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User to User: Go East Young Man... Go East

User to User: Go East Young Man... Go East

Hal reports on HP moving its Palmtop PC development and production to its Singapore division. His trip through the Far East yields some amazing discoveries, including a method to double the 100/200LX clock speed!

By Hal Goldstein

Palmtop production moving East

Hal Meets with Japanese User Group: Graphic

 Beginning November, 1994, the responsibility for the creation, development, support, marketing and manufacturing of HP Palmtops and HP Calculators moved from HP's Corvallis Division in Oregon to HP Singapore. Remaining in Corvallis, but reporting to Singapore, is a Palmtop marketing team plus the crack U.S. technical support team. The move should not immediately or directly effect end-users, but the change may produce user benefits over the long run.

I look for three trends to emerge over time. First, prices of HP Palmtops should continue to drop. Second, expect better distribution of the HP Palmtops throughout the world. Finally, you should gradually see increased exposure of HP Palmtops in the media.

Although Thaddeus Computing is completely independent of HP, accurate and timely articles in The HP Palmtop Paper depend on a good working relationship between the two companies. I have been working with the HP Corvallis division for nine years. I supported HP's 110 and Portable Plus laptops for six years with The Portable Paper. And for the last three years The HP Palmtop Paper has supported HP Palmtop users. Once I learned of the move to Singapore, I arranged to meet the new people in charge of the future of the HP Palmtop.

I love to travel and had not been to any Asian Pacific Rim countries. Once I decided to go to Singapore, I soon added Hong Kong, and Japan to my itinerary.


During my meetings in Singapore I had the opportunity to meet marketing and lab personal and the general manager of the HP Singapore division. One of my concerns about the move to Singapore was that the HP personnel responsible for evolving the Palmtop would remain isolated from users and vendors. However, I came away from my meetings with the distinct impression that not only were they open to user feedback, they actively sought it out.

I believe that HP Singapore will be successful developing and marketing Palmtops and that we will all be beneficiaries. More palmtops sold mean more shared knowledge, more HP Palmtop add-on software and hardware developed, and more HP research and development for new and better Palmtops.

Hong Kong

I didn't have a chance to meet users in Hong Kong, but I did learn about one popular way they use HP Palmtops. Horse racing is a real passion in Hong Kong. It turns out that an HP Palmtop coupled with the Skytel wireless messaging services gives the user up-to-the-minute information on the field, handicaps, etc. Stock market trading is also popular in Hong Kong, and the Palmtop/Skytel combination provides the timely information required.


The best news for HP Palmtop users comes from Japan. My few days in Tokyo were well-planned before my arrival. This was due primarily to the help I received from many gracious Japanese HP Palmtop users. Thanks also go to CompuServe and NIFTYServe (Japan's CompuServe equivalent). E-mail communications between myself and my Japanese hosts made planning smoother and easier.

I believe that Japan is the country with the fastest growing population of HP Palmtop users. Consequently, lots of exciting and beneficial Palmtop developments are taking place in Japan.

In the U.S. many in the first wave of HP 95LX users were engineers and scientists. Much Palmtop knowledge and many discoveries came from the sharing of ideas on CompuServe's HP HAND forum and in The HP Palmtop Paper. A similar phenomena is happening in Japan with HP 100/ 200LX users.

The state of HP Palmtop knowledge is being significantly advanced in Japan. Special thanks go to the NIFTY-Serve Sysop "Nori", his fellow Sysops and forum members, and their attitude of sharing ideas and discoveries for the fun of it. Much of that knowledge has been collected by the more enthusiastic members of the NIFTY-Serve FMODEM forum into a Japanese-language book on the HP 100LX.

Japanese HP 100LX Book: Graphic

 1995 should be the year the world community of HP Palmtop users will begin enjoying the fruit of enthusiastic Japanese HP Palmtop tinkerers and programmers. An English speaking Japanese HP Palmtop enthusiast named Kaz (Kazuya Okada, known as "TASIS" on NIFTY-Serve) has agreed to help translate some freeware and shareware documentation from Japanese to English for CompuServe and 1995 issues of The HP Palmtop Paper ON DISK. I'll give you a flavor of the Japanese discoveries.

The Party

I arrived in Tokyo, checked into my hotel, and was graciously escorted to a reception of HP Palmtop users by a NIFTY-Serve forum member. The party was sponsored by the HP Palmtop NIFTYServe contingent to celebrate the new HP Palmtop forum on NIFTY-Serve, the YHPPC forum. I had been asked to say a few words.

Getting together with fellow HP Palmtop users who share a common Palmtop passion is always fun. However, the evening I spent with the Japanese users was exceptional, because of the quality of knowledge that was shared, and the level of the heart displayed. I was made to feel at home, at ease, an honored guest.

Simple upgrade doubles my 200LX clock speed

The common language was HP Palmtop-ese rather than English or Japanese. After speeches and munching on some of the most delicious Chinese food I have tasted, I started asking about the "clock-speed upgrade." Rumor had it that many Japanese users had modified their 100/ 200LX's and were running their Palmtops at twice the normal clock-speed. That meant that most of the built-in (PHONE and APPT) and DOS applications would run twice as fast! I had to find out if this was true.

Like many HP 100/200LX users, I dread seeing the timer icon, telling me I have to wait. When I asked about the modification, I was told that many of the people at the party had 100/200LX's with the faster clock speed. I was asked:

"Would you like your 200LX upgraded now?" asked my host.

"Sure", I replied.

"Don't worry," he said. "We haven't lost too many Palmtops" (everybody laughed).

We cleared off one of the serving tables. One of the inventors of the clock speed up modification conveniently brought a soldering iron and one of the custom chips.

Hardware Modification for Double Speed: Graphic

 Forty of us gathered around the Palmtop surgeon. He calmly proceeded to take apart my 200LX (while successfully fielding wise-cracks from the onlookers, many at my Palmtop's expense).

Not all watched the 20 minute operation in its entirety. Some returned to their seats, continuing conversations about their Palmtops, and eating egg rolls and tempura. Finally, the surgeon announced that the operation was a success, but, "so sorry," something happened causing my screen to display a little off-center. "OK," I said good naturedly. I thought to myself that even with the off-center screen, it was worth it to speed up my PHONE and APPT operations.

"Just kidding," replied the Palmtop surgeon, and he proceeded to correct the off-center screen by adding the following line to my AUTOEXEC.BAT file:

mode con: rate=32 delay=1

When my Palmtop was rebooted, the screen was centered properly. In addition to the hardware modification and the change to my AUTOEXEC.BAT file, a 400 byte device driver was installed via my CONFIG.SYS file, to "inform" the system about the faster clock speed.

As a quick bench mark, I went into World Time, pressed (MENU) View Sort and changed the first sort field to Hours, and pressed (ENTER). A normal Palmtop takes about 15 seconds to perform the sort. My souped-up Palmtop performed the same operation in 7.5 seconds.

Other goodies from Japan

Some of the most interesting software I saw took advantage of the graphics capability of the HP Palmtop. The first important breakthrough is software that allows Japanese users to use the HP Palmtop as a Kanji machine (displaying Japanese characters). The Palmtops I saw displayed Kanji in both built-in applications and DOS Software. I was told the Japanese users live by EMM100 <Available ON DISK>, a utility written in Japan that allows the Japanese font system to be loaded into expanded memory freeing up the lower 640K for the built-in applications. We have heard that the EMM100 memory manager has been successfully used with other programs. Unfortunately, EMM100 can't be used with System Manager applications to free up space for the built-in applications. EMM100 <Available ON DISK> is now available on CompuServe and The HP Palmtop Paper ON DISK, with English documentation. A newer version for the 200LX, EMM200, is now available on NIFTY-Serve.

The following screen from a Tokyo restaurant database file illustrates the use of Japanese fonts on the HP Palmtop.

Tokyo Restaurant Database: Graphic

Tokyo Restaurant Item Screen: Graphic

 Another program called MAPPOT .EXM makes this database more than just a list of restaurants! The number in the Imagemap field above (450125), represents the coordinates of the restaurant on an internal map of Tokyo. When the user moves the cursor to the Imagemap field and presses the program's (ALT)(F5) hotkey, the map of Tokyo is displayed with the restaurant highlighted.

Mapping Software Shows Locations of Restaurants: Graphic

 The map is a PCX graphics file (the same type of file used for the main topcard screen). Another piece of software, GEDIT, lets you create maps or other drawings in the PCX file format. GEDIT is a PCX editor that allows you to create and edit PCX files, automatically letting you draw circles and lines.

Another fun application is EVA a Palmtop movie projector. Feed EVA one of its movie files and a short movie is displayed on the Palmtop's screen, sights, sounds, everything but the popcorn. One such file given me is of a car endlessly looping around a race track, with music playing in the background.

I was also introduced to an Infrared cable, two thin 2 foot fiber optic cables with special connectors on the ends of the cables. The connectors are placed next to the Palmtop's IR port (the IR port covers must be removed. The cables let you transfer files between Palmtops at maximum speed, from a distance of several feet.

I was then shown a DOS macro language. When used with a built-in, but undocumented, 200LX capability, it is possible to launch built-in applications and DOS applications by highlighting their data file in FILER and pressing (ENTER). (We'll discuss this capability soon.)

During the evening of the party, my Palmtop was not only upgraded but passed around to different people, who copied over other goodies. I did miss getting some of the games I saw, but came away with a nice typing tutor/game to help boost Palmtop typing speed.

I heard of other software and hardware projects in development, including a project to provide backlighting for the Palmtop.

Normally, I don't like to tease readers with information about products not available. However, I promise to do my best to make as many of these products as possible available in the coming months, with English documentation. Look for them on CompuServe, AOL, and The HP Palmtop Paper ON DISK. Currently, many of the products mentioned are available in the NIFTYServe YHPPC forum or the FMODEM forum.

In addition, we are looking into the possibility of making the clock speed upgrades available worldwide from a point in the U.S. In the meantime one source of the chip, software, and Japanese documentation with photos is Palm Trading Co., in care of Takeshi Hashimoto, Daimachi 1-12-3-2F, Hachioji-shi, Tokyo, 193 JAPAN. Phone: 81-426-21-2462, fax 81-426-21-3297.

Home again

This was my first experience in those Asian countries. Although I had read much about their booming economies, I came away impressed and amazed with Singapore, Bali (where I also visited), Hong Kong, and even Japan (which is now still coming out of recession). There was little unemployment or crime even in crowded cities. Wherever I went the people were gracious.

Above all, the experience gave me some insight as to why HP Singapore has been chosen to take over the HP Palmtop. Less costs and a more sophisticated and inclusive world perspective should help HP sell more Palmtops in what will surely be a most competitive arena in the coming years.

For those who can't wait to speed up their HP 100/200LX

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