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User to User: We move from paper to the Web, HP is not what it was; 40

User to User

We move from paper to the Web, HP is not what it was; 4000 Palmtops for resale; backlighting cancelled; keyboard options.

By Hal Goldstein

 We began publishing The HP Palmtop Paper almost nine years ago and The Portable Paper, our HP Portable Plus magazine, fifteen years ago. These publications taught us that HP users were incredibly loyal and incredibly interested in exploiting the possibilities of their mobile devices.

 Times have changed in 15 years. The advent of Windows, of desktop computers everywhere, and of the Internet have turned computers from 'tools for power users' into commodity items. With mass merchandizing, we have all become spoiled. We want the latest device today, cheap, and we usually get it. To continue its growth Hewlett-Packard joined this trend and sells as many boxes as inexpensively as possible. The result: HP is not the HP we knew when we began our publications.

The joke used to be that HP stood for "High Price" and that it could market sushi as cold, dead fish and still sell it to knowledgable gourmets. Now HP can compete price and marketing-wise with any company. Unfortunately, as a by-product, the Corvallis, Oregon division that created a long line of great calculators, the HP Portable Plus, and the HP 200LX Palmtop PC no longer exists. Also, excellent companies like EduCalc and ACE Technologies that supported HP products no longer exist.

 When I worked at HP in 1981, it was a well known fact that even a bottom level engineer could come up with a product idea and lobby to form a product team. If the proposed product actually got created, a small marketing group tried to figure out how to package and sell it. HP was decentralized, each division had its own marketing, manufacturing, personnel, accounting, and research and development departments. The result was often high price products, dysfunctional marketing, and some extraordinary products. The new HP CEO, Carly Fiorina, has tried to recapture HP product brilliance (the new HP logo has "Invent" on it). However, she has a marketing background and comes from outside the company. Previously CEOs were engineers and homegrown. Given the mass-market environment, her background, and a much more centralized HP, I just don't think Ms. Fiorina can make HP into what it once was.

 The HP Palmtop side of Thaddeus Computing is now an anachronism of sorts. Our low volume model is based on customer loyalty and customer interest in these incredible palmtops. We offer service and high quality products at a fair (but not a "cheap") price.

 Unfortunately, it no longer makes sense to print The HP Palmtop Paper on paper because there are no longer enough paid subscribers. At the same time, customer attraction to our Web site and our Ultimate Palmtop Store means we can continue for years to come. We'll continue The HP Palmtop Paper online, and we will continue to support Palmtop users with a number of products and services.

4000 Palmtops to Sell

 I predict that we will be supporting Palmtops for a number of years to come. I base this thinking on past experience. The HP Portable Plus was discontinued in 1987 and yet we maintained a business supporting these portables and the discontinued HP 150 Touchscreen PC until 1994-almost seven years!

 Our recent large purchase of Euro-English Palmtops from the Dutch Railway guarantees that we will be supporting Palmtop users with products and repairs for some time. The good news is that most of the 4000 Palmtops we receive will be in good shape. Any damaged units will be fixed, before we receive them, under an HP service agreement. We can use Palmtops in poor shape for parts for repair, refurbishing, and warranty work. We expect to make future purchases from companies with large numbers of Palmtops so even when we run out of these units, we should have more Palmtops for resale.

 I like the Euro-English Palmtops better than US Palmtops. The only difference is the appearance of the keyboard. Euro-English Palmtops show, for example, how the Fn key, in combination with another key, can generate a tilde, a beta symbol, or an upside down question mark. Actually, there are more symbols that can be generated on the US and Euro-English Palmtops that even the European keyboard doesn't show. For example, in Memo, Fn 9 produces 3/4, Fn Quicken generates a copyright symbol, and Fn HPCalc makes a double less than sign bracket. (Check out Appendix C in the HP 200LX User's Guide to see the many possibilities.) You'll see that holding down Alt, then Menu and typing a number between 32 and 255 generates the full character set. There are two such character sets labeled DOS Code Page 437 and 850. These sets can be toggled using F7 (Intl) in Setup.

 These 4000 Palmtops also have a white Dutch Railway logo on the top of the case. You can eliminate the white coloring easily with nail polish remover. However, a slight logo embossment does remain if you look closely. Fortunately, the logo is attractive and distinctive if you decide to leave it alone.

 Backlighting Cancelled - Sort Of

 We have officially cancelled the backlighting project for the HP 200LX. We judged that we could no longer string customers along. There are problems with the physical installation of the backlight that have not been solved. We haven't come up with a reliable method to remove the palmtop's original reflective film and replace it with another film. We have not given up and, deep down, I believe we will eventually be able to offer a product. But please don't call us for how close we are to a solution. The latest information will be posted at www.PalmtopPaper.com and on the HPLX-L discussion group where you can actively monitor progress. If and when we have a product, we'll send you notification. However, we will no longer speculate on if and when it will be available.

 More Good News: Cables and Keyboards

 One of our major concerns in purchasing 4000 Palmtops was the potential unavailability of HP 200LX serial connectivity cables. Fortunately, the good people at HP gave me permission to purchase a large number of cables from their own manufacturer. That means we will have plenty of cables for HP 200LX users and for other products such as keyboards.

 Now we will be able to attach the 200LX serial plug (rather than a 9-pin standard serial plug) to the HP Jornada keyboard we sell. Unfortunately, for those who already purchased the Jornada keyboard from us, due to the delicate nature of the connection we cannot reliably replace existing cables with the HP 200LX cable.

Everyone who has used the Jornada keyboard has agreed it has the best touch and responsiveness of any portable keyboard. As of this writing, the Jornada keyboard is only available for Palm-size PCs, not the Pocket PC and its unique serial/USB port. Therefore, although we are hopeful, we do not know for sure how long the keyboard will be manufactured. Also, since the keyboard works with the Palm-size unit, which is no longer sold, we will sell the keyboard with just the HP 200LX cable attached, making the keyboard a more compact usable product for the HP 200LX.

 Use Your Desktop Keyboard with the HP 200LX.

 Mack Baggette, creater of the HP 200LX upgrades, discovered and wrote a driver for a product, literally a black box, called "Keymate". The KeyMate adapter sits in the middle between a standard desktop PS/2 keyboard, and the 200LX. Mack has both the serial and IR connection working!

 Here's how it works:

1. Install Mack's custom keyboard software onto the 200LX.

 2. Connect a standard desktop PS/2 keyboard to the KeyMate box.

 3. Connect the KeyMate box to the Palmtop either with a serial or IR cable. Either cable plugs into the box. Use the HP 200LX connectivity cable with the KeyMate serial cable. Alternatively, place KeyMate IR cable with its IR embedded eye near the HP 200LX IR port (to the right of the backup battery). The IR cable is itself both movable and stiff so that it easily allows the user to line up the two IR eyes. It sounds complicated but it isn't.

Not goodbye

 I will continue writing this column on our Web site at www. PalmtopPaper.com. So it's not good-bye, we're just changing media. Thank you for all your support and kind words these many years.

iPhone Life magazine


Notice about Palmtop.net
The Palmtop Network with its S.U.P.E.R. (Simply Unbeatable Palmtop Essentials Repository) software is now available under the domain name of hp200lx.net.  

 
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