159009 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @01:26PM (#23640685) Homepage Journal

    Came across one in the hallway of a university I sometimes work at; it had been left for the janitors to take away so I snagged it for my son. He's almost two, and has fun banging away on it...any time he starts making his way toward my laptop, or my wife's, we just say, "Hey, where's your laptop these days?"

    Only problem is, my wife has an iBook, and once he notices that his laptop isn't nearly as shiny as hers we're doomed. Lucky thing I'm a Linux sysadmin...I can just point to an xterm once he starts wondering about the difference between his laptop and ours. :-)

  • I still have mine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by corsec67 ( 627446 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @01:27PM (#23640699) Homepage Journal
    Granted, it is older than I am, but it is indeed quite impressive. My parents gave it to me when I was about 10 years old. Since I wanted to play games on it, I had to type code in from a book.

    Instant boot. Sunlight readable display. Full travel keyboard, full size keys. Ctrl key in the correct place. No screen joints to wear out.

    20 hours, on 4 AA batteries. No proprietary battery.

    External storage is an audio cassette. I think it uses the modem to generate the sounds for the cassette, but I could be wrong.

    The OS does have a few bugs, where if a program does something bad (not using PEEK and POKE, but pure basic), or is too big to tokenize, it crashes and erases all memory. That makes writing big programs very exciting.

    The OS also isn't Y2K compatible, with this year being "1908".
    • by fishbowl ( 7759 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @01:53PM (#23641069)

      >20 hours, on 4 AA batteries. No proprietary battery.

      Do not underestimate the impact of this, on its popularity.
      One big reason the Model 100 was so popular among journalists was
      the extremely good (even for now) battery life, together with the
      fact that the AA battery is something that you'd be able to get in
      even some very remote places.
  • I have an NEC PC-8201a (same as the model 100). It was a requirement for college at the time.

    I'd sell it, but have found that it is worth less than the cost of shipping.
    • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) *
      Emphasize that it IS a Model 100, add links to confirm for the sceptical, and you should be able to move the machine at a profit. There is a resurgence in interest in the things.

      What I'd liek to see is an updated version. Keep the idea but use modern semiconductors to give it a useful storage capacity, a little more CPU power and a better display. But DO keep both Windows AND probably Linux off of it to keep the best attribute, instant boot and AA batteries.

      More than a "Word processor" less than a comput
      • Re:Still have one. (Score:4, Informative)

        by kognate ( 322256 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @02:23PM (#23641531)
        What you are looking for then is the AlphaSmart Dana [] which is all of this and more.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Russ Nelson ( 33911 )
        Throw a four AA-cell pack with a Nokia N810 into a package with a real (full travel) compact bluetooth keyboard, and you'd get most of what you want with almost no engineering expense.
    • I had the same (my dad found it in a cupboard at his work at some point in the mid-nineties, and nobody either knew what it was or wanted it) - except the bloody thing died a few years ago. All it would do was display crap on the screen. I'm wondering if using a different, possibly-wrong-spec mains charger may have killed it.

      It was great fun to mess round with when it did work, of course - I wrote various games (enhanced with the extended-character-set editor program) and generally had good fun with it. Thi
    • by cruff ( 171569 )
      Just add on the shipping as an additional charge. Someone will buy it.
  • by kwabbles ( 259554 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @01:27PM (#23640717)
    From first page:

    "the Model 100 served as the portable computing workhorse of its day. Bill Gates' also ranks it as one of his favorite computers of all time, in large part because he and a friend wrote the firmware it uses."

    And then on the 4th page:
    "Peeking in from the left is the reset button, which the user needs from time to time due to a few pesky bugs in the ROM code, reminding us that even non-Windows systems can crash."

    Come on then. It's funny.
  • The eMate does not take AA batteries if I remember correctly. I could dig though my closet to find my emate to double check, but I really don't feel like it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by harrkev ( 623093 )
      Well, it does take a rechargable battery pack. Inside the sealed pack are AA nicads.

      I just disassembled the battery pack, and put brand-new AA NiMH batteries in there. Now, it gets a LOT longer life than it used to. The NiMH still self-discharges, though. I should have waited another year for Eneloop batteries to be invented.
  • The battery pack it used was made up of AAs but it was a rechargeable battery pack and NOT set up to take AAs alone like the 100 was. That being said I still think the eMate was the perfect OLPC computer.
  • by pha7boy ( 1242512 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @01:32PM (#23640797)
    well, unless it comes out in all white, I'm not interested. I mean, how would I be able to look cool at the [local coffee shop]?
  • Those specs mean nothing to me. I still have a Casio FX-702p []. Weight 190 grams, dimensions 17mm x 83mm x 168mm. Battery life: I'm not sure, about a few months with two CR2032 lithium batteries. Now for the downside: memory is 1680 bytes, 20 characters x one line alphanumeric display.

    But it's still working, 27 years after I bought it, doing exactly what it was meant to do. Funny but there are times when you don't need an upgrade for your technical gear...

    • I still my HP-16C, bought on employee discount in 1983. I've changed the batteries, mmmm, maybe three times? It works every time I turn it on. Serial number 1024. :-)
  • one of my first jobs in life, in high school, consisted of going to the local town hall, typing up the records of the week's real estate transactions on the model 100, and then relaying it back to the local paper over a 300 bps modem (also self-contained, rather than needing those rubbery headset couplers i remember from the time)

    i remember marvelling at the time how high tech my job was! (that, and how many real estate transactions were made for a $1)
  • I still use mine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jridley ( 9305 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @01:40PM (#23640903)
    I have 3 of them, picked up a couple of spares off eBay for $30 total.

    I use them to take minutes at meetings. I used to have a PC laptop but since all I used it for was to take minutes, I gave it to my brother who actually needed it. The Model 100 performs minute-taking just fine. Also I can touch type on it better than on a newer laptop keyboard.

    The Model 100 was a MAINSTAY of journalists at the time; since it ran for many hours on AA batteries which you could get anywhere, even in small towns in foreign countries, and it had a built-in modem and a very portable acoustic coupler that would work with any phone you could find. I bet the majority of remote print reporting for several years was typed in the field on a Model 100.
  • ... for taking notes. Text only, no distractions (such as the web), print out on 9-pin dot matrix printers. Only thing better is an old Underwood....
  • Mine was stolen in an airport 5 years ago, sadly. I got it at a flea market for ~$3. It was fun to play with although I didn't use it seriously in college by any means.

    Damn thieves! Went on eBay to look for a replacement and it was too expensive for me at the time.
  • eMate batteries (Score:2, Informative)

    by cangrande ( 199946 )
    While the eMate did use rechargable AA's, they were soldered together in a little heatshrink pack. So while they are a common size, it's not like you could pop them out and stick more in easily. Still, the battery pack is much easier to rebuild than something like a Powerbook battery from the same era, which often had 4/5 AA's soldered together with various safety components inside a sealed hard plastic case that was impossible to get apart and back together without some major hassles.

    The Newton 2000 and
  • Sure, but what about the Epson HX-20 [], circa 1981? I didn't actually own one, but I got to borrow one from a guy who was using them to run CNC machines.

    And does anybody else have a Convergent Technologies WorkSlate []? I should see if I can get that baby to fire up . . .
  • I worked at Denning Mobile Robotics, and we had a bunch of them. They had a printer port, modem, and RS232.

    We used them as portable RS232 terminals!! They were cheaper than Wyse terminals and far more portable. They were awesome devices. I often wonder why simple devices can't be created to do a job efficiently and reliably. I guess, with no stable computing standards, they would become obsolete too quickly.

    The EeePC was close, but now that it has gone Windows, that device is on the upgrade treadmill as wel
  • I've been going on about this for years.

    I want a note book with 40hr batter life. In days of yore I used a psion with a full keyboard and small LCD. Great battery life.

    I have all the components except I need a screen. I'm looking for a either a 1024x768 or 80x24/25 character lcd. B+W is OK. It must have low power drain. Preferrably 14" at least. Where do I find such a beast?

    I would have a low power CPU (arm), 4GB SSD, 1GB RAM, screen, clicky keyboard. All bashed into a cutom CNC cut case. Running o
  • The Dana and Dana wireless uses 3 AA batteries. []

    160x560 graphical screen runs PalmOS v4.1

    Appently still avalible for $350.

    To bad Access doesn't suport v4.1 anymore so you can't get the SDK anymore.
  • It's almost identical, but has more RAM. I recently put it to very good use by loaning it to a friend who had a vocal cord infection and was told not to talk (or sing) for 2 months. She's a great typist so it became her notepad for communicating to others. She loves it.
  • I recall Scott Oki (International VP of Microsoft at the time) keying meeting notes into one of these things in May 1983 - around the same time Bill Gates was demo'ing a thing called Windows on a Compaq Plus sewing machine to us. Could still use one of these things today... Ian W.
  • I'm trying to "modernize" my 1000 TL Series Tandy so it can talk on my all Linux network. I've currently outfitted it with a 256 K ISA VGA Card, and I'm trying to get a cheap 8-bit ISA IDE Hard disk card to replace the crummy XT Western Digital Whinchester Drive in it.
  • Not a laptop (Score:3, Insightful)

    What wouldn't you give for a laptop that starts instantly, weighs 3 pounds and gets 20 hours of battery life?

    I'd give a lot for that, but this wasn't it. This is more accurately described as a PDA that fits on your lap. What it did, it did well (for the time), but it was very limited. And modern PDAs get a lot more than 20 hours of battery life.

    In other words, if you want a modern Model 100, get a PDA with one of those fold-up keyboards and go to town. Instant-on, long battery life, and destroys the Model 100 in usefulness.

  • I still use a trusty old HP 200LX, which sports a graphics shell, MS-DOS, 2MB RAM which serves part as disk, and it too runs on AA batteries.
  • I have one of these as part of my "classic computer" collection, and it was the best eBay find I ever got. For something like a hundred bucks I got a Model 100 in near mint condition, with a faux-leather carrying case that was in such good condition it still had the cardboard insert from the packaging in it, a boxed cassette recorder, some software on cassette (remember the good old days when software came with a leather-bound binder containing printed instructions?), all the hardware and software manuals,
  • Where does the swipe card cracker plug in? Like the ones seen in T2
  • by jalefkowit ( 101585 ) <> on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @02:09PM (#23641299) Homepage

    ... the Model 100 is kinda the definition of the perfect portable:

    • Insane battery life on bog-standard AA batteries you can buy in any airport gift shop
    • Full size keyboard for easy typing
    • Screen you can read in sunlight
    • Case tough enough to take a serious beating without a flinch

    Sure, it doesn't have the bells and whistles the kids are into like "color" or "graphics", but in a portable for writers none of that is really important -- which is why many journalists held on to their Model 100s long after they became ludicrously obsolete.

    With the demise of products like the Psion Series 5 [] (another writer's portable), the niche that the Model 100 pioneered has basically been abandoned; the only thing close to it today is the EEE PC, which would be an ideal spiritual successor to the hardy 100 if the keyboard wasn't so danged small...

  • This reminds me of the Psion Series 3a [] palmtop, which is almost 15 years old now.

    It had a great usable keyboard for its size (similar to a glasses case) and a big clear greyscale 480x160 screen.
    In terms of runtime, it would run for around 20 hours on a pair of AA's, with negliable standby power, ct1620 button-cell memory backup and instant-on giving literaly weeks of reliable operation between battery changes.
    It ran rock-solid custom-made PDA software (agenda, word processor, timezon
  • Tandy/Sharp PC-2 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by GottliebPins ( 1113707 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @02:12PM (#23641359)
    My friend had a Model 100 and I was so jealous. That thing rocked! But I still have my TRS-80 PC-2 pocket computer. It's so easy to use. It's better than a calculator. You can type out entire formulas then if you make a mistake you can hit the back button and see the whole formula and fix whatever you did wrong. I use it every year come tax time. For such a small display you can address every pixel if you want to draw something or make a simple game and it has a speaker you can play music on. I also have the cassette/printer interface. The printer isn't a dot matrix but pen plotter. That was cool to watch it print reports or draw graphs. The paper goes up and down and the pens go side to side. That memory on it lasts for weeks on 4 AA batteries. Sometimes simple is better.
  • Durable as all hell, power lasts a long time (and spare batteries easy to carry), and a good old fashioned serial interface.

    We still use them to interface with SCADA gear out in the field. You're not going to want to haul a regular laptop into some of those areas.

    And yes, I've been trying to pilfer one ever since I discovered that they were still in use :)
  • My horse veterinarian used to use one of those. She had a PC running UNIX back at her office, and used the portable to connect to it from her truck.

  • The first M100's came with a whopping 8k of RAM/Storage, not 24k. I know, I have one. Used it all through High School for taking notes in class (can't write fast enough), and again through college. Just plug in the serial cable and upload to PC at the end of the day. Although by college I'd upgraded it to 32k via the wonderful Club100 site that still sells parts/addons/programs for it (

    It also gave me my start in programming via hand-keying games from a book into it, and learning
  • I have a Model 100 and the thinner Model 102. I used the 100 in college in the late 80's to take notes in class, and even wrote an alarm clock program that woke me up in the mornings! I did a little hack so that it would charge ni-cads from the ac adaptor (not a standard feature). I have the floppy drive, bar code reader, modem cups, etc... It had a very well integrated operating system. one of the better things microsoft has done IMHO.

  • I volunteer as a race official at some bike and running races. One of the guys who does the chip timing for some of these races still uses them as data loggers. He has a whole trunk full of spares he picks up at garage sales.

  • I remember in Jr. High when a friend of mine brought one of these to school. It was old even then, but still pretty cool.

    Nowadays, it kinda makes me miss my Psion Series 5.
  • Wrote all of my high school papers on one of these back in the 80's.
    It was a TANK: heavy, nothing could hurt it, always worked, ports for everything (at that time).
    Almost wish I had one today...
  • 16 pages, one paragraph per page. Tried finding an "print" link or something like that, but I couldn't. I don't read PC World, maybe this is common for them. At least there's one photo per page as well.
  • by curmudgeon99 ( 1040054 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @03:35PM (#23642533)
    I bought one of these in 1980 and it still works perfectly. What made it so amazing was that it had the BASIC programming language included with the ablity to create sound, a modem and other goodies. The OS for this device was reputed to have been the last piece of software that Bill Gates himself wrote. The user's manual was incredibly badly written--with page references to non-existent sections, etc. The manual was also reputed to be Bill's first book.
  • I learned to program (Score:4, Interesting)

    by presidentbeef ( 779674 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @03:50PM (#23642757) Homepage Journal
    on one of these that my uncle gave me. Pretty much changed my life.

    What this article really failed to mention was the software side. You could program anything on the computer in BASIC and the LCD screen made it easy to create and position graphics (no need to worry about resolution - each pixel is always in exactly the same place and precisely the same number characters will always fit on the screen.) Made for years of writing games and applications on that thing. This is really something the "laptops for kids" people should be thinking about.
  • by rincebrain ( 776480 ) on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @04:34PM (#23643333) Homepage
    Simon Travaglia originally scored a TRS-80 out of a bin at the university he worked for at the time, and he wrote out a few articles of the Striped Irregular Bucket. Within that bloody machine came the character of the BOFH, and the something. []
  • The Cambridge Z88 (Score:3, Informative)

    by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Tuesday June 03, 2008 @05:52PM (#23644369) Journal
    In the late 1980s, Clive Sinclair brought out a new computer, the Cambridge Z88. It can run for 20 hours on its AA batteries, and has a suite of useful productivity software. The LCD is also quite a bit larger, and it has a built in BASIC interpreter (BBC BASIC) and a built in Z80 assembler!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jhoger ( 519683 )
      The Z88 LCD is half the height but higher resolution.

      Nice machine. One drawback versus the M100 is that it has a capactitor instead of a NiCd for maintaining the RAM disk. It seems like it wouldn't matter but in practice it is a huge issue.

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