|WWW.8BIT-MICRO.COM ONLINE VINTAGE COMPUTER MAGAZINE|
Are PC Builders getting back to their roots, a look at the new trend in portable tools going retro!
~by Brian K. Hahn ~
Just when you thought that the Personal Computer builders were
overcoming some of the burdensome notebook problems such as low
battery life, weight and portability new problems crop up. I'm talking
about the durability problems encounters with the new tablet swivel tops.
One of the more expensive repairs is hyper-extending the display until
the knuckle pops. You know what I am talking about. The new tablet
PC's that have been around since the mid 80's with the GRiD Tablet have
a real problem with the display 'hinge' breaking... and they still have low
battery life, are still too heavy for the writing professional. So, what is the
At the risk of flogging a dead horse, here I go again. The answer is
buying a PC to fit what you really need it for. Word Processing! That's
it. If you are really honest with yourself many see the PC as an
adventuresome tool. They hear about the games, the big applications
they can run. But what really happens? You get the new hi-powered
notebooks, you go out a buy a game, get bored, they look towards
seeing if they can run the big bad boys out there. Dbase, Excel, maybe
a CAD program. But you can't afford it because you just dropped over
$3000.00 on the counter for your PC. So now you the unthinkable. You
join the organized crime factor. You start downloading all the
software from the NET, get cracks and pirated serial numbers and you
have it. Over $5000.00 of stolen software in just 3 weeks.. Good Job..
mom would be proud. But a criminal you are!
OK, I will say it again... "Buy your PC to do only what you really need it for.." After all your 'high grading' efforts you
let those cracked applications sit on your hard drive afraid to erase them because... "hey, they are worth a fortune!"
But what do you do day after day... you write letters, papers and dissertations.
This month, we look at where the PC companies are going. Hi-Tech Micro Builders Looking Over Their
Companies like QuickPad and Alphasmart are modeling their new tools on the NEC and Tandy's of the past. These
are not just look-a-likes they are true tributes to the Tandy Notebooks featured here on 8bit-Micro.
8bit-Micro shows you where to get these machine, how much they are and charts them side by side with the grand
daddies of the industry, the Brother Powernotes and Tandy Model(s) 100, 102, WP2 / WP3 and the NEC 8300.
If I haven't given you a reason to join the "legal software group" I should of at least hit a cord in what I said about your
PC ownership experience. Many people fall into the trap of wanting to see what their machine can do, only to install
all the big programs out therer to gain bragging rights. But like I said before Word Processing is were it's at. ... and
the Hi-Tech builders out there are also tossing in the towel. Just when I thought that the Tandy WP2 and the Brother
Powernotes of the past had an exclusive niche in the marketplace along come the new gen-exer group of PC's.
Something old is new again. So we'll take a comparative look at the new portables from QuickPad and AlphaSmart
and see what they have and have not going for them when we compare them to the oldies but goodies. Before we
do, I have to go on record as saying I love these new machines! They really appeal to a geek like me.
First up to bat, is the QuickPAD Pro from QuickPAD Technology Corporation of 465 Fairchild Drive, Suite 103,
Mountain View, CA 94043.
Promotional documentation states "With QuickPAD PRO, users now have all of the conveniences and applications
of a notebook at a fraction of the cost and weight. Coupled with its ability to function 50 hours compared to a few
notebook hours and durable design, QuickPAD PRO is your logical solution for convenient and mobile computing."
The QuickPAD Pro is said to be made of simple technology! For those who need a translation, it runs on a simple
CPU very similar to the 8bit powerhouses promoted here at 8bit-Micro. This unit has a 60X16 display, runs up to 50
hours on 4 AA Alkaline batteries, has a Serial Port, Printer Port (Sound Familiar) hmmmmm . . . ah here it is.. also
sports an IR port for PALM Pilot technologies.. Very cool! The QuickPAD Pro has installed on it's ROM a Word
Processor, Spreadsheet, Address Book, Day Timer, Calculator and a 70,000 Word Spell Checker. A quick search
on the NET and you realize that this unit is sold in the price range of $199.00 (US) to $249.00 (US).
Next Up is the AlphaSmart 3000 from AlphaSmart, Inc., 973 University Ave. Los Gatos, CA 95032.
The AlphaSmart 3000 is touted as being "The simple, portable, low cost computer companion with extraordinary
battery life. The AlphaSmart 3000's low cost allows you to provide technology access to an entire classroom of 30
students for the price of three to four computers." Theres that word again, "Simple" and you though 8bit-Micro
what stuck in the past! The AlphaSmart 3000 allows you to enter and edit text, then send it to any computer for
formatting or directly to a printer. Its portability allows students to use it anywhere and anytime - in the classroom, at
home, or on field trips. This same claim was published in 1985 with the release of the Tandy WP2 and later
published when distributed by Brother with the Powernotes, 4400 and 8500.
batteries! This seems to us at 8bit-Micro an overstatement but even if the unit runs for half of that you have a
machine that has really overcome the power shortage of the full notebooks that run into thousands of dollars. The
Alphasmart 3000 comes is various flavors, the entry level comes using three (3) AA battery and no IR port, the next
up is the rechargeable version, then the AA version with an IR port and finally the rechargeable version with the IR
The Alphasmart 3000 has a 40 X 4 LCD display, and has mini-applications such as Word Processing, Outliner
Maker and a Spell Checker. It also comes complete with all the ports to print and transfer your document into either
a PC or Macintosh. Starting prices on these units run from $225.00 (US) to 299.00 (US).
These machines bring the PC user out of the clouds and places them firmly on the ground by giving them an
affordable option to get the job done. These are great units for the hard working church elder, pastor, teacher,
student, reporter in the go to the inspired writer. But if all your wanting is to word process, which is the common
denominator of all PC users, then you should also be looking in the past. Take a look at the NEC, Tandy, TRS-80
and the Brother machines of the past. All these can do what the AlphaSmart and QuickPAD can for even less then
they are. The following chart compares the new with the old. You may be surprised what the past has to offer!
System Comparative Chart
QuickPAD Pro AlphaSmart 3000 Brother Powernote 4400 Brother Powernote 8500 Tandy WP2
/ WP3 TRS-80 Model 100
/ 102 Tandy 1100
FD NEC 8300
Brother Powernote 4400
Brother Powernote 8500
Tandy WP2 / WP3
TRS-80 Model 100 / 102
Tandy 1100 FD
(c) 2004, 2005, Brian K. Hahn
All Rights Reserved.