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Questions and Answers about HP Palmtops

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Q. What is the HP200LX?

It is the original IBM PC-XT stuffed into a very tiny case with great Personal Information Management (PIM) software and Lotus 1-2-3 built into ROM. It runs MS-DOS 5.0 software.

Q. Why would I want an outdated DOS palmtop when I could get a modern Pocket PC?

The 200LX may be older, but many find it a more useful computing device than a Pocket PC and certainly than a Palm device. A few of the 200LX strengths:

  • Battery life (up to 2 months on a single pair of AA batteries)

  •  DOS compatibility (can run thousands of programs written for desktop computers)

  • High-resolution screen (fully CGA compatible, 640x200) with landscape orientation and much more screen real estate than a Pocket PC or Palm.

  •  Has a keyboard with a separate numeric keypad; nice solid feel with good tactile feedback.

  • Excellent PIM apps, including a powerful easy-to-use database (database is not a part of Pocket PCs.)

  • Pocket Quicken and full version of Lotus 1-2-3 built in

  • Takes a full-length PC card.

Q. What software is built into the 200LX ROM?

  • MS-DOS 5.0,

  • Lotus 1-2-3 release 2.4

  • An appointment manager

  • A calculator (similar to HP19B, capable of algebraic or RPN)

  • A text editor, a phone book

  • A stopwatch/alarm clock

  • A world time database

  • A terminal emulator

  • A general purpose database

  • A note taker, a file manager

  • A keyboard macro editor

  • cc:Mail.

  • Pocket Quicken

  • LapLink Remote

Q. What's the difference between the HP 200LX,  HP 100LX,  HP 95LX, and HP 1000CX?

The HP 200LX is a minor upgrade to the HP 100LX with Pocket Quicken and a few cosmetic changes to the built-in applications. The HP 1000CX is DOS machine, an HP 200LX without the built-in software. The upgrade from the HP 95LX to the HP 100LX was quite significant. The HP-100/200LX is faster, has better and more powerful software, better MS-DOS compatibility (full CGA compatibility), fully standard serial port with hardware handshaking, longer battery life, and has a PCMCIA Release 2.0 slot.

Read the original HP Palmtop Paper review of the HP 100LX here, and the HP 200LX comparative review here.

Q. What is The HP Palmtop Paper

The HP Palmtop Paper, published from 1991-2000 was chock full of HP Palmtop news, reviews, how-tos, profiles and tips. All the archives are available online here.

Q. Does the 4MB, 6MB, 8MB, 32MB, or 64MB upgraded HP200LX have more system memory?

No, all models of the HP200LX are MS-DOS machines which are inherently limited to only 640KB of system RAM. The rest of the memory is for storage.

Q. How do I upgrade the memory and speed on a 200LX?

Send it into Thaddeus Computing, Inc, 110 N. Court, Fairfield, IA 52556, or order a palmtop already upgraded.

Q. How big is a 200LX?

Approx 16cm x 8.5cm x 2.5cm (6.25" x 3.3" x 1") closed, or about the size of a checkbook, only thicker. It has a clamshell-style case.  The screen occupies the upper half, with perhaps a half-inch border on the sides and top and bottom.

Q. So tiny! Can I touch-type on it? Is the screen too small to read?

Touch typing is quite a trick. The keys are much closer together than normal adult human fingers. But the keys have a positive click feel. Some people adapt quite well to them, others despise the 200LX keyboard. Many users adapt very well to typing on the palmtop and some have reported speeds of up to 70 words per minute.

Q. Will it run <Random MS-DOS Software Package>?

The 200LX will run just about anything that will run on an IBM PC-XT with a CGA monitor. Both DOS software and HP-200LX specific software can be found at

Q. What is the System Manager?

It's the core software under which all of the PIM applications run. It allows multi-tasking (suspending one application to run another), keyboard macros, data transfer via a clipboard, and other nifty stuff. The alarm clock and appointment manager will only wake up if the system manager is active. Certain 3rd party applications (*.EXM files) are "System Manager Compliant". Applications which are not system manager compliant can still be run, either by exiting the system manager entirely, or by opening up a DOS shell under the system manager.

Q. What programming languages are available?

Anything that'll run on a PC-XT, including various flavors of assembly, C, C++, Pascal, Basic, etc. QBASIC.EXE is not included, but will run if it's copied from a MS-DOS 5.0 machine. Turbo C++ 1.0 works quite well, as do Turbo Pascal and Turbo Assembler. (Turbo Assembler 5.0, the latest version, even runs on the palmtop—although the linker requires a 286+, so you'll need a different linker...)

There are several ways to write "programs" with software in the 200LX ROM, depending on your definition of a program. You have the keyboard macro application, Lotus 1-2-3, the calculator's solver application (finds roots of equations, among other things), DEBUG.EXE (from DOS), and the DOS batch file interpreter. The calculator's solver application can be used with Lotus to "backsolve", that is, adjust the value of one independent cell of a spreadsheet to produce a desired result in another, calculated, cell.

Q. How can I get information on programming the internals of the HP?

Thaddeus Computing sells the SDK for $79.00, which includes a manual and software you'll need. You'll also need a C-compiler and an assembler. The examples and software are set up to use Microsoft C 6.0 and MASM. The SDK software and manuals are also available on Thaddeus's CD Infobase, which sells for $59.97.

The PAL library is also available and on the CD. These are C routines designed to allow you to emulate the "look and feel" of built-in and System Manager compliant applications on DOS programs. Also, PAL provides many good features such as clipboard access.

Q. What's a good modem?

Just about any pocket modem or full-sized external modem will work, although speed will vary.

Q. Should I get a PCMCIA modem or an external one?

  • Advantages to PCMCIA — Cleaner cable setup, uses same power supply as 200LX, smaller overall package, better performance.

  • Advantages to external — allows use of RAM card and modem simultaneously, doesn't drain 200LX batteries as rapidly.

While a pocket modem typically draws power from a battery or from an AC power supply, a PCMCIA modem draws all power from the palmtop. Many PCMCIA modems are designed to work on larger machines with plenty of battery power so most modems also consume as much or more power than the HP200LX. This drain can occur whether the modem is in use or not, consequently battery life is shorter. Use of an AC adapter is usually recommended. Internal PCMCIA modems sold on this site are known to work well on the HP 200LX. Particularly the 56K fax/modem card and these used ones including EXP cards that hold both memory and modem.

Q. Can I do email and surf the web?

Check out the WWW/LX PLUS! Email/Web Browser and

Q. How do I connect the 200LX to a desktop PC?

A connectivity pack is available for the 200LX (F1021B). The 200LX connectivity pack includes software to integrate Pocket Quicken with Quicken for DOS or Windows, in addition to updated versions of the software in the 100LX connectivity pack. 

A free Outlook to Palmtop PIM sync program is available here.

Q. Where do I get connectivity cables or an adapter to use HP's serial cable with a modem, serial printer, etc.?

Right here.

Q. What batteries does it use? How long do they last?

The 200LX uses 2 standard AA cells, either alkaline or NiCad. It also uses a miniature lithium "button" battery (CR2032) for memory backup when the main batteries fail. Battery lifetime varies a lot, based on how much you use the machine, what kind of PCMCIA card you use, how much you use the serial and IR ports, how good your batteries are, etc. As a rough guess, several users have reported needing to recharge their NiCad's approximately once a week, when running it a few hours a day with a flash card. Users have reported in excess of a month of regular usage from fresh lithium AA cells, down to an hour or less with a power-sucking PCMCIA modem and NiCads. The HP manual claims that "for typical use without the AC adapter, fresh Alkaline batteries should last from 2 to 8 weeks. Rechargeable batteries ... will get less life ..." (p A-2 of 100LX manual).

Although the manual only recommends alkaline or NiCads, users have reported success with lithium AA cells. Lithium cells have a much longer shelf life and running life than alkalines. Setting the machine up for alkalines works for lithiums. Others have cautioned that inserting lithium cells backwards can permanently damage the machine, and the discharge curve for lithiums is very steep, leaving little time between the first "low battery" warning and completely dead batteries.

The 200LX can charge installed NiCads by simply plugging in an AC adapter and selecting the option from the setup application. No separate charger is needed.

Rechargeable alkaline or NiMH batteries can be used, just like regular alkalines. However, to charge them, you must take them out of the 200LX and put them in a charger specially designed for rechargeable alkalines or NiMH batteries.  (Note: newer NiMH batteries can be recharged right in the palmtop, with the type set to NiCad.)

Q. What kind of AC adapter does the 200LX use?

HP recommends their part no. F1011A, which is about the size of a credit card, except that it's an inch (2.5 cm) thick, with fold-away AC prongs. It will take any input voltage from 100 to 240 Volts, at 50/60 Hz, an advantage for world travelers.