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The Next Three Years Should Be Exciting

A leading developer looks forward to several years of enhancements for the Palmtop.

By Mack Baggette

After spending only two days at COMDEX 1999 I can say that I am more excited than ever about the future of products and software for the 200LX. Oddly enough, the development of Palm and Windows CE machines has opened up a new world of PC Cards, hardware and software for 200LX owners. Sure, many of the newer PC Cards are more power hungry and also use the newer CardBus 32 PC card interface, but these are cards that aren't really necessary for the Palmtop such as cards for MPEG2 decompression and 10/100Mbps network cards.

We have learned to live within the confines of the 200LX hardware constraints just fine and some newer 56k modems, network cards, IO cards, etc. are being built to use much less power than before so they can work within the hardware constraints that even Windows CE and Palm Pilot users need. I am still developing software and hardware for the Palmtop and will continue to do so as long as possible. I believe this will be at least 3-5 years due to the overwhelming support for this platform even at a time when HP has discontinued this machine.

You can look for new products to be sold by Thaddeus Computing in the coming months. Hopefully these will include such items as a serial keyboard, smaller universal AC adapters, more software drivers for other PC Cards, a greater variety of PC Cards and whatever other goodies we as a team can come up with to offer the 200LX community.

It seemed that everywhere I looked at COMDEX this year I saw new opportunities for the 200LX. We even had the chance to test a new ATA driver that I have developed with a SanDisk 1.2GB Flashcard and I can claim that my software driver worked perfectly. This means that we are positioned to use larger and faster Flashcards for some time to come.

We at Times2 Tech are looking at other enhancements to the Palmtop such as beefing up the PC card power supply to at least 300ma, helping in the development of the driver board for the EL backlight solution so that the board can fit in the hinge of the Palmtop. We are also looking into the possibilities of using another PC card port and many other enhancements. I can't really say what will pan out from all this but we are hopeful and will continue to look for newer and better ways to enhance the 200LX for the future.

One very exciting development that we are looking at is the development of a 486 replacement motherboard for the 200LX. We have come a long way in the past year in terms of how we can map the current 200LX hardware for use with the AMD Elan series embedded processors. This is a very exciting processor which contains just about everything needed to develop a single chip solution for the next generation Palmtop without needed external chips to process the video, keyboard input, IR, serial, and PC card interfaces. The great thing is that this series can handle all these things and more, using standard interfaces that operating systems such as Windows9x, NT, Linux, and many others can use.

This isn't to say that driver development won't be necessary to emulate such things as a virtual VGA screen on CGA hardware but it is quite reasonable to assume that they can be created. This platform will be completely open as the BIOS will be flash upgradable and the developer's documentation for the Elan is currently available on the Web. With the support of the LX community, I believe we can keep this platform alive for some time to come and the future will only be more exciting.

iPhone Life magazine


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