Victor Mikhailovich Glushkov was the founding father of information technology in the Soviet Union and one of the founding fathers of Soviet cybernetics. In 1996 he was awarded the IEEE Computer Pioneer Award, For digital automation of computer architecture. He published nearly 800 printed works. In his book Fundamentals of Paperless Informatics, published a few months after his death (in 1982), he wrote a visionary prediction:
Soon enough paper books, newspapers, and magazines will be no more. Every person will have an electronic notebook—a combination of a flat screen and a mini radio transmitter. No matter where you are in the world, if you key a specific code in the notebook, you will be able to summon texts and images from giant remote databases. This will forever replace not only books, newspapers, and magazines, but also television.
I was curious what actually was the first device matching the Glushkov’s criterias:
- notebook size
- flat screen
- wireless receiver and transmitter
- support of wide area network spanning entire world
- text input capability
As far as I know, the first device which seems to be matching the abovementioned criterias was EO Personal Communicator 440 released in 1992. It is amaizing device in every aspect (the first phablet, innovative OS PenPoint, unusual CPU AT&T Hobbit and so on). However, this device utilized the Cellular Digital Packet Data (CDPD) standard for wireless data transfer. This standard was used in North America and Asia. It failed to become a world-wide network. Therefore someone may doublt whether EO Communicator matches the fourth criteria. In this case, taking into account that the first global cellular network was based on GSM standards, then Nokia 9000 Communicator released in 1996 should be considered as the first handheld according to Glushkov.
I hung my first display case for handheld computers above my desk. That was 4 years ago.
After moving to a new apartment earlier this year, I had enough free space for a much larger display cabinet. Now this display cabinet stores the major part of my collection.
Psion Series 5 has a CF slot. When the CF door is closed. it pushes a small button inside the device, which indicates that the door is closed. When this button in not pressed, the device will not recognize the installed CF card.
Unfortunatelly, the little piece of plastic, which presses this button is very fragile. Sometimes it cracks: Psion Series 5 not recognizing CompactFlash cards : OldHandhelds.
In order to eliminate the tension on this piece of plastic, the door must be open.
Besides that, the stylus holder mechanism also contains a spring. The spring is weak when the stylus is removed from the device.
Therefore I follow these two simple rules for storing Psion Series 5:
- Keep the CF door open.
- Remove the stylus.
Now I know exactly how big my collection is. It’s just one cubometer.
Few days ago my GPD MicroPC joined the club of broken hinges. I have successfully repaired it. I drilled two holes through the lid and enforced the lid using aluminum strip and steel screws.
It feels very sturdy now. The only disadvantage of this repair is that the lid cannot be opened at full angle anymore, because of the strip (see the comparison photo below). However, the angle is still quite comfortable.
The screws on the inside portion of my MicroPC hinge come loose, therefore I had to disassemble the whole unit (see Repairing screen flop on the GPD MicroPC).
During this process I also replaced the thermal paste with Arctic Cooling MX-4 2019. I was quite surprised with the result. The thermal paste does affect the performance of the device.
Here is the comparison (left: the original paste, right: the new paste):
Here is the comparision of Windows 10 (left) and Gentoo Linux (right) with the new thermal paste:
BTW, the result on the right is better that all other GPD MicroPC benchmark results.
Almost every handheld computer produced since early 2000s runs on a Li-ion battery. When you become serious about collecting handheld computers, you end up storing quite a large amount of batteries in your home. In this case you should consider taking safety measures for storing batteries, because a Li-ion battery is a potential fire hazard.
Here are the very basic principles of storing Li-ion batteries:
- Batteries should be stored in fireproof containers.
- Do not expose the batteries to high temperatures (e.g. direct sunlight).
- Prevent external short circuits (store batteries in separate insulating bags).
- Prevent internal short circuits (prevent mechanical damage).
- Batteries should not be stored with other products that could accelerate a fire.
And, of course, keeping a fire extinguisher in the vicinity of the storage area is also a good idea.
Here is a set of useful articles on this topic:
I noticed a vintage handheld computer in ATOM RPG.
ATOM RPG is a post-apocalyptic indie game, inspired by classic CRPGs: Fallout, Wasteland, System Shock, Deus Ex, Baldur’s Gate and many others.
In 1986 both the Soviet Union and the Western Bloc were destroyed in mutual nuclear bombings. You are one of the survivors of the nuclear Holocaust.
The device looks like Elektronika MK-90:
It must be a prototype. According to wikipedia, in 1986 there was only a prototype of this device.
You can find more information about Elektronika MK-90 here: Vintage programmable calculators.
In this post I would like to share with you some detail about using GPD MicroPC as a main workstation.
Using MicroPC as a portable workstation
Monitor – Lenovo ThinkVision M14
Keyboard – ThinkPad Wired USB Keyboard with TrackPoint
The keyboard is OK. It’s quite light (398 grams) The build quality of the keyboard is decent. The layout is obviously much worse than the layout of the famous 7-row ThinkPad keyboard (AKA UltraNav). But these USB keyboards are no longer produced. The chinese copies of these keyboard available today are awful (read the user reviews on Amazon).
The monitor is very light for 14 inch screen (624 grams) and durable. The build quality is fine. I was quite surprised that 14 inch screen can be powered by such small device as GPD MicroPC. The only issue I have with this display is that sometimes it spontaneously turns off for a second or two. It does not bother me too much, because it happens 1-2 times per hour. But evetually I would like to resolve this issue somehow.
Using MicroPC as a home workstation
Monitor – Dell U2713HM
In general, MicroPC does the job pretty well. However, there are two notes I would like to mention.
This monitor does not support the native resolution (2560×1440) via HDMI port. In order to connect MicroPC to this monitor I had to use StarTech HDMI to DisplayPort Adapter. This’s an active digital video converter, which requires external power (via USB port). All passive HDMI to DisplayPort cables do not support resolution higner that 1920×1080.
It’s not very convenient to attach 5 cables in order to "dock" the MicroPC. I would really to have a dedicated docking port on MicroPC (like the docking port on ThinkPad laptops).
UPDATE from 2019 Sep 30: The second issue was fixed according to the anonymoushindeiru‘s suggestion. The USB Type-C Hub does the job pretty well. I’m using Satechi ST-TCMAM. See the last photo in the gallery.
I have recently attended a talk by Richard Stallman and used the opportunity to sign my Ben Nanonote. It’s a clamshell handheld with free hardware designs. It runs free software (OpenWrt operating system).
More information on Ben NanoNote and free hardware designs