Lunduke
Comedy • Gaming • News • Science & Tech
The story of the 1991 HP DOS Palmtop
Evolving from an enhanced calculator... to a full DOS compatible PC in your pocket.
November 20, 2023
post photo preview

The HP 100 / 200 LX palmtops are nothing short of spectacular little machines. Pocket-sized, clamshell, battery powered, MS-DOS computers — with a fascinating (and highly useful) array of hardware and software.

Want to use a modem? Expand storage and functionality with a PCMCIA card? Run full DOS software — and even Windows 3.0 — on the go? All were possible with these little, hand-held marvels.

And, when I say, “Run Windows 3.0”… I really mean it. Here is a picture taken by a Lunduke Journal Community member of their own, personal HP 200LX. Running a full edition of Windows 3.0 (in Real Mode — the 200LX’s 80186 CPU doesn’t support Protected Mode).

But how did these amazing little pocket computers come to be? Let’s take a little tour of the history of the HP LX line, which all started in 1988 at Hewlett-Packard… with a product idea code-named “Cheetah”.

Note: Much of this history is compiled from the notes and memories of Everett Kaser, a programmer who worked on this project (and many others) at HP, combined with bits and pieces gleaned over years of study of these wonderful computers.

1988 - Codename “Cheetah”

 
 

It all started in Corvallis, Oregon — a small city, around an hour and a half outside of Portland, Oregon — at the office known as the “Corvallis Division”.

Image courtesy: hpmuseum.net

The Corvallis Division had already seen some noteworthy success in developing multiple HP computers, including the HP 85A in 1980:

The original idea for “Cheetah” was to be a personal information manager pocket device, powered by the Saturn CPU — which was already in use by multiple HP calculators and ranged from 640 kHz up to around 8 MHz.

The Saturn CPU from an HP 48SX calculator

What’s more, the entire system would run on just 32KB of RAM and use a nearly identical physical design to the HP 19B calculator (with a vertical clamshell design, with a keyboard on the left).

1989 - Codename “Jaguar”

In early 1989, the team made the decision to come up with a new physical form factor. It was at this point that the codename for the project was changed to “Jaguar”.

Instead of keeping to the same look of the HP 19B seen above… they would make a design using a more standard clamshell — with a screen on top, and keyboard on bottom. Like a traditional laptop. But pocket-sized.

And thank heavens they made that change. Because it just wouldn’t have been as cool had they stuck with that original, side-by-side design.

Everything else, though, still remained the same. The Saturn CPU. Not running DOS. Basically just a calculator… but with a lot of personal information management type software built in.

It was also decided that this device needed a spreadsheet program. An idea that would radically alter the direction of the project.

Lotus 1-2-3 leads to MS-DOS

Imagine yourself back in 1989. Now. When I say “Spreadsheet Software”… who do you think of?

You think of Lotus 1-2-3. That’s who.

And, as luck would have it, Lotus had an internal goal of working with a hardware vendor to create what they called a “Portable 1-2-3 Machine”. It seemed like a match made in heaven! HP could develop the hardware and some of the software, and Lotus could provide 1-2-3 (and also develop some of the other software components).

There was just one problem: Lotus 1-2-3 didn’t run on the (very limited) Saturn CPU. It ran on DOS. With an Intel 8086 class CPU.

So the team at HP made the — incredibly wise — decision to ditch the Saturn CPU and turn the “Jaguar” project into a DOS compatible computer. Intel processor and all.

Initially, while “Jaguar” was going to be DOS compatible… they were not going to allow any random DOS software to run. It was going to be locked down to only run the software supplied on the ROM of the device (from HP and Lotus). Quickly this was relaxed, and the ability to drop to a standard MS-DOS prompt was added.

Because… it was iust such an obvious thing to do.

1991 - The HP 95LX

Development of this new 8086, DOS powered device — now dubbed “Jaguar II” — moved ahead at an incredibly fast pace, with the release planned to happen just 13 months after the basic specs were decided upon. Software, hardware, all of it.

Image courtesy: palmtoppaper.com

In the end, the HP 95LX managed to ship just a couple months later than planned — in April of 1991. Which is darned impressive considering the massive investment in both hardware and software.

The final 95LX shipped with an NEC V20 CPU (which was an 8088 compatible processor at 5.37 MHz), 1MB of RAM, and up to 32MB of removable storage. The operating system was MS-DOS 3.22, which booted from ROM.

All of this was powered by AA batteries. Which, let’s face it, is pretty cool.

It included a host of custom built, personal information management software and — of course — Lotus 1-2-3.

Image courtesy: oldcomputers.net

Just look at it. Full QWERTY keyboard. Even has a 10-key numeric keypad. And Function keys. It might be a small keyboard, with little membrane keys… but it’s complete and surprisingly usable. It even has arrow keys (see the top right of the keyboard).

But it wasn’t perfect. Not yet.

The HP 95LX was an impressive (and incredibly fun to use) little DOS palmtop. But it had some problems.

The first was the display. A non-standard 240x128 LCD (with a 40x16 text mode). This presented significant compatibility issues with existing DOS software.

The second was the speed. The 8088 compatible CPU was a bit… to put it mildly… pokey. And a great deal of existing software simply required more oomph.

The third was battery life. It wasn’t bad, running off a set of AA batteries. But the team knew they could do better.

1993 - HP 100LX - Codename "Cougar"

Over the next two years the team worked to fix those problems — all while refining and improving the built-in software.

The, rather funky, 240x128 display of the 95LX was ditched for a standard, monochrome CGA display at 640×200. This allowed for greatly enhanced software compatibility with existing DOS software. Including, believe it or not, games.

For example here is Space Quest 3 running on an HP 200LX (which is using the same display and CPU of the HP 100LX):

Image courtesy: members of the Lunduke Journal Community

And here is a snapshot of SimCity running on the built-in CGA display:

Image courtesy: Palmtoptube.com

The NEC V20 “8088” CPU was swapped out for an 80186 compatible CPU (a “Hornet”) running at a higher clock speed. This was a significant boost in both horsepower and CPU functionality — which allowed the running of many software applications that traditionally required an 80286 processor.

Then the voltage was dropped from 5V to 3V. Effectively giving a significant gain in battery life.

Of course there was also the software upgrades — both to the included, in-house developed launcher and an upgrade to MS-DOS version 5.0.

All of which combined to make the 100LX and 200LX (which were nearly identical in most ways) extraordinarily compatible with desktop DOS-compatible PCs. Considering all of this was powered by two AA’s and could fit in your pocket?

Nothing short of spectacular.

And, to think, this all started out as what was — essentially — a nice HP calculator with some personal information manager stuff built-in.

Thank heavens the team decided they needed a spreadsheet.

community logo
Join the Lunduke Community
To read more articles like this, sign up and join my community today
7
What else you may like…
Videos
Podcasts
Posts
Articles
Sometimes the worst gadgets... are the best. The Humane AI Pin.

Like the Nintendo Virtual Boy, Power Glove, Apple Magic Mouse, or the Nokia N-Gage... awful gadgets bring us joy because of how truly terrible they are. Perhaps the Humane AI Pin is in that same category.

00:20:06
The Ramifications of Red Hat's Racism

What impact will it have on employees, Open Source, & Linux?

The IBM / Red Hat Leaks: What we've learned so far:
https://lunduke.locals.com/post/5515346/the-ibm-red-hat-leaks-what-weve-learned-so-far

00:45:13
The Lunduke Journal gets a little Political!
00:29:45
November 22, 2023
The futility of Ad-Blockers

Ads are filling the entirety of the Web -- websites, podcasts, YouTube videos, etc. -- at an increasing rate. Prices for those ad placements are plummeting. Consumers are desperate to use ad-blockers to make the web palatable. Google (and others) are desperate to break and block ad-blockers. All of which results in... more ads and lower pay for creators.

It's a fascinatingly annoying cycle. And there's only one viable way out of it.

Looking for the Podcast RSS feed or other links? Check here:
https://lunduke.locals.com/post/4619051/lunduke-journal-link-central-tm

Give the gift of The Lunduke Journal:
https://lunduke.locals.com/post/4898317/give-the-gift-of-the-lunduke-journal

The futility of Ad-Blockers
November 21, 2023
openSUSE says "No Lunduke allowed!"

Those in power with openSUSE make it clear they will not allow me anywhere near anything related to the openSUSE project. Ever. For any reason.

Well, that settles that, then! Guess I won't be contributing to openSUSE! 🤣

Looking for the Podcast RSS feed or other links?
https://lunduke.locals.com/post/4619051/lunduke-journal-link-central-tm

Give the gift of The Lunduke Journal:
https://lunduke.locals.com/post/4898317/give-the-gift-of-the-lunduke-journal

openSUSE says "No Lunduke allowed!"
September 13, 2023
"Andreas Kling creator of Serenity OS & Ladybird Web Browser" - Lunduke’s Big Tech Show - September 13th, 2023 - Ep 044

This episode is free for all to enjoy and share.

Be sure to subscribe here at Lunduke.Locals.com to get all shows & articles (including interviews with other amazing nerds).

"Andreas Kling creator of Serenity OS & Ladybird Web Browser" - Lunduke’s Big Tech Show - September 13th, 2023 - Ep 044
post photo preview
Red Hat Whistleblowers say Company Ignores Ethics Violations
... when those violations are in line with racist or sexist policies.

Over the last several months, we've learned a great deal about the racist and sexist policies within Red Hat (the largest Linux company on Earth) and parent company, IBM.

This includes corporate training which teaches that "Whiteness" is a bad thing, racist "pledge" systems, skin-color based hiring quotas, and more.

Now, thanks to whistleblowers continuing to provide leaked material to The Lunduke Journal, we have learned that Red Hat ignores reports of corporate ethics violations... when those violations are in line with Red Hat's established racist policies.

Red Hat's Ethics Violation Reporting System

Red Hat provides only one system which allows employees to anonymously report ethics violations: The "Red Hat Ethics Hotline" provided by a company named Convercent.

The Red Hat "Ethics Hotline"

The "Ethics Hotline" includes this note from Tom Savage, Senior Vice President (and General Counsel) for Red Hat:  

"Whether you speak up through this Compliance and Ethics Hotline or another reporting channel, take comfort in knowing, as outlined in the Code of Business Conduct and Ethics, that Red Hat is committed to protecting associates from retaliation."

From the Red Hat "Ethics Hotline"

However, this statement from Red Hat's General Counsel appears to be untrue.  Or, at the very least, Red Hat employees do not believe it to be true.  As reported by whistleblowers within Red Hat, it is felt that making purely anonymous complaints is the "only safe way of reporting politically sensitive topics."

Ethics Violations Ignored by Red Hat

According to one whistleblower, reports of ethics violations are "always ignored".

Another whistleblower submitted multiple reports using the "Ethics Hotline", only to have each one "Closed" with no details or resolution of any kind.  Reports were closed "suddenly, with no notice or explanation or marking."

The following is a screenshot of one such ethics violation report, using the "Ethics Hotline", which has been "Closed" with no messages, attachments, or response of any kind.

Source: Red Hat Whistleblower

You'll note that this ethics violation report deals directly with race and sex-based discrimination within the hiring and career advancement programs at Red Hat.  A topic which, regardless of outcome, is the type of potential "ethics violation" (with severe legal consequences) which any company would want to take seriously.

Yet this "Ethics Hotline" report -- along with several others provided to The Lunduke Journal for review -- was marked as "Closed" with not so much as a note explaining why.

Whether it be the fault of the system being used, an issue with Red Hat corporate policy, or actions of the individuals responsible for reviewing these violation reports... one Red Hat whistleblower says "there is no real way for employees to report ethics violations."

What we know:

  • Red Hat (along with parent company, IBM) has multiple racist & sexist programs -- of, at best, dubious legality -- many of which would constitute clear ethics violations.
  • While Red Hat provides a mechanism for employees to report such ethics violations, those reports (at least when dealing with the racist & sexist actions of individiuals within the company, and corporate policy) are ignored and "Closed" without a stated reason.
  • Red Hat employees feel "unsafe" reporting such violations in any non-anonymous way.

These facts paint a highly unsavory picture of Red Hat's commitement (or lack thereof) to behaving and doing business in an ethical way.

As always, The Lunduke Journal invites Red Hat (and parent company, IBM) to respond if any information within this report is inaccurate in any way.  The Lunduke Journal prides itself on accurate, factual reporting and will publish corrections, comments, or clarifications provided by the company.


 

Become a Tech Whistleblower

The Lunduke Journal takes the privacy of whistleblowers incredibly seriously -- we have a firm rule of never revealing any information regarding the identidy of whistleblowers, and all leaked material is meticulously researched and scrubbed (with all possibly identifying metadata removed) prior to publication.

Do you work in the Tech industry?  Have you witnessed concerning activity, which you feel should see the light of day, but don't know how to get the information out there anonymously?  This article will walk you through the process, step by step:

Thank you to all of the brave whistleblowers who have already come forward.  As they say, sunlight is the best disinfectant.

Read full Article
post photo preview
Lunduke's Random Linux Marketing Anecdotes

My days working in Linux marketing were... interesting.  It was a truly unique experience.  Wouldn't trade a moment of it (even the less than enjoyable parts).

Because I am feeling nostalgic, here's a few little tidbits from my time selling Linux-y stuff for Linux-y companies.

SUSE - The Oldest Linux Company

I spent roughly 4 years at SUSE as -- I kid you not -- often the only person, in the entire marketing department, who actually used Linux.  As such I tended to be the guy that every random marketing idea needed to be run by... you know, just to make sure SUSE didn't end up saying something that insulted Linux-folk.

Seriously.  It was crazy.  At one point the lady who ran all of marketing -- for the oldest Linux company -- had almost no clue, whatsoever, about how to even begin using Linux.  Or what the history of Linux was.  Or what the major projects were.

It was like if the head of marketing for Coca Cola had never tasted Coke before... and refused to even take a sip.  And was only vaguely aware that it was even a liquid.

Just the same... most of the time it was pretty fun.  I kept churning out ad campaigns that were some of the biggest successes SUSE had ever had -- resulting in SUSE numbers shooting up -- and, as a result, they gave me a lot of freedom.

Of the many varied and weird marketing projects I put together at SUSE... my favorite was a music video parody of "Uptown Funk"... about Linux kernel patching.

"Uptime Funk" was a fun one.  We hired a great group of musicians and dancers -- down in Provo, Utah -- who did a stellar job.  Our cinematographer and editor was absolutely amazing.

And, most importantly, nobody messed with my lyrics.  Which made me happy.  🤣

I tell ya.  The executives almost always messed with my words.

I remember, one time I wrote a parody of Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling".  I turned it into a song about a guy eating pie a dinner... singing about how he runs Linux on absolutely everything in his house.  He compulsively installs Linux on everything.  If it has electricity, he installs Linux on it.  And then he installs Linux inside of VMs on Linux.  And he uses a remote X session to log into his crock pot.

It was glorious.  And ridiculous.

Then the powers that be swooped in.  Non-Linux-understanding marketing people got assigned to "revise" the lyrics with the explicit instruction of making it "more marketing-y".

The result was "Can't Stop the SUSE".  Which, annoyingly, still lists me as having written the lyrics.  I'll let you decide how I feel about that song.

Near the end of my tenure at SUSE, things weren't quite as fun.  At one point I recall getting into an argument with the VP of Marketing... who told me, point blank, to never use the phrase "Free Software" and to stop talking about "Open Source" so much.

Seriously.  Things were going in a weird direction.

Then I left, SUSE got a new CEO, and everything went to heck in a handbasket for the oldest Linux company.

Purism - The Linux Hardware Guys

I spent a short spell as the Director of Marketing at Purism -- a company which sells laptops and whatnot pre-loaded with Linux.  While I ended up leaving the company due to some disagreements over how the business was run... there were definitely some fun moments.

For the launch of Librem One (Purism's effort to make a privacy-respecting online service), we created a commercial.  It's just a wee bit naughty.  No swearing but... definitely a lot of innuendo.  😎

You might recognize the voice at the end.

Ultimately, the Librem One service had some success -- but was severely bogged down by technical issues, and code licensing conflicts, early on.  Which was a bummer.  Really hobbled what could have otherwise been a fun product launch.

But, heck, the commercial was fun.  So it had that going for it!

Read full Article
post photo preview
Red Hat vs Hyprland: Silencing political "undesirables"
Beneath the drama: The abuse of corporate power, extremist politics, bullying, & censorship of "wrongthink".

The Open Source world is no stranger to drama.  Heck, if it's a day that ends in "Ay!", there's likely some random, usually overblown, drama happening in one Open Source organization or another.

But, sometimes, within that drama, there exists a bigger story.

Such is the case with "Red Hat vs Hyprland".

Within this drama there lies a tale of extremist poltiics, abuse of corporate power, and silencing of political "undesirables".  The things we learn here -- burried beneath the layers of drama -- are deeply disturbing, with significant ramifications for the entire Open Source industry.

Cutting through the noise

As with all drama, there's a lot of finger pointing.  And... noise.  So much noise.  Let's cut through all of that and get right to the facts.

The basic facts of this event:

  1. The core developer behind Hyprland (a tiling Linux window manager which has gained significant traction), a man who goes by the name "Vaxry", has been banned from any involvement in the Freedesktop project (an umbrella project covering Xorg, Wayland, and many other core Linux Desktop projects).
  2. This ban means that Vaxry will not be allowed to report bugs or submit code patches to Freedesktop projects -- often directly relevant to his own work on the Hyprland window manager.
  3. The ban (affecting Freedesktop) was enacted by a Red Hat representative (using a RedHat.com email address), based on a perceived 2 year old "Code of Conduct Violation" on a Hyprland chat server.
  4. Red Hat, Freedesktop, and Hyprland are all separate organizations.

As with any drama, there's a great deal of other information out there -- along with frenzied onlookers yelling about it from the sidelines -- but those are the core actions and facts.

The key takeaway: A representative from Red Hat was using corporate power to force a person out of other (read: non-Red Hat) organizations.  For reasons not related to Red Hat.  Nor related to the organization the person was being banned from.

In essence, Red Hat flexing it's muscle -- bending large portions of the Open Source world to do it's bidding.

By itself, that's bad enough.  But it gets worse.  Much worse.

What was the "violation"?

In order to understand how truly disturbing this issue is, we need to know a few additional details.  Starting with the initial "Code of Conduct Violation".

Back in 2022 -- yes, two years ago -- on the Discord chat server for the Hyprland window manager project, a man who identified as "Trans" listed his preferred prouns as "she/her".

A moderator on that Hyprland chat server changed that "Trans" person's pronouns to list as "who/cares".

Screenshot of the "Code of Conduct Violation".

Flash forward to 2024, and this "who/cares" action comes to the attention of another man who identifies as "Trans".  An employee of Red Hat named Lyude Paul.

To give you an idea of the motivations of the actions which follow: Lyude Paul has a publicly stated goal of "bullying" anyone who does not adequately show respect to "Trans" issues, as shown in his social media posts.

Source: Lyude Paul's Mastodon account.

Lyude Paul also promotes the idea that "right-wing people are not welcomed" in organizations.

Source: Lyude Paul's Mastodon account.

As Lyude Paul has a stated objective of "bullying" people -- making sure they are "not welcomed" -- if they do not profess the correct political ideals (or do not support "Trans" activism in the proper way)... it is not entirely surprising that this gentleman would use his position at Red Hat to ban those he disagrees with.

And that is exactly what happened.

Source: Lyude Paul's official email from RedHat.com.

Lyude Paul -- using his Red Hat email address -- informed Vaxry (the lead developer of Hyprland -- the project where the "who/cares" chat server incident occurred) that he was now banned from the entirety of the Freedesktop project and organization.

An important note: When a person sends an email from their corporate email account, they are acting on behalf of the corporation.  That is a hard and fast rule that has been in place since... well... forever.  Likewise Red Hat has not distanced itself from these actions in the least.

You can read the full emails, from Lyude Paul / Red Hat, as published by Vaxry.

The Red Hat Problem

This is an example of Red Hat, a corporation with a wild history of discrimination and censorship, using their corporate power (and strength within the Linux and Open Source world) to bully and silence those they politically disagree with.

Red Hat could condemn these actions (which were done in Red Hat's name) by their employee.  They have not done so.

None of this should be terribly surprising, considering what we already know about the IBM subsidiary.  They have a history of taking extreme political stances... and they actively discriminate against employees who deviate from their allowed, always extremely politically Leftist, ideals.

Considering Red Hat's historical stances and actions, it is no surprise that an employee of Red Hat would be able to use the corporate power of Red Hat to bully others who possessed the wrong ideas (as was the publicly stated objective of Lyude Paul).

A singular bit of drama... and a trend.

This particular incident has elicited strong reactions -- and has grabbed the attention of many across the Linux and Open Source industry.  Lots of drama.  Lots of opportunities to quote people who are making big, outlandish statements.

And most of that drama is little more than distracting fluff.

But the core -- the facts -- are truly disturbing.  And, once again, Red Hat finds itself at the center of another story where people are being discriminated against.

A few closing thoughts.

  • If this sort of bullying, censorship, and blacklisting of those with the "wrong politics" is allowed to continue... it will get worse.
  • Lyude Paul is guilty of far more extreme "Code of Conduct" violations than Vaxry -- as is shown in the screenshots above.  Yet Lyude Paul has not been banned, censored, or punished in any way by Red Hat or Freedesktop.
  • It would appear fairly obvious that the "Code of Conduct", at least in this case, is being used as a weapon to selectively harm specific individuals.
  • Considering Red Hat / IBM's history and dedication to discriminating against specific groups, it seems a fair assumption that these actions are not only allowed but encouraged by corporate leadership.  Should that not be the case, The Lunduke Journal encourages Red Hat and IBM to make a statement regarding it.  If such a statement is made, The Lunduke Journal will publish it in full.
  • Will Open Source organizations -- such as Freedesktop -- allow these sorts of discriminatory actions to continue?
  • Should Freedesktop, and others, continue allowing this type of discrimination... what result will that have on existing Open Source projects and users of those projects?

The Lunduke Journal has reached out to representatives from IBM and Red Hat for comment.  As of the time of publication The Lunduke Journal has received no response.

Read full Article
See More
Available on mobile and TV devices
google store google store app store app store
google store google store app tv store app tv store amazon store amazon store roku store roku store
Powered by Locals