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Communications Portables

A Cheap and Portable Word Processor? 428

An anonymous reader asks: "Last evening I was waiting for a bus and realized that it would be very nice to have a little portable word processor; not a fancy PDA, but something with a bare minimum of processing power, small screen, and a cheap mini-keyboard, so that it could fit in a jacket pocket. It doesn't seem like an infeasable product - consider the price that all-in-one 8-bit game machines like the C64 DTV go for, add that to the price that the cheap organizers go for, and you get a retail value under $50. The only major difference would be in the software, and with some attention given to expansibility it might even be a decent device for homebrews. Does Slashdot have any thoughts on what might fill these gap, or is there really no product that tries to be small, cheap and low-powered like what I'm looking for?"
"When I got home, I did a search for any such devices, and came up with two choices: bulky 1980s machines with outdated connectivity options, found on eBay for pennies - some of these are actually programmable too, interestingly enough; and overpriced 'educational' machines which are almost equivalent to the 80s machines (over $200 or even $300). Electronic organizers are going for under $20, but they are woefully limited machines. The only other cheap option is to get a used PDA."
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A Cheap and Portable Word Processor?

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  • Sidekick (Score:4, Interesting)

    by cookiej ( 136023 ) * on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @06:46PM (#12628595)
    I'm a big fan of the Danger SideKick. It has the best form factor for text of all the typable phone/pdas. You can get one for a song if you sign up with the right provider. Me I signed up for a year and I paid -$35 (via rebates) for the unit.

    Plus, I love posting first.

    P.S. infeasable?
    • Re:Sidekick (Score:3, Informative)

      by ProfaneBaby ( 821276 )
      I've had both a Sidekick and Sidekick II, and I agree. The Sidekick II is very nice, and the SSH and AIM clients are also very useful for people who enjoy being 'connected'.

      The web browser isn't great, but it's also relatively useful.
      • Re:Sidekick (Score:5, Informative)

        by winkydink ( 650484 ) * <> on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @06:51PM (#12628669) Homepage Journal
        I see you glossed right over battery life and the lack of a replaceable battery. Both were deal-killers for me. Well, than and there was no desktop sync software (has T-Mo finally released this?) No way was I entering 900+ contacts using that itty bitty kybd.
        • Re:Sidekick (Score:3, Informative)

          by ProfaneBaby ( 821276 )
          I've never had a battery problem. I use it extensively (2000+ minutes per month of talk time, plus 20-30 emails per day and semi-regular IM use), and don't have any battery complaints.
          • How often do you charge it? I was lucky to get 24 hours out of a Sidekick II that we tested.
            • About every 2-3 days ... Mine's showing 2 bars left, hasn't been charged since Sunday morning, though weekends are slow, so maybe that's not indicative of normal usage..
            • Re:Sidekick (Score:5, Insightful)

              by bluephone ( 200451 ) <grey@burntelectr[ ].org ['ons' in gap]> on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @08:37PM (#12629598) Homepage Journal
              This is not a troll. I don't carry a cell phone (don't want one), etc. But how hard is it to let it charge overnight while you sleep? You say you can't get 24 hours out of it, but do you regularly use it for more than 18 straight hours? Or does it take forever to charge?
              • The sidekick has a big problem in that the battery is not removable. However, my sidekick lasts two days of regular use (several calls, usually short, sometimes an hour or so) and it charges from dead empty in less then 60 minutes.

                But I still hate the thing because you can't install your own programs without applying for a special developer key, which you can only get if you submit your programs to Danger *before* getting the key. (they have a windows-based dev tool you can use to write programs.)
              • Re:Sidekick (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Shaper_pmp ( 825142 )
                It's not a big deal, until you go away on business for a couple of days and forget your charger. Or go on holiday and find the plugs are different. Or go to a music festival [] (where there are no chargers, at least none without a two-hour wait).

                For me, it's a convenience thing. I want to be able to go stay overnight at my girlfriend's on a whim, and not have to pack a small suitcase full of chargers for the gadgets I habitually carry. I don't want to be forced to choose between carrying around a charger
        • Re:Sidekick (Score:2, Interesting)

          by cookiej ( 136023 )

          There is contact/calendar sync for both Wintel and Mac.

          Also -- while Paris Hilton might have issues, I love the fact that my data simply sits on a server and my phone just replicates as necessary.
  • Pencil/Paper (Score:4, Insightful)

    by fembots ( 753724 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @06:46PM (#12628597) Homepage
    I think there's a major difference between your proposed cheap word processor and a handheld game/organizer, which is the output requrement.

    I'm sure you would like to move your documents somewhere, maybe to a desktop for final processing, printing and whatnot? So maybe a USB, IR or a memory slot so that you can transfer data effortlessly?

    Although these "expansions" are not expensive, they still cost money. So it's commercially inviable to produce it, because "for a little bit more" one can probably produce a PDA or mobile phone.

    And what's wrong with the pencil/paper solution? Paper is a non-volatile memory so you don't have to worry about system crashes or forgetting to save your documents.

    From my experience with PDA, you'll write/type about as fast on a PDA as you would on a piece of paper
    • If I keep a pencil in my pocket I usually get stabbed when I sit down. Also I sometimes want a calculator, especially one that can do powers and sqrt. Doing sqrt on paper is tedious.
    • Re:Pencil/Paper (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tepples ( 727027 )

      And what's wrong with the pencil/paper solution? Paper is a non-volatile memory so you don't have to worry about system crashes or forgetting to save your documents.

      Inserts take way too long, as they require recopying the whole document manually. It's also considered a Hard Problem (i.e. something not bundled with a scanner) to OCR handwritten text.

    • Re:Pencil/Paper (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pdbogen ( 596723 ) <> on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @07:01PM (#12628788) Homepage
      I type much faster than I write, and I enjoy it much more, and it's a lot readable (to me as well as other people.) Plus, even a small/old word processor like this (TI used to make one; I don't remember what it's called, but I've read stories about how it's solid as a rock and still in use) would have significantly more capacity than a pocket notepad, or anything else of equivalent size.
    • Re:Pencil/Paper (Score:4, Interesting)

      by msaulters ( 130992 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @07:39PM (#12629154) Homepage
      And what's wrong with the pencil/paper solution? Paper is a non-volatile memory so you don't have to worry about system crashes or forgetting to save your documents.

      Until you forget and wash your pants with the paper still in the pocket. I've lost several business cards and even checks (ouch!) that way.
    • Re:Pencil/Paper (Score:5, Informative)

      by jhoger ( 519683 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @09:12PM (#12629810) Homepage
      I'd say the difference is the input and output requirement.

      You need a good keyboard, and you need a good display.

      Here's the short list of true-portable laptops to check out:

      Tandy WP-2
      TRS-80 Model 100
      Tandy 102
      Tandy 200
      Cambridge Z88
      Amstrad NC100 or NC200'

      All of these are 8-bit CPUs. Last for between 10 and 20 hours on battery (!!!). Available for between $10 and $50 on Ebay. Doesn't get cheaper than that.

      Or the Alphasmart Dana which is basically a Palm V with a bigger screen. USB, IR, and memory slot.

      Except for Dana, The interface for downloading to PC is serial port. You may need a $10 adapter if you only have USB on your machine.

      -- John.
  • Try this (Score:5, Funny)

    by RossTheHayes ( 885727 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @06:47PM (#12628616)
    Mead v1.0 carbon based cellulose WordPad. Unfortunately, you also need to purchase the Bic v2.0 ballpoint inkjet.
    • I prefer Rhodia and Miquelrius pads, but don't get me started on those Moleskine bastards!

      I went through 2 electronic organizers and 3 generations of PDA until I realized that for me the portability, durability and usability of paper really can't be beaten. If you have an idea that's REALLY good you'll be happy to transcribe it again.
    • Re:Try this (Score:4, Interesting)

      by bigbigbison ( 104532 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @07:43PM (#12629180) Homepage
      Call me crazy but ever since Mead started printing "Mead" down in the lower righthand corner of each sheet of paper, I quit buying their paper. I'm not a subscriber to Adbusters or anything, but why do we need to have the company logo on each sheet of their paper???
      • Mead (Score:4, Funny)

        by danielsfca2 ( 696792 ) on Wednesday May 25, 2005 @02:21AM (#12631557) Journal
        I guess they just felt their paper wasn't differentiated enough from generic Office Depot brand paper. Before that, once you removed it from the bag, it looked just like any other paper.

        This way, the slightly-richer kids can lord it over the rest... "Where's the logo on your paper?"
    • Re:Try this (Score:5, Funny)

      by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @08:04PM (#12629348)
      For many of us the installed font is unfortunately Times New Illegible. Some of us haven't used Cellulose WordPad in so long that we also get Hand Cramp exceptions even on small documents.

      • Re:Try this (Score:5, Funny)

        by Xyrus ( 755017 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @11:04PM (#12630461) Journal
        With a little programming, you can change fonts to Arial Chicken Scratch, which is a sight upgrade.

        However,if you let the processor idle too long or it gets caught up in another task, the system has a tendency to revert to the Wingdings in obnoxiously large point sizes.

  • You want to type words into a cheapo, pocket device, that is clear. Then what? Keep it there and only read from the chepo device? Do more editing on cheapo device? grep text on cheapo device? transfer text to some other device? via what means? how much text?
    • by kfg ( 145172 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @07:35PM (#12629118)
      Keep it there and only read from the chepo device?


      Do more editing on cheapo device? grep text on cheapo device?

      Yes, please.

      transfer text to some other device?

      As per the above 'Useless" comment.

      via what means?

      vim, grep and a flash key drive.

      how much text?

      Well, lesse, Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire comes out at 1.6 megs. I think that 2 megs should cover it with a bit of overhead. I can't imagine typing more than that even while sailing from Marblehead to Plymouth (that would be the one in England, not just down the coast a hop).Appears to be a nonissue with todays flash key drives.I suspect that 640k is all anyone would really need.

  • What you probably want is a used Apple Newton or something like that.

    Or maybe a pad of paper and a pencil. Way under $50.

    A fundamental limitation of any device like this will be the crappy data-entry device. Blackberry users get RSI problems with their thumbs just from doing short emails, so you probably wouldn't want to write your PhD thesis on one of these things, even if they did exist.

    • Re:Go used (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Dielectric ( 266217 )
      Yep, an MP2000/2100 with a keyboard is very usable day-to-day. Heck, even the HWR is good enough for me to have taken notes in most of my humanities electives. The outline mode was outstanding for this. It fit comfortably in the pocket of my field jacket, but so do small children, so I'm not sure it fits the pocket-sized definition.
      • Yep, an MP2000/2100 with a keyboard is very usable day-to-day.

        I have a Newton MessagePad 2000. It came with file transfer software compatible with Mac OS 8, and that was fine when I used a Macintosh Performa computer. But now that I no longer use a classic Mac as my primary computer, where can I get software to move files between my MP2000 and my Windows PC?

    • Re:Go used (Score:5, Interesting)

      by mzieg ( 317686 ) <> on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @07:48PM (#12629219) Homepage
      I had one of these in the late 90's:

      Apple eMate []

      Basically a robust plastic drop-proof word processor running NewtonOS, with built-in IRDA wireless uplink. Ran for 24hrs on AA batteries. Horrendously overpriced (got ours free through a school, natch), but quite visionary and functional. I often wish I still had it.

      I also worked for a company (well, several) that made these:

      VTech Postbox Express [] and Companion []

      Our products pretty much sucked (sorry), but there were a number of s'okay competitors in the market. Rather than search for portable "word-processor", you probably want to look for "email/web appliance". It's a rich market, and there are some decent deals out there for $100.

  • But it looks like you've got that covered. I am also interested in this. I must say though that I have a Treo 600 and it does admirably well. I take notes with it all the time. Its VERY useful for its purpose. A small laptop-sized keygboard with a 2 or 3 line LCD, and a USB connection would be uber-nice though.
  • A used PDA would be good.. or maybe you could try Pocketmail (see - write yourself emails and hold the acoustic coupler up to the phone to transmit it. The service isn't cheap though.

    • by metlin ( 258108 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @06:58PM (#12628755) Journal
      Get a used PDA and a portable keyboard, such as this [].

      They are small, easy to carry and really work well. You can download one of the many opensource light-weight wordprocessors out there and use it quite easily in any environment.

      Even the older Palms come with IR options, and so communication is not a problem.

      Unless you're going to be churning out megs of text daily, it would do quite well.
    • |3 Months | 6 Months | 12 Months | 24 Months
      Plan Cost | $49.95 | $90.00 | $149.00 | $238.80
      Monthly Cost | $16.65 | $15.00 | $12.42 | $9.95

      ps - I can't figure out how to format it nicely in a post.
  • Google?? (Score:5, Informative)

    by l810c ( 551591 ) * on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @06:48PM (#12628635)
    I took your exact article title and put it in Google []

    The very first hit led me to these two devices which seem to fit the bill exactly.

    Alphasmart []
    Quickpad []

    • These are both 199$+. Doesn't fit the requirements.
    • In your effort to prove how much smarter you were than the OP, you forgot to check that the prices are greater than $200 -- and thus what the OP described as "overpriced 'educational' machines which are almost equivalent to the 80s machines (over $200 or even $300)."
      • OMG... the slashdot article continues under the advertisement.

        Which begs the question -- is the slashdot page layout done by drunken monkeys? Or, did go nuts when they were flush with IPO cash, and spend the extra money for the superior crack addled monkeys?
    • Re:Google?? (Score:3, Informative)

      by JawzX ( 3756 )
      That little Alphasmart thingie looks like a re-packaged TRS-80 portable (102)...

      Maybe an old TRS-80 would fit the bill? 25-30 hours on 4 AAs, and you can even program in basic on it! There are few WP's with spell check available for TRS-80 portables too.
      • Well, there is the problem of having a portable display. I suppose you could just take it into a sport's bar and plug it into one of their widescreens using the TV adaptor. Play-offs, shmlay-offs -- I sure the other patrons wouldn't mind.
    • Except of course that he is looking for something under $50, which neither of your links provide.
    • Re:Google?? (Score:4, Informative)

      by torinth ( 216077 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @07:11PM (#12628884) Homepage
      I took your exact links and put them into my browser.

      The very first link led me to a device priced at 800% of what the person reasonably expected. The second led me to one that only cost 400% more.

      So no, neither of your links, nor their smartass delivery, fit the bill very well at all. It's pretty clear that he was already aware of these too, having made indirect reference to their kind in the article.
    • This is almost perfect for me. Now if somebody would just give me one of these with an 80x25 screen. I'd buy one if a flash. 700hr batter life that's more like it.

      I don't want a dvd player, I don't want a fancy color screen. I want battery life.
    • Re:Google?? (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gbulmash ( 688770 ) *
      Aside from being too expensive, the poster asked for something that fit inside a jacket pocket.

      Simple Answer - Buy a Palm M100 used. You can pick them up on Ebay, Amazon, etc. for $20-25. Then pick up a mini keyboard [] for around $20. You've got 2 mb memory and can write freestyle in the "memo" app, then transfer via the Palm Desktop sync software.

      - Greg

  • toshiba libretto (Score:2, Informative)

    by demian031 ( 466963 )
    get an old toshiba libretto 70ct. tto_70ct []

    wireless, linux, niceness.
  • So Why not a PDA ? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Dale549 ( 680107 )
    I would think a PDA and folding keyboard could be snagged on eBay for not much over $50..
    • I just solved this problem myself by purchasing a new-in-box Palm V keyboard for $1.25 on EBay. (I'm serious.)

      The used Palm V itself cost a little more, but it's one of the best products Palm ever made. The Palm V is pocket-sized; the keyboard, when folded, is not much bigger.

      This a much more versatile solution than a hunk of text-processing-dedicated hardware.

  • Don't forget... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by rewt66 ( 738525 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @06:51PM (#12628670)
    You still need a way to get files off. Wireless would be cool (except for certain security issues), or cable (might be cheaper, too).
  • AlphaSmart (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ap0 ( 587424 )
    I remember using these [] things in elementary school (I'm in college now) -- they seemed decent then, and I'm sure they're even better now. They're a bit bigger than what you were looking for, but they are a simple, portable word processor.
  • by MagicDude ( 727944 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @06:53PM (#12628700)
    This question reminds me of a joke gift I had a while back. It was a small, elongated, yellow box with the words "Emergency backup word processor" on it. Inside was a pencil with the word "input" and an arrow pointing to the tip of the pencil, and the word "delete" with an arrow pointing to the ereaser. I don't have it anymore, I gave it to my roomate when his hard drive fizzled the night before a paper was due.
  • by jjsaul ( 125822 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @06:53PM (#12628703)
    Some of us type more than ten times faster than we write and like to transfer our text conveniently.

    There are easy solutions though - a used Jornada off ebay and a targus stowaway keyboard cost me less than $100. It isn't the perfect solution, but it actually addresses the poster's needs.

    For all of you writing those novels on notecards with pencils, good luck with that. Seems to have worked for Stephenson.
    • I actually prefer writing with pen and paper precisely because it's slower. I can type around 84 wpm, and there's no real limit on how much text I can crank out that way. With actual literature as opposed to rambling on Slashdot, that's a drawback. Writing with a pen makes me more sparing and careful in my choice of words.
  • Alphasmart products (Score:3, Interesting)

    by guanxi ( 216397 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @06:56PM (#12628728) []

    Doesn't quite meet your specs, but worth looking into.
    • My son had problems with writing. His hand strength wasn't great and writing for even a short period would tire his hands/arms. The teacher gave him one of these to use and he was able to transition from struggling with writing to actually getting ideas down on and focussing on the content of the stories. They may not be perfect, but in some cases these machines are great.
  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @06:56PM (#12628737) Homepage Journal
    I've always wanted some cheap portable device designed for taking notes, hacking etc. sort of a sub-$100 electronic notepad w/ a decent keyboard.

    The Psion Revo/Diamond Mako was pretty close. It had a nice wide display (but it wasn't backlit), a decent keyboard (for being a 1/3rd size keyboard), a pen interface (for drawing a picture in your notes), and my favorite part is that it was a clamshell design so you could just fold-and-go.

    The draw backs were that when it was new it was fairly expensive (I got mine for $50 new, but that's because the stores were just trying to get rid of them). And it had no flash memory (you let the batteries run down and you've lost everything since your last backup), and no way to insert external memory (MMC/SD/CF would have been nice).

    A less powerful pda in the same form factor that sold for a little bit more than those "pocket organizers" would seem like a good idea to me. If oyu make it close enough in price to a pocket organizer, but flexible enough to do more than just addresses that'd be great.

    Honestly I don't need a 400Mhz cpu, color screen, wireless headset, and 64Mb of RAM. Especially if it means I will have a $300+ device in my pocket that can get broken or stolen.

    What would be neat is some arm-thumb or 68hc11 device with an MMC/SD slot(the interface to those is dead simple to do). Running maybe Contiki or some other 8-bit, but "modern" OS.

    Although they have compactflash readers(look for SuperCard) for Gameboy Advance, and it's not hard to wire a small or fullsize keyboard into a GBA. You could probably build yourself something interesting with a cheap used gba and some hot glue. :)
  • A revolution in input devices. Graphics cards, RAM, storage, etc, have all been making leaps and bounds in technology, but we're still hammering away at the same(-ish) keyboard. While I don't know what I'd do without my carpal-tunnel, I'm curious what the replacement for the keyboard will be. I'm not sure if it will be a voice recognition system, or something middle-of-the-road, but I definitely think something like that is a limiting factor for me and PDA's, or the organizer you mention. I just can't se
  • by Geoffreyerffoeg ( 729040 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @06:56PM (#12628741)
    Take a regular TI graphing calculator (you might have one already from high school or college) and add the TI Keyboard []. If you have a computer uplink of some sort for the calculator (either a GraphLink or on-board USB for the newer models), you can transfer your documents to MS Word.

    (Vernier's not the only source; they're just one of the cheaper ones. TI doesn't sell the keyboard directly anymore.)
  • I'll agree with an earlier poster that the original Danger Hiptop (T-Mobile Sidekick) has the best keyboard of any other like device, it has the absolute worst connectivity. The likelihood of getting my data off the thing dropped as near to zero as made no difference, so I gave up on it.

    The old Apple eMate -- a Newton laptop -- did me well for years. It's got a tripod mount on the bottom, it gets 12 hours of battery life with no problem, it's a real trooper. They only made them for educational folk, but yo
  • Check out Alphasmart (Score:5, Interesting)

    by KingPrad ( 518495 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @06:58PM (#12628758)
    Check out the Alphasmart [] website. They make modern word processors. Their products have full-size keyboards, extremely long battery life, and are very durable. The Dana, for example, is made of ABS plastic molded into a great form factor. It weighs 2 pounds and the rechargeable battery lasts 12-15 hours but can be replaced by regular AA's if you need to. It runs PalmOS.

    the Alphasmart 3000 is the cheapest version. The battery will last pretty much forever. It is an absolutely basic writing tool (other than paper and pencil) and has a good reputation also.
  • by jolyonr ( 560227 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @07:00PM (#12628772) Homepage
    Now available cheap. Someone will come along and tell you who sold/branded it in the US - but it does exactly what you want in the way you want it to. No messy external keyboards, decent keys, just enough CPU to perform, etc. etc.

    • Psion Series 3 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Ratbert42 ( 452340 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @09:10PM (#12629793)
      I've never used a better pocket portable device for typing documents than a Psion Series 3a (or later a 3c). I've since used a Psion Series 5, a Windows CE clamshell, a Palm Zire 71 with an external keyboard and none of them could keep up. If all I did was type docs and couldn't carry a laptop, I'd carry a Series 3a (or look at an Apple eMate).
  • by mjprobst ( 95305 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @07:01PM (#12628796) Homepage Journal
    This is something I would really like. PDAs are too small to type on. I type at 115 wpm and can't stand using PDAs at all, yet there are things I'd like to do without the power consumption, size, and weight of a full laptop.

    I'd love something like the Alphasmart Dana [] except in clamshell style. Doesn't need to be incredibly tiny, just as big as a small keyboard.

    Unfortunately, even if I liked the size of this device, it costs around $600. Smaller and cheaper than a laptop, my butt. I'm currently using a used IBM T21 laptop that cost $425.

  • Yes, it's a glorified PDA []. However, it has a usable thumbboard and supports SD/MMC cards for file transfer. Being a PalmOS device, there is plenty of support for synching with the platform of your choice. It's also small enough to fit in your jeans pocket (unlike the fancier Tungsten C).

    Shame they're not made any more.
  • Why not a low-end PDA? I used to take notes in my class on a Palm folding keyboard and an old Palm IIIx. Downloaded a free editor that was way better than what came with the OS, I was in business. Entire thing could be folded up and easily carried. Syncing is already taken care of, and you have the additional programmability you're looking for.
  • I still have my Poqet PC from ~1989. Fujitsu bought them out and while they haven't been made for years, you can still find them on eBay - usually for less than $100.

    80x25 screen, MS-DOS, keyboard you can touch-type on, Lotus 1-2-3, etc. It's instant-on and runs for weeks on a pair of AA batteries. It won a 1989 Byte award of distinction.

    I suppose a Palm with a folding keyboard might do the trick nowdays but the Poqet was (is) a slick little machine.
  • by Nomihn0 ( 739701 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @07:04PM (#12628834)
    [the following is a faux advertisement for pen, paper, and your dear brain]

    Ancient technology rediscovered for your business' convenience!

    This computer is manufactured using the most ancient techniques known to man. We at Saminger & Splenor Co. have combined these amazing processes with cutting edge technology to produce the most powerful mobile computing platform ever made!

    The screen alone is a worthy investment for your small business:
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    Can be rolled up or even folded lightly for convenient storage!
    Consumes no energy and emanates no heat
    A zero latency screen refresh rate allows for instantaneous feedback!
    The display also functions as a small scale topographical scanner!
    Stylus based input system allows for minute movements to be recorded
    Tip of stylus allows text and images to be rapidly entered
    Included stylus attachment functions as a non-linear and instantaneous undo function
    Optional stylus sets allow for thousands of tip shapes and thicknesses to be emulated

    The CPU/RAM bundle adds even MORE functionality to your system:
    -Utilizes a neural network based CPU based on a proven system that has been thoroughly tested at some of the most prestigious universities in the world
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    To order call 1-888-555-SandS
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  • []

    These guys function on 4 AA batteries... Seems perfect...
  • wintel, but excellent

    I picked up a mint 880 for 300$ (and paid too much) it has 800X600 res, and can run terminal services into my xp machine.

    fits inside my Scott EVest inside pocket.

    the 790 are half the size, with a 800X400?300? resolution

    (half vga)

    seriously consider this...
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @07:10PM (#12628873) Homepage Journal
    Something like WordWise, Smart Wordprocessor or WordCraft would fit onto a small machine, with the largest of these fitting comfortably in 64K and the smallest into 8K. That includes everything you need for the program, the document and even a simple spell-checker.

    On the other hand, if you want something that can create hevily stylized documents of high quality, but where you can enter the text quickly, you're probably after a TeX-aware text editor, where you can pipe the output through LaTeX to generate a quality document, but where the source is 100% editable on something that has very low overhead.

    But, then, if all you want is a jotter, rather than an actual text processor, you're really wanting something that's a graphics tablet that has enough space for only one letter/symbol, with no display, and two buttons - space and backspace. It would have all the power you'd need for a jotter, and wouldn't have anything you didn't need (such as word recognition).

    Now, if what is REALLY wanted is a very fast, very small device, then a 5-key chord keyboard, with memory, should be sufficient. 2^5=32, which means you've enough combinations for all letters and a good range of symbols. A bubble memory would be fine for this, as you're just storing and recalling linear streams. Bubble is good, because it is small, low-power and can survive total loss of power.

  • by RzUpAnmsCwrds ( 262647 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @07:13PM (#12628893)
    A few years ago, a number of companies produced Windows CE powered "handheld PCs".

    Many of the second-generation models had full-sized keyboards. They are cheap (often sub-$150), and have excellent battery life (10+ hours).

    Not to mention that they boot instantly, have no moving parts, often have USB host ports, and have PCMCIA for adding Wifi or ethernet. Not to mention the color touchscreen and capability to add software like a full-featured web browser (NetFront) or word processor (TextMaker).
    • I had one of those. We bought it new, and it spent a few years in the box in a closet. It has a battery life of about 3 seconds, the digitzer didn't work, and the USB connection didn't work with any modern computer.

      I fiddled with it for three days then put it back in the box.

  • PSION 3c or 5x!! (Score:5, Informative)

    by wernst ( 536414 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @07:16PM (#12628917) Homepage
    Were it not for the need for wireless comunication, I would *still* be using my beloved Psion 3c as my daily PDA. While its time-scheduling abilities were top-notch, it came with, IN THE ROM, a very good word processor, spreadsheet, and flat-file database.

    The 3c has a small, but complete, keyboard, and typing with two fingers, I could get 20-25 wpm. It has a built-in spell checker, 80-column wide screen by at least 10 or 14 lines, can print to many printers, and with PsiWin software, import and export MS Word and Excel files seamlessly. And it runs for weeks on a pair of AA's, and there's a good backlight.

    The 5mx has bigger keys, a touchscreen, and a prettier GUI, along with all the benefits described above.

    Both fit in a hip or coat pocket easily. Both connect to a PC via a serial port, and your PC probably still has one of those.

    Check ebay for units with PsiWin software. Then Google around for a huge library of 3rd party software.

    Yes, they are both old, but Psion had more PDA experience in 1992 than Palm has now. Psion software is almostly always amazingly good.

    I use a top-o-the-line color wireless Palm these days, but I still think my Psion 3c had it beat in almost all areas relating to software, power, and convenience.

    • Re:PSION 3c or 5x!! (Score:5, Informative)

      by tyagiUK ( 625047 ) on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @07:30PM (#12629064) Homepage
      I used to use a Psion series 3 ( []) as a portable PDA/word processor. In fact, when I was at university, I wrote entire chapters of my projects on it while in a coffee bar or any area away from the network. It was portable, had a usable keyboard once you got used to it, and had some great applications. PC connectivity was over serial and I just dumped all my edits in plain text and imported them later to whatever app I was using on the desktop system.

      One good thing was that I was using LaTeX at the time, and just marked up the text appropriately. Therefore, when it was dumped to my Linux desktop, I could just build the LaTeX and it was ready formatted.

      The Series 5 was a good step forwards from the 3, with more power, better screen, stylus input etc. There's some info on it over at [].

      If you can pick one up off Ebay, there's a great user community still there. Cheap now, too.
  • I used this extensively in college.

    Endless battery life. Easy syncing.

    Should not cost much these days.
  • Seems like a used Jornada 680 would be a good fit. I used one for about 2 years and loved it. ojsZ1 []

  • If you want to be insufferably hip, I recommended getting a pen/pencil and a Moleskine notebook []. It's "the legendary notebook of Van Gogh, Chatwin, Hemingway, Matisse and Céline." Despite the pretentiousness of carrying one, I can attest that they are very good notebooks -- very nice cover feel; the binding lets you easily write to the margins; it has a built-in bookmark, elastic, and pockets; plus you can feel like Hemingway when you're jotting down your grocery list. Expensive for a pad of paper, but
  • Sharp used to make PDAs with small (but not too small) keyboards and incredibly long battery life - and enough RAM for simple word processing tasks.

    For example:

  • Tandy had a few of those things, pretty cheap on Ebay these days... ( such as the WP2, Mdl100 )

    They may not be 'full screen' but they are very portable, run forever on a set of batteries, and weigh nothing..

    You can still get *unopened* sinclair Z88's if you look around..
  • There are a number of PDAs out that that sport full keyboards. Of them, the Psion 5a was probably the best. I still don't understand why clamshell keyboards aren't more popular.

    My dad still owns an HP 2000, going on for more than 10 years now, and refuses to even touch Palm or Windows Mobile.
  • The 9300 and 9500 are out so owners are upgrading to the newer sleeker kit. It's basically the next generation Psion palmtop that Psion never made, with a mobile phone attached, a bit of a brick but you'd have all of your information with you, everywhere.

    And I mean some weird shit information as well, there's quite a community of people creating stuff for these machines:


    And it has a useful keyboard, unlike all these useless Palm clones. I have one, but I'm

  • by EverLurking ( 595528 ) <slash&davechen,org> on Tuesday May 24, 2005 @09:18PM (#12629852) Homepage []

    Type it out in plain text/ascii and format it properly when you get home and u/l the files to your real computer via it's RS-232 serial port. 16 + Hour battery life on 4 AA batteries that you can find anywhere. Full sized keyboard, small form factor. There have been many a journalist/writer who swears by one of these for use in absolutely primitive/harsh 3rd world conditions. These little suckers are apparently very tough and tres retro. Wired had an article [] about the TRS 100/102's and other old/obsolete but still serviceable computers.

    Some of the lower memory versions are avaiable /near-mint/used/refurbished [] starting at $75.

    Or check out E-Bay, found a few going really cheap right now:

    • Model 100's
    • tegory=74947&item=5197944964&rd=1

    • tegory=1247&item=5199719083&rd=1

    • tegory=74947&item=5200179003&rd=1

    • tegory=74947&item=5201521879&rd=1

      Model 102's

    • tegory=4193&item=5200512388&rd=1&ssPageName=WDVW

    • tegory=74947&item=5200683165&rd=1&ssPageName=WDVW

    • tegory=74947&item=5200683165&rd=1&ssPageName=WDVW

    I sound like a relic, but ahhh, they don't make them like they used to...


  • You could get a K-Byte ZipIt Wireless Instant Messenger [] and flash it to run a customized version of Linux []. Probably slightly more work than you were looking for, but it would be a great little toy. (Retaining the instant messenging ability would be cool, too.)


A committee takes root and grows, it flowers, wilts and dies, scattering the seed from which other committees will bloom. -- Parkinson