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Inside the TRS-80 Model 100

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the oldies-goldies-be-bop-a-lula dept.

Portables 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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Eh (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23640539)

No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.

Re:Eh (2, Funny)

pak9rabid (1011935) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640593)

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.

Re:Eh (2, Funny)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640711)

Yeah, it would have been so cool to log into DARPAnet while on the go.

Re:Eh (2, Informative)

atomicthumbs (824207) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641055)

DARPA was still ARPA back then.

Re:Eh (MOD FUNNY!) (0, Redundant)

Zaatxe (939368) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640749)

HA HA! Fantastic! I wish I had mod points...

Wrong! (2, Funny)

seandiggity (992657) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641341)

You can have wireless, you just have to try harder [] .

Bought two used ones a long time back (4, Informative)

JoeCommodore (567479) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640569)

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.

Re:Bought two used ones a long time back (3, Interesting)

eck011219 (851729) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Bought two used ones a long time back (1)

superslacker87 (998043) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640947)

Just goes to show that today quantity is far more important than quality. My phone overheats if I leave it in the car far too long, I don't even want to know what would happen to my laptop.

Re:Bought two used ones a long time back (3, Interesting)

Ooblek (544753) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:Bought two used ones a long time back (5, Funny)

f8l_0e (775982) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:Bought two used ones a long time back (3, Funny)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641331)

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

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
    software can make changes to your

Select: _ 24121 Bytes free

Filter error: Please use fewer 'junk'

GK Chesterton (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640573)

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.

energy efficient machines (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640667)

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 have a *much* better feel than any modern laptop I've used.

I read an article the other day about some big advance coming up for Lithium-Ion batteries, so that'll be nice, too. :)

Re:energy efficient machines (2, Interesting)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641319)

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.)

Re:energy efficient machines (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641407)

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 (3, Insightful)

Applekid (993327) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:GK Chesterton (2, Insightful)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640923)

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.

Re:GK Chesterton (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23641211)

this [] suggests using solar to power a battery to power the ARM-based NSLU2. It would be cool if buglabs had a solar power module. IT would also be cool if they weren't so overpriced.

Re:GK Chesterton (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641303)

I haven't read that, but I figured that it would be best to use a battery, then use my renweable energy source to recharge the battery...

I'm thinking of rigging up a mini wind turbine/solar array.

The best part about the TRS-80 Model 100... (4, Interesting)

thesolo (131008) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640585)

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.

Re:The best part about the TRS-80 Model 100... (1)

adnonsense (826530) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640735)

Or indeed MacBook keyboards.

Re:The best part about the TRS-80 Model 100... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23641103)

Considering that I own a MacBook, I believe that I can safely say that that is the Capslock key, not any type of control key.


Re:The best part about the TRS-80 Model 100... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23640755)


*ahem* Ah. Sorry about that. My control key got stuck back there. I'm better now.

Re:The best part about the TRS-80 Model 100... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23641281)

Or indeed any keyboard. My Windows and linux PC keyboards have always had the control key in the right place.

I used to swap the caps lock and control keys, but since I never need the caps lock and since occasional users of my keyboard get confused about the layout, I nowadays just turn the caps lock key into a control key and live without a caps lock.

keyboards (2, Insightful)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 6 years ago | (#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?

celibacy required? (4, Funny)

Quadraginta (902985) | more than 6 years ago | (#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?

Re:keyboards (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640833)

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.)

Re:keyboards (4, Funny)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#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:keyboards (2, Interesting)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641051)

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:keyboards (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641125)

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).

Re:keyboards (0)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641655)

Looks like the same keyboard design to me. High impact plastic keycaps mounted on through-hole plastic posts, sprung with a small spring around the post. IIRC, the contact for the key is on the bottom of the post on the other side of the board through which the posts are threaded. (The plastic posts are usually + crosses to ensure that they don't exert unexpected torque on the keycaps. Also, the shape helps secure the keycaps as pressure is the only thing holding them on.)

The problem with this design is that a key that is not struck correctly (e.g. you hit the side of the key, or exert pressure in a direction other than straight down), friction can develop between the key and the board underneath. The post may even lean sideways during the strike. Since everything about the keys is designed to prevent this, the key effectively locks in place and the strike is missed. Thus the keyboard requires a certain amount of training, and is only effective when used from particular angles. (And with laptops, the angle of impact can change regularly.) This problem can be mitigated by striking the key harder to push past the sticking point, but why? Modern keyboards like the ones in the MacBook do just as good of a job with less force. They have a good feel about them, make it easy to find keys based on tactile feel, and generally are nice to type on.

If you're used to the keyboard on a TRS-80 Model 100 (which I'm amazed no one has drug out the infamous tag-line of "Trash 80" yet) then you won't notice the many quirks of such old keyboard designs. However, they are there, and they do frustrate modern users. Which is one of the many reasons why modern keyboards look nothing like those of the TRS-80 and C64 eras.

As I said, nostalgia is not a good stand-in.

Re:keyboards (1)

OakDragon (885217) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641161)

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.

Re:keyboards (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641465)

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.

Love it! (3, Interesting)

Saint Aardvark (159009) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640685)

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. :-)

Re:Love it! (3, Funny)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640883)

That's when you upgrade him to a TRS-80 Model... 200 [] !

I still have mine (4, Interesting)

corsec67 (627446) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640699)

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".

Re:I still have mine (4, Insightful)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Still have one. (1)

mac123 (25118) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640713)

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.

Re:Still have one. (1)

jmorris42 (1458) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640943)

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 computer. Palm OS would be a perfect fit.

Re:Still have one. (2, Interesting)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641575)

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.

Re:Still have one. (1)

Ford Prefect (8777) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641011)

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. This was despite having access to way more powerful computers at the time...

The aim was to use it to construct some sort of robot, but I never got round to that. Using some sort of microcontroller effort could be a bit more sensible!

Re:Still have one. (1)

cruff (171569) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641361)

Just add on the shipping as an additional charge. Someone will buy it.

Gates coding "skills" strike again... (5, Funny)

kwabbles (259554) | more than 6 years ago | (#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 had a built in rechargeable battery (1)

soft_guy (534437) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640725)

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:The eMate had a built in rechargeable battery (2, Informative)

harrkev (623093) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641471)

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.

eMate. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23640727)

The eMate is powered by a rechargeable battery. It won't take AA batteries unless you modify it, including cutting up the case a bit.

Had one since the early 90's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23640741)

Spent a lot of time making BASIC programs and trying to figure out how to work the modem. Battery life is phenomenal. Rumor is, some people still use them as primary notebook.

eMate was NOT powered by AAs (1)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640767)

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.

Re:eMate was NOT powered by AAs (3, Informative)

commodoresloat (172735) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640887)

Agree - the emate was the perfect laptop in many ways and Apple - or someone - should bring back that form factor. But as far as the batteries go, you're right, but you can actually power the thing with regular AA batteries if you are willing to getyour hands dirty [] a bit.

what? no white model? (3, Funny)

pha7boy (1242512) | more than 6 years ago | (#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]?

It's like a 3 lb CASIO watch. (-1, Flamebait)

Organic Brain Damage (863655) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640807)

from 1995. It was lame when it was made and it's lamer today.

Re:It's like a 3 lb CASIO watch. (2, Interesting)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641047)

Time for a writing competition. Let's see who's out of the running first: you on a fancy laptop because your battery died, or me on a 100 because I ran out of memory. :)

Re:It's like a 3 lb CASIO watch. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23641089)

It's not from 1995, you idiot. And they were awesome for their time, heavily used by journalists in particular. Christ, I hate how stupid children have infected Slashdot.

Re:It's like a 3 lb CASIO watch. (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641599)

Kids these days, what do they know? Get off my lawn!

Re:It's like a 3 lb CASIO watch. (1)

Applekid (993327) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641209)

A 3 lb. weight on your wrist is awesome when you want to work out your... uh, non-dominant hand.

Er, wait, nevermind I said that.

Casio FX-702p (1)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640841)

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...

Re:Casio FX-702p (1)

Russ Nelson (33911) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641637)

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. :-)

Great design for a student machine (1)

xlation (228159) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640871)

Great keyboard and the built-in software was nice.

Sure, those were the days before wifi, but the built-in 300 baud modem was
a great addition. I spent many hours curising BBSs back in the day. I could also
dial into my schools vax, and even e-mail (fidonet) letters home.

Probably the best part was you could put it in your book bag without dislocating your shoulder.

ah, memories (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640885)

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)

Poqet PC? (1)

WarrenLong (540264) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640891)

What about the Poqet PC? XT Clone about the size of a VHS tape. (See the wiki at [] ). I wanted one badly. Still think it would be handy.

I still use mine (4, Interesting)

jridley (9305) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Re:I still use mine (1)

Finitistic (29532) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641387)

my Dad, a sportswriter, used to use a Model 100, and later Model 200 (bigger screen) to cover the Red Sox - he'd upload to the newspaper via the built-in 300 baud modem - those dreaded 'cups' for connecting to the phone didn't work too well when there was a lot of crowd noise but many phones at the time (early 80's) still were hardwired into the wall so you couldn't use the modular plug...i wrote a program for him in BASIC and Z-80 (i think?) machine code to compute the length of stories in newspaper column inches...i think he still has both machines - he used to carry the Model 200 along as a backup even after he got a 'modern' laptop...

Absolutely the best... (1)

crumbz (41803) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640915)

... 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 5 years ago :( (1)

everphilski (877346) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640917)

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.

Re:Mine was stolen 5 years ago :( (1)

Chainsaw76 (261937) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641165)

I may have tossed mine, but if I still have it, and you have a need/desire you are welcome to it for the cost of shipping. (not an open offer, just the guy that had his stolen)

After these were discontinued, I sold 100 of these in a week. I was working at Radio Shack, and a company used them as portable serial terminals (w/ custom roms), bought every one of them in the District.


eMate batteries (2, Informative)

cangrande (199946) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640927)

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 2100, on the other hand, had an optional removable battery pack that took standard AA's.

Those Newtons are remarkable machines and are amazingly useful for being more ten years old now.

Too bad they got discontinued, but the form factor of the eMate was the inspiration for the original clamshell iBooks.

Oh, first "Popular" portable (1)

LMacG (118321) | more than 6 years ago | (#23640953)

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 still have mine... (1)

belligerent0001 (966585) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641029)

and it works too!!! Now if only I had a set of acoustic couplers (mine died many moons ago). I could go to a pay phone and can call a BBS at either 110 or 300 baud!!! Does anyone still run BBS's? Maybe I should see if I can find some of my old software, I might need to borrow a 5 1/4 drive though.... This might be fun!!!

Re:I still have mine... (1)

Chainsaw76 (261937) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641195)

Tandy 100, Acoustic Coupler, and a courtesy phone an ATM.... Could call BBSs around the country... Ahh the '80s.

Kids these days and their cell phones, and their intertubes.. GET OFF MY LAWN!


Re:I still have mine... (1)

belligerent0001 (966585) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641291)

what's the statute of limitation on dumpster diving for credit card carbons? I never did such a heinous and illegal act, but I know a couple of fellows how did. Just curious.....anyone know?

Ahh, the 80s (1)

mlwmohawk (801821) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641037)

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 well.

If only... (1)

Usquebaugh (230216) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641079)

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 off 4 C or D cells.

Currently I have an emate but it's days are numbered.


AlphaSmart's Dana (wireless) (2, Interesting)

Dr.Altaica (200819) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641109)

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.

I have the model 102 (1)

the_rajah (749499) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641117)

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.

Fond Memories! (1)

Ian.Waring (591380) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641137)

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.

Does anyone still have a 1000 Series Tandy? (1)

Zombie Ryushu (803103) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641143)

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 (2, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641159)

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.

Re:Not a laptop (1)

aduthie (530266) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641515)

I think you're supposed to make an argument here.

It's not a PDA because: It lacks a calendar (although you could write one for it). It lacks a contact database (although you could write one for it). You can write software for it without using another computer. It has a full-size keyboard. It doesn't fit in your pocket, even if you get a Steve Jobs special shirt with extra-large pocket.

So, why is it not a laptop? It did most of what any contemporary computer did at that time, and it fit on your lap comfortably. If someone built a laptop today that was lightweight and consumed very little power, but it was only as good as a 5-year-old computer, would you say it's not a laptop? Because that's basically what Tandy accomplished with the Model 100. (Actually it was probably more like 1-2 years behind state of the art personal computers of the day.)

Or maybe you're hung up because you think the article is talking about this being a replacement for modern laptops -- that would be a very ludicrous thing for anyone to suggest, but I suppose we've gotten crazier articles than that before.

modern PDAs just getting worse (1)

flahwho (1243110) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641571)

I've used many, many PDA's for over 10 years now, starting with a timex @ ~200k then on to a Palm IIIx(e), and eventually a Windows Mobile device and a Blackberry, too. What are you talking about battery life being better than 20 hours on modern PDA's?? I can say by experiences with all of the devices I've used (I used to sell them via retail, too and most of the other varieties are the same) that battery life of modern PDA's are much much less than 20 hours. This is primarily fueled by the need to make them smaller, and (you say useful, I say) bloated with features. Stronger processors, more storage, quicker storage access, beautiful backlit color screens, rich audio, network connectivity and multiple I/Os coupled with TEEENNY TINY batteries! I get about 2.5 hours of Pocket Word with backlight on low and nothing else running. How's that for progress?
Live Fluid; Die Drowning.

HP 200LX palmtop (1)

scsirob (246572) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641181)

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.

Alphasmart Dana (1)

Rogue Haggis Landing (1230830) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641197)

The closest current machine is probably the Alphasmart Dana [] , with a small boxy monochrome display and the same nearly-flat form-factor. The Dana isn't quite instant on, but it's close, and it really does get ~20 hours on a battery charge. It's also used mostly by people wanting mainly a word processing device, but it does run the Palm OS. It's also almost all keyboard, with a really nice big Qwerty setup. It would also be a great reporter's machine.

My older Alphasmart 2000 was just a typing machine, but as such it was amazing. It got, I don't know, hundreds and hundreds of hours of battery life from 3 AAs. I was always shocked when the batteries died, once every eight or ten months.

Best. eBay Acquisition. Ever. (1)

phillymjs (234426) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641229)

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, and a few other items.

Everything is in simply amazing condition for its age, and works great except for the Y2K issue (for which I understand the Model 100 users groups have a fix).

I have the 102 and love it (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641279)

I got the Model 102 about 15 years ago and have gotten lots of use out of it. At first, I used it for BASIC programming (all I knew at the time). Later, I wrote several assemblers in BASIC and learned 8085 machine coding with it. I figured out how to do graphics much faster than the built-in firmware does, allowing full-screen scrolling graphics, and lightning-fast text scrolling using the LCD driver's built-in line scrolling commands. This was also my introduction to interfacing hardware. I hooked many things to it, like a sound chip, NES, and later used it as general-purpose I/O for programming a PIC and NES and SNES battery RAM. At some point I also wrote an emulator so I could run my old BASIC programs on my PC. I had even wired up 32K of RAM that could replace the ROM, allowing me to change the font used in the firmware. I still have it on my workbench, connected via RS-232 to my PC.

Where does the swipe card cracker plug in? (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641283)

Where does the swipe card cracker plug in? Like the ones seen in T2

T1000 (1)

flahwho (1243110) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641701)

He had the ribbon cable soldered somewhere on the Motherboard... although now that you mention it, I've been trying to locate John Conner . He's not in trouble, I just want to ask him a few questions.
Live Fluid; Die Drowning

If you write for a living (3, Interesting)

jalefkowit (101585) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641299)

... 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...

Psion Series 3a (1)

lobiusmoop (305328) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641321)

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, timezons, the usual stuff), and included a programming language/editor/parser for coding.
  Amazingly for its time, you could even surf the internet on it (albeit slowly) since a complete TCP stack and webbrowser were available for the later versions, connecting via the serial port on it. I used to run a usable full 80x24 terminal emulator connection over a 9600bps cellphone link on my one - oldschool pocket internet before the days of wifi.

I had one new. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23641355)

Bought one new with a coupon I had gotten from AT&T. Used the computer for memo-writing and spreadsheets for about four years (including pricing out several real estate deals). Unit had the best keyboard feel of any computer I've ever used. There even was a magazine (Portable 100) devoted to the unit, with ads for prop-up feet, plexiglass covers, disk drives, memory, software, etc.

Tandy/Sharp PC-2 (3, Interesting)

GottliebPins (1113707) | more than 6 years ago | (#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.

Still in use in the field (1)

freeweed (309734) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641395)

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 :)

Model 100 Webserver (1)

huskerdoo (186982) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641459)

Back in 2001 when I built, I threw this in as a joke:

It caused quite a tizzy on Slashdot though. Funny how a lot of the Slashdot comments revolved around a page that I spent an hour on, while the rest of the site (something I spent a few hundred hours building) was ignored.

Useful portable device (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641463)

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.

Couple of mistakes/missed points (1)

pdawson (89236) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641493)

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 how to adapt those programs to fit into 8k RAM I was stuck with then.

This was a great machine it its day! (2, Interesting)

dkavanagh (512805) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641573)

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.

Still in Production Use (1)

wsanders (114993) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641633)

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 these (1)

slapout (93640) | more than 6 years ago | (#23641719)

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.
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