Got a sweet MSDOS palmtop in the mail from @ajroach42 the other day and after some small hardware fix ups I am settling in with it. This thing is an _astonishing_ device. I can hardly believe it’s real.
This is a fully functional 7MHz 80186 DOS machine, running MSDOS 5.0, with full CGA graphics support. It runs off of two AA batteries. Apparently for weeks. While constantly powering a RAM disk. I have been using this thing fairly heavily since Wednesday, including large serial file transfers that took well over an hour of constant, sustained use. Battery is still at 7/8 full.
The thing I didn't quite realize until I had the thing in my hands is that it is a _very_ full-featured PDA, with a _ton_ of useful software built into ROM, and a multitasking shell with convenient app-switching hotkeys. Everything you'd expect on a modern smartphone is there - calendar, alarms / reminders, TODO list, contact management, stopwatch...
And then there's a ton of stuff which is kind of above and beyond - spreadsheets (Quicken), finanical software (1-2-3), scientific graphing calculator, full customizable database, full serial terminal & laplink with modem support, _scheduled tasks_! You can write cronjobs that run batch files, and it will run in the middle of the night because the thing is always on and uses no power! This is a far better, more useful DOS machine than my desktop!
I've spent the past year and a half writing DOS games on my desktop, and one thing that was consistently an annoyance is that I had no way to look at my code while my game was running. I've got a full interpreted interactive scripting language with a REPL, but I have to quit to make changes. This thing has a full text editor that I can task-switch to with a single keypress and takes up ~30kb of RAM! This could completely change my entire workflow!
@SpindleyQ I have one of those as well. It's pretty damn cool, and yeah, the batteries last forever.
@darius I mean yeah fine on the one hand most of this stuff is really table stakes for computing in 2020
on the other hand... it's a tiny DOS machine that runs for weeks on AA batteries and thoughtfully solves a bunch of DOS' UX problems
@darius like why did no one tell me in 1995 that I could have a Palm Pilot with a full keyboard that ran DOS games, I would have lost my miiiiind
@SpindleyQ omg that was me being genuinely impressed that someone solved a core DOS UX issues on a tiny device! sorry if it seemed facetious. I want one of these so badly
@darius haha no worries, I basically read it that way, it's just... also undeniably true that Multitasking Was Coming, and now it is Very Much Here, and it's hard not to feel a little sheepish about being so excited for a solution to problems caused largely by my own stubborn refusal to avail myself of modern conveniences
@SpindleyQ I mean I still primarily use an SP-404 instead of my Logic DAW so I am in the same boat in a lot of ways
@SpindleyQ For task switching under pure DOS you can also try using DOSSHELL which shipped with the later DOS versions, it has a built in task switcher
@fraggle I never saw the use for DOSSHELL as a kid, interesting to think of using it as a development tool...
@nev planning to use it mainly for coding DOS games on the couch without emulators. It has a PCMCIA slot and there are a few Ethernet cards that are known to work, but in my experience, modern web + DOS don't really work great together
@SpindleyQ My friend who collects handhelds has one of those. Apparently they are very collectable now!
@ajroach42 A little conductive paint on the internal connector pads and the keyboard is working good as new :)
@dualhammers I mean, I think it's probably the best keyboard of its size that I've used, for what that's worth! Before this I got a GPD Win that I was imagining would make a beautiful DOSBox machine, and it's totally unusable due to its garbage keyboard. This one is MUCH better.
@SpindleyQ Objects like this to me are such an indictment of capitalism. We solved a lot of the problems of technology years ago, but a solved problem is rarely profitable
@dualhammers The hardware is really obviously designed to be easily repaired / modified, too. Like, the keyboard connection is a ribbon cable with graphite pads that physically push against some exposed traces on the motherboard PCB when the thing is assembled but are otherwise completely out of the way when taken apart.
@SpindleyQ I wanted an Atari Portfolio real bad as a kid. Really cool to see that HP kept running with a similar concept for several years after! I didn't know these existed! Neat!
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