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PERIPHERALS: Drive95 / Station95

Two Useful HP 95LX Peripherals

Contributing writer David Hayden takes a look at Sparcom's Station95 (a docking station) and Drive95 (an external floppy drive).

By David Hayden with Rich Hall

While the HP 95LX is a powerful palmtop computer, a number of products have been developed which add a new level of power and convenience to the Palmtop PC. Let's take a look at two of them.

Station95 Graphic

Sparcom's Station95 is a docking station. All you do is slide your 95LX into the compact, black Station95 unit sitting on your desk and your connected to an AC adapter and linked to your desktop PC via serial cable.

 Station95 should be particularly useful to those who use their 95LX at a desk, and who come and go a lot (i.e. for those who need to connect and disconnect their 95LX often).

Station95 retails for $59.95. That's not very expensive, especially when you consider that a serial cable and AC adapter comes with the unit (an HP Serial Cable and AC Adapter would cost you $50).

If you already have a serial cable and AC adapter, Station95 may seem a bit redundant, especially if you don't connect and disconnect that often. But the mere fact that it's there on your desk, so easy to connect to, tends to encourage its use. I use it all the time and the money I save on batteries should quickly pay for Station95.

Station95 is a very lightweight hollow black box about 1.5" tall, 8" long, and 4.5" deep (3.8 x 20.3 x 11.4 cm). It has a memory card slot in the left-hand side, but there is no RAM card drive in Station95 at this time. It appears that Station95 was designed so that it would be easy to add one in some future version. Sparcom confirmed that they are considering adding a card drive, or even a hard disk drive to Station95, but emphasized that it was only a possibility at this time.

Drive95 Graphic

This 3.5" floppy disk drive is also from Sparcom. It connects to the 95LX via serial cable and accepts DOS formatted 720K or 1.44MB disks. With Drive95 attached to your 95LX, you can read from or write to a floppy disk, or run a program from the floppy disk.

 Drive95 is battery powered and runs 10-15 hours on a single charge. It also operates off of an AC adapter, which is included along with a serial cable and software.

Because Drive95 connects via serial port, data transfer will be a bit slow. (It took Peder Sweeney, HP Palmtop Paper Marketing Manager, 11 minutes to back up the files from his 1MB 95LX onto a floppy disk via Drive95.) This is not a fault with Drive95, it's just the nature of the serial port (Drive95 uses Kermit). On the positive side, Peder mentioned that Drive95 works at any angle (upside down, sideways, etc.). Although he did not test this, he thought it would be possible to back up the 95LX without any problems, while it and Drive95 were "clunking" around in his briefcase.

To make Drive95 work with the 95LX, you must first copy the file DRIVE95.SYS from the 3.5" floppy disk that comes with Drive95 onto the C drive of your 95LX, and then install it on the Palmtop. This "device driver" software tells the 95LX how to work with Drive95.

Follow the instructions on page 1-4 of the Drive95 User's Manual to copy DRIVE95.SYS over to the root directory of the 95LX (C:\). Then use MEMO to modify your 95LX's CONFIG.SYS file, found in the root directory of the C drive. Add the following line to the end of your CONFIG.SYS file (be sure to press (ENTER) after you type in the line):

DEVICE=DRIVE95.SYS

If you don't have a CONFIG.SYS file, you can copy over the one found on Drive95's software disk, or create a new CONFIG.SYS file containing the above line.

While Drive95 is a useful addition to the 95LX, there are some things you should be aware of. Drive95 (size 7" x 5" x 2") is bulky compared to the 95LX, and this makes traveling with Drive95 less than optimal. Also, as mentioned, Drive95 connects via the serial port, and serial port data transfer can seem a bit slow at times. Another problem (more an annoyance) is that when you disconnect Drive95, it seems that some of the built-in applications load more slowly. I assume this is because you still have the device driver loaded and the 95LX spends some time looking for Drive95 before starting the application. I found that it took 2 to 3 times longer to start some applications.

Drive95 works with the 95LX, an HP 48SX calculator, or an IBM compatible personal computer.

iPhone Life magazine


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