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Mini, low power computer options?

Posted: Wed Jul 31, 2019 2:10 pm
by mabs
This looks like it might be the perfect forum to ask!

And I have a feeling the answer might be back in the DOS palmtop forum.

I'll talk about the perfect computer, and it doesn't need to have all of these, I mean the HP 200LX could end up being the best, even though the keyboard isn't ideal...

I'm wanting to get myself a small, super lower powered portable computer, of course I'd love to be able to put a couple of AA batteries in something that boots to FreeDOS and get a week's usage out of it, but I don't think that's quite possible. A good typing keyboard or ability to plug an external keyboard would be nice, serial port so I can get online via a raspberry pi 0, and a screen that I can display a BBS would be great.

Otherwise, something I can write/type on and use some sync software.

As far as palmtops, the Sharp PC3000 or maybe HP 200LX (I did actually buy one 20 years ago to do uni notes on, failed pretty hard there) could be an option. There are a few older BASIC based portable computers like the Tandy Model 100 and Amstrad NC100. Newer there's the AlphaSmart Dana.

What other ideas do you guys have?

Re: Mini, low power computer options?

Posted: Wed Jul 31, 2019 9:31 pm
by Kyodai
Yeah the "low power", "AA Batteries" and "a weeks usage" kinda limit it to DOS palmtops automatically.

So here's my ten cents. No final wisdom, but let me share a few thoughts...

- Tandy Model 100, Amstrad NC100, AlphaSmart: These have great keyboards. They are good for typing and if you just wanna write a book distration free and can't afford a FreeWrite I'd recommend these with some limitations. The limitations - connectivity, display and programming kinda suck. I Don't wanna say it would be impossible to write some clever terminal software to transmit data to your normal workstation. However if you keep them connected to your workstation they are kinda "Glorified keyboard", so what's the point? On the run they are excellent typewriters, but not much more. I do have a weak spot in my heart for these, prolly especially for the great keyboard and battery life, but don't expect to be doing much more with these than typing when you're on the run.

- HP 200LX. Awesome machine from nearly every point of view.But the keyboard sucks. It really does. Typing like 2 words is OK on these but please not much more. End of story.

- Sharp PC-3000 (And PC-3100). I also throw the Poqet in the ring. In theory great palmtops. Nice keyboards. Caveats? Very expensive collectors items, terribly overpriced. Rare. Terrible Quality. Both of them. I do have like 60ish palmtops in my collection and most Sharp and Poqet are either "broken beyond repair"or have serious flaws like missing lines on the screen, not booting any more and so on. The old Poqet (below 0180) are of a bit better quality, but heir exposed display cable and weak battery cover make it a "must" to confirm they are actually working. Both -Sharp and Poqet - are the least reliable palmtops even though their power saving features are nice. The sharp can boot freedos, but unfortunately only from a 3.5 inch floppy if you have the bulky floppy drive. Whish it could boot from pcmcia.DOS 3.3 is not to be considered the final answer.

- Tidalwave PS-1000 clones - these are great regarding power consumption and also come with ms-dos 5.0 and BASIC. Nice keyboards. Unfortunately hard to get the serial/parallel cable. Can only use SRAM pcmcia cards. I do have some homemade port replicators left that kinda boost usability if you need serial/parallel connection. Sucks that you can't invert the screen which make some old DOS games look a bit weird. At least CGA display, so loads of old DOS stuff to chose from, BASIC makes custom creations easy and Visual Basic for DOS also adds some funny possibilities. Quality is exceptionally good for something born in Taiwan. If you get a working one you get a friend for life. If you get one of these for cheap i guess that would be my recommendation.

Re: Mini, low power computer options?

Posted: Thu Aug 01, 2019 11:14 am
by mabs
Thanks for the reply and your expertise!

I'm just amazed no-one has been able to build a modern computer with battery life like the old DOS palmtops...

I'm a coder and I originally cut my teeth on a ZX81, and the GW Basic on a Toshiba T1100 that was on loan to me; writing notes and documents would be right up there with jumping on BBSs or similar. One thing the Alphasmart does do, is spit all the text out as a virtual keyboard, and I do have quite a collection of Palm OS software and some hardware. But this category wouldn't do BBSs very well it at all, and maybe BBSs are a too hard basket with everything else I want to do.

Plus, there's also nothing wrong with owning a DOS palmtop and the Alphasmart, and a BASIC palmtop :D

Re: Mini, low power computer options?

Posted: Fri Aug 02, 2019 7:36 pm
by Kyodai
Yeah shame that such low power computers aren't made any more.

But yeah most people expect backlight, wifi,3G, fast processor and so on, so battery life has to suffer.

At least today there's some amazing laptops -while it won't fit in your Pocket I do like the Lenovo T480 - which gives over 17 hours battery life on the extended battery - with loads of power saving you can easily get it over 24 hours.