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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
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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.

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GNOME bans Manjaro Core Team Member for uttering "Lunduke"

The GNOME team has censored -- and deleted the account -- of the maintainer of Manjaro Linux GNOME Edition. Why? Because he linked to a Lunduke article.

GNOME bans Manjaro Core Team Member for uttering "Lunduke":
https://lunduke.locals.com/post/5908516/gnome-bans-manjaro-core-team-member-for-uttering-lunduke

More from The Lunduke Journal:
https://lunduke.com/

00:17:16
GNOME Ousts Elected Board Member in Secret, Tells Nobody for 2 Months

Secret meetings. No transparency. Total chaos at the GNOME Foundation as they remove Sonny Piers, one of their Board Members, without telling anyone. This all happens right as the GNOME Executive Director quits, GNOME announces dire financial circumstances, and a disastrous "5 year plan" focusing on DEI.

The article:
https://lunduke.locals.com/post/5899324/gnome-ousts-elected-board-member-in-secret-and-tells-nobody-for-2-months

More from The Lunduke Journal:
https://lunduke.com/

00:37:30
Don't get cocky: CrowdStrike can happen to Linux & Mac too

I know. The Windows Blue Screen of Death is funny. I get it. But don't forget: Linux & macOS have seen some gnarly similar issues. Including some bugs that granted root access, completely broke graphical systems (like XOrg), and more.

00:24:08
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

Found on the intartubez. The LISP keyboard.

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Remeber the PineTab2 that I bought over a year ago? I finally got around to reflashing it. It not the quickest, but still nice to have a small Linux device I can carry around with me. Enjoy the pics. I posted them from the PineTab2.

LOL What if you could "skip ahead" during boring meetings, just like in video game exposition dumps? :D

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GNOME bans Manjaro Core Team Member for uttering "Lunduke"
"Lunduke" has become the "He Who Shall Not Be Named" of Big Tech and Open Source

The GNOME team has censored -- and deleted the account -- of the maintainer of Manjaro Linux GNOME Edition.

Why would GNOME take such a drastic action for a person so important to the packaging and distribution of GNOME software?

Because that Manjaro Linux GNOME Edition maintainer... dared to post a link to an article published by The Lunduke Journal.

How to Get Banned from GNOME in 1 Easy Step

On July 21st, The Lunduke Journal published an article entitled "GNOME Ousts Elected Board Member in Secret... and Tells Nobody for 2 Months" -- covering the expulsion and banning of GNOME Board Member, Sonny Piers.

That article was then posted by Mark Wagie -- a member of the Manjaro Linux Core Team, and maintainer of the Manjaro GNOME Edition -- to a GNOME forum post, relevant to the topic.

 

Screenshot of the post prior to deletion.

 

Within roughly 1 hour, that post was flagged and hidden...

 

Screenshot of the post after it was hidden.

 

Shortly thereafter, the post was deleted entirely... as was Mark Wagie's account.

That's right.  GNOME deleted the account of a Manjaro Team Core Member, and a GNOME package maintainer.  All because he posted a link to an article that had the name "Lunduke" on it.

From Mark Wagie:

 

"Today, I dared sharing your article on the GNOME Discourse forum in the Updates to the GNOME Foundation Board of Directors Roster topic. It didn't take long before my reply was flagged as spam and hidden. My account was also deleted with no communication whatsoever. I was able to take screenshots before my account was deleted.

 

A fellow Manjaro forum user told me he messaged the GNOME Discourse Moderators and 'questioned the wisdom of banning the Manjaro GNOME maintainer from their forums.'"

 

This is, without question, incredibly peculiar.  Banning a prominent contributor?  All because he posted a link to an article relevant to a topic being discussed?

An article, I might add, that nobody has objected to based on the facts.

Is the leadership of GNOME so afraid of the truth of their actions being exposed, that they resort to banning anyone who simply links to articles about GNOME?

Or, perhaps, is the GNOME leadership filled with so much hatred and fear for all things "Lunduke" that they are willing to cut off their own nose to spite their face?

He Who Shall Not Be Named

Here's something truly crazy: This isn't the only instance of people being censored (and banned) from portions of the GNOME project for uttering the name "Lunduke"... this week.  This is simply the most ridiculous example.

While it's true that the GNOME Foundation operates with a high level of secrecy -- often ignoring members of the press entirely -- they appear to reserve the bulk of their animosity for anyone who dares to mention articles or shows from The Lunduke Journal.

And they are not alone.

Leadership throughout the Big Tech and Open Source world have hard "Do not mention Lunduke" policies -- with some within the Open Source industry regularly screaming, bullying, and threatening anyone who dares to link to The Lunduke Journal.

One prominent Linux distribution even went so far as to add automatic censorship to their forum -- which instantly changed the word "Lunduke" to "violates forum rules".

 

102127_gfaxwjam9ardl8k.jpeg

 

Likewise, members of the Fedora (Red Hat) Linux Marketing Team speak openly about the need for hard censoring anything related to "Lunduke".  (The Fedora Marketing Team also likes to call Jewish men "Nazis", apparently.)

 

Source

 

The fact is... they fear the word "Lunduke".

Why?  Because, when you do shady things, the truth makes you look bad.  Wikipedia, Red Hat, The Linux Foundation, Google, Microsoft, and, yes, even GNOME (and so many others).  They fear the truth.

The Lunduke Journal reports the truth.

All of which has resulted in "Lunduke" becoming the Big Tech and Open Source equivalent of "Voldemort" or "Beeltejuice".  Should that name be uttered a little too loudly -- or, perhaps, three times in a row -- Lunduke will appear and wreak havoc.

And, you know what?

I'm ok with that.

Because here's a fun secret about being "He Who Shall Not Be Named"...

Everyone instantly knows exactly who you are talking about.

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GNOME Ousts Elected Board Member in Secret... and Tells Nobody for 2 Months
Secret meetings. No transparency. Total chaos.

The chaos at the GNOME Foundation continues, as it is revealed that an elected GNOME Board member was forced out in a secret meeting... held two months ago, but withheld from the public until now.

Chaos and Secrecy within GNOME

As you may remember, GNOME recently announced that they were in dire financial circumstances... followed immediately by the resignation of their Executive Director (who had only been on the job for 9 months, with almost nothing to show for her time).

Now, the GNOME Foundation Board has announced that they have removed one of their recently elected Board Members... in a "Special Meeting"... held on May 17th.

Yet this fact was kept secret until July 17th -- two months later -- when they made the following statement:

 

"The GNOME Foundation Board voted to remove Sonny Piers as a member of the Board of Directors for cause, at a Special Meeting on May 17th, 2024, following the procedure outlined in the GNOME Bylaws, and remove him from all committees. Effective May 25th, 2024, his seat is now vacant, and in accordance with the Bylaws will be filled for the remainder of its term by an appointment made by the Board.

 

A Code of Conduct complaint was also made against Sonny Piers. The Foundation is engaged in a mediation process with him, which is still ongoing and so we are unable to share more information at this time."

 

Sonny Piers, first elected less than a year earlier, was forced out of his seat on the GNOME Board.  Unexpectedly.

Why?  That information is not provided.  In fact the meeting minutes for this May 17th "Special Meeting" are incredibly vague... providing almost zero information.

Almost total secrecy about the reason for this Board Member being forced out of the GNOME Foundation.

 

May 17th, 2024 "Special Meeeting" Minutes

 

This forced removal was not limited to the seat on the GNOME Board... the GNOME accounts of Sonny Piers all have (seemingly) been blocked or banned.  Including source control.

 

The ousted Board Member was even blocked from all source control.

 

Who is Sonny Piers?

There are multiple things which makes this incident extremely peculiar.  Not least of which is the fact that Sonny Piers is one of the most effective and prominent members of the GNOME project: Being the creator and developer of GNOME Workbench, and one of the orchestrators of the 1 Million Euro Sovereign Tech Fund grant from late last year (one of the only pieces of positive news from GNOME in quite some time).

If you were to create a list of the 5 most important, influential, and effective people within GNOME... Sonny Piers would make that list.  Easily.

According to a July 21st statement from Sonny Piers, his ousting from the GNOME Board was a "shock" to him:

"I am no longer a member of the board of directors of the GNOME Foundation since May 2024. The process and decision shocked me. I know people are looking for answers, but I want to protect people involved and the project/foundation. It was never an interpersonal conflict for me."

While we can read between the lines on some of this statement... there are very few details here about what, exactly, transpired.

GNOME Does Damage Control

After this news began to spread within the GNOME world (and after The Lunduke Journal reached out to him for comment), the GNOME Foundation President, Robert McQueen was forced to make a public statement:

"This has also been an unprecedented situation for the Foundation. The Directors have met 15-16 times this year so far already and directed a great deal of time and attention into making this decision and trying to find the least worst outcomes, considering our legal and moral obligations to the community, the staff, and the Foundation — obligations which have sometimes felt in tension."

Least worst outcomes?  Legal and moral obligations?

A secret vote to oust an elected official.  Followed by keeping it a secret from the voters.  How is that a "moral obligation"?

While we're not getting many details from GNOME about why they ousted an elected Board member... the words chosen raise many, many additional questions.

"Regarding the Board decision; whilst the Board did receive a report from the CoCC, removal of a Director is a separate process as set out in the Bylaws and solely at the authority of the Board. The Board considered it separately and independently as we are required to do, and made our own autonomous decision by a significant majority. We took outside legal advice on the situation and the process at multiple points, and it was duly followed. For the purposes of limiting legal liability, that advice also included making the announcement very terse and factual. I appreciate this is at tension with the transparency that the community would hope to see, but Directors are also obligated to look after the Foundation’s legal requirements and financial interests."

We know that the GNOME "Code of Conduct Committee" was involved in some way. 

According to that "Code of Conduct Committee" there were only two "incidents" which were "actionable".  Based on their reporting (which is incredibly vague and secretive), that incident would be one of the two items listed in this report.

 

Code of Conduct Committee Report

 

No names.  No details.  Complete secrecy.

Likewise, outside legal counsel was saught by the GNOME Foundation on whatever this matter was.

And why did the GNOME Foundation keep all of this a secret for two months?  Their statement on the matter seems rather... weak.

 

"Regarding the timing; the previous Board was intentionally refraining from announcements while we made arrangements for mediation mentioned in the announcement. Subsequently during the election period we did not want to appear to be interfering in the election which runs autonomously with its own timeline, and since the election the new board has only had its first official meeting (i.e., duly notified, with quorum, able to make votes) to approve this announcement on Wednesday before GUADEC."

 

To be clear: The GNOME Foundation subverted the votes of the GNOME Foundation Members, by ousting an elected board member (in secret)... and the reason they didn't tell anyone about it for two months is... that they were making "mediation arrangements"?

And they only, just now, felt the need to tell people what they had done... because people would find out anyway at their annual conference (GUADEC)?

Seriously?

I'll be honest here... I don't buy it.  The GNOME statement, quite simply, doesn't hold water.

So Many Questions

These events raise so many questions and concerns regarding the GNOME Foundation.

  1. Why was Sonny Piers ousted from his elected seat on the GNOME Foundation Board?
  2. Why was this action done entirely behind closed doors, with absolutely zero documentation regarding this vote?
  3. Why was this undocumented vote, in this "Special Meeting", kept secret for two months?
  4. Why does GNOME only feel the need to tell people what actions they take, in secret, when their secret activities are on the verge of being discovered?
  5. Why was "legal advice" necessary?
  6. Does the ousting of Sonny Piers have anything to do with the other events happening within GNOME during the same time period (the removal of the "GNOME Shaman" Executive Director, the massive flop of the "5 Year Plan", and the announcement of financial difficulties)?

Will GNOME answer any of these questions?  If their past (and current) dedication to secrecy are any indication... probably not.  Heck.  GNOME bans critical tech journalists from even asking questions in their forums.

Thoughts From Lunduke

If I were a voting member of the GNOME Foundation, I would find this all deeply troubling.

If the GNOME Foundation can get rid of undesirable board members -- 100% in secret, without ever giving justification... and not even telling GNOME voters that they did it for multiple months -- then that means GNOME Members have absolutely no power within the Foundation.  Their votes simply do not matter.

It should be noted that The Lunduke Journal reached out to multiple people with questions and a request for comment on this story, including:

  • The entire GNOME Foundation Board
  • The GNOME Foundation Code of Conduct Committee
  • Sonny Piers

Several hours after reaching out, both Sonny Piers and the GNOME Foundation President posted the statements outlined earlier in this article.  Yet, as of the publishing of this article, not one representative from GNOME has directly responded.  And the public statements failed to answer any of the questions asked above.

GNOME is a critically important suite of software -- used by numerous prominent, consumer-focused, open source operating systems... as well as relied upon by all of the major Linux Enterprise corporations.  What happens to GNOME can have a significant impact on the entire Linux, BSD, and Open Source ecosystem.

The extreme levels of secrecy within the GNOME Foundation -- coupled with their repeated chaos and failures -- raises significant concerns.

The GNOME Chaos Timeline

There's so much going on within GNOME... it can be hard to keep it all straight.

Here is a timeline, covering roughly the last year, of some of the key events discussed within this article (along with some of the other events relating to the GNOME Foundation).

What will happen next?  More chaos, disaster, drama, and secrecy?  We'll find out.

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Last week at The Lunduke Journal (July 7 - July 20, 2024)
Fedora's Empty Diversity Event, GNOME Shaman Out, Firefox's Data Collection

The Tech News insanity continues!  GNOME's Shaman Executive Director is out, Firefox gets into the data collection business, a Tech Journalist speaks out in favor of assassinating President Trump (seriously), Microsoft lays off some DEI staff, Fedora holds a Diversity event... and nobody shows up to it.

Plus all the CrowdStrike craziness.

Wild.  Just plain wild.

The Videos

The Articles

Previous Few Weeks

Reminder: Check out The Lunduke Journal Link Central page for all the handy URLS.  Podcast RSS feeds, contact info, direct links to some of the big shows and articles and a bunch of other goodies.  And be sure to subscribe to The Lunduke Journal to help support the work... and make sure you don't miss out on anything.

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