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Hi-Tech Micro Builders Looking Over Their Shoulders

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 proudBut 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

Shoulders...Are PC Builders getting back to their roots? A look at the new trend in portable tools going retro!     

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.

The AlphaSmart 3000 the extraordinary claim of being able to operate for 700 hours on only three (3) AA Alkaline

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

System Display Battery Life Applications Ports Storage Price (US)

QuickPAD Pro

60 x 16 50 Hours on 4 AA Alkaline Batteries Word Processor, Spell Checker, Spreadsheet, Database, Calculator, Schedular, RS232, USB, Proprietary IR 2MB Flash Card 199.00 to 249.00

AlphaSmart 3000

40 x 4 700 Hours on 3 AA Batteries Word Processor, Outline Maker, Calculator, Applets,Spell Checker RS232, USB, Proprietary IR Approx 350 KB Internal, based on 100 pages of Single Spaced Character Storage. 225.00 to 299.00

Brother Powernote 4400

80 x 14 14 hours (Requires Rechargeable) Word Processor, Spell Checker, Spreadsheet, Address Book, Fax, Telecoms, Calculator, Calendar and World Clock RS232, Centronics Parallel, 32 KB Internal EPROM, 3.5" Floppy Drive 49.00

Brother Powernote 8500

80 x 23 14 Hours (Requires Rechargeable) Word Processor, Spell Checker, Spreadsheet, Address Book, Telecoms, Calculator, Calendar and World Clock RS232, Centronics Parallel 32 KB Internal EPROM, 3.5" Floppy Drive 99.00

Tandy WP2 / WP3

80 x 14 24 Hours on 4 AA Alkaline Batteries Word Processor, Spell Checker, Telecoms, Calendar and Proprietary DOS RS232, Centronics Parallel, Cassette, Memory Expansion 32KB EPROM, 256KB ROM 59.00

TRS-80 Model 100 / 102

40 x 8 24 Hours on 4 AA Alkaline Batteries Word Processor, Spell Checker, Spreadsheet, Address Book, Telecoms RS232C, Printer, Phone, Cassette, Light Pen and Expansion BUS 8 KB to 32 KB 150.00 to 350.00

Tandy 1100 FD

80 x 23, CGA Graphics 4 Hours on one Charge DeskMate GUI, Text & Spell Checker on ROM, Full MS-DOS Apps, loaded from floppy RS232, Centronics Parallel, One 8bit Expansion Slot 640 KB RAM,  3.5" 720K Floppy 49.00 to 99.00

NEC 8300

40 x 8 24 Hours on 4 AA Alkaline Batteries Word Processor, Spell Checker, Spreadsheet, Address Book, Telecoms RS232C, Printer, Phone, Cassette, and Expansion BUS 8 KB to 32 KB 99.00 to 150.00


(c) 2004, 2005, Brian K. Hahn

 All Rights Reserved.