Well, I'm not sure whether this is a good or a bad time to own a 200LX.  Third party support is going pretty strong.  The 8MB upgrade has been formally introduced, and several vendors are selling it in addition to Times2Tech.  There are backlighting projects in the works, and there seems to be a never-ending supply of quality palmtop software being written.

On the other hand, Educalc, one of the finest suppliers of palmtop and calculator products for the past 20 years, is going out of business real soon here.  HP also seems intent on following the Windows CE path and not producing any more quality palmtops like the 200LX.  The recent announcement of the 620LX is a perfect example.  A giant, battery-sucking beast, yet it will most certainly draw praise as the "next generation" of handheld computing devices, just because of some fancy color and a faster processor.

Today I read an article in January 1998 issue of PC/Computing describing the 620LX.  Their verdict was that it had startlingly low battery life (on the order of four hours for the rechargeable lithium ion pack) but that it was worth it for the display.  Now I'm not one to hold low-battery life against a machine, but... okay, I admit,  I'm lying.  Battery life is everything.  If you want four hours of battery life, why not just buy a PC110 and get a machine capable of running a real operating system, like Linux or Windows 95.  Sure, there's the DOS emulator coming out for Windows CE.  And if it works well, and fast, we'll at least have a solution for when our palmtops break and HP won't repair them.  (Though the 200LX is constructed so durably [with the possible exception of the hinge crack] that I don't expect them to wear out before the invention of microscopic, holographic computers.)  But still, an emulator running on a battery-hogging handheld with a huge footprint is not the same as elegantly slipping a 200LX out of your pocket, turning it on instantly, and checking the latitude and longitude of Montreal, for example.

Imagine you're a secret agent on a mission to topple a corrupt government, for example.  So you're hidden away in the baggage compartment of an jumbo jet, avoiding detection by the enemy, when all of a sudden the plane veers off course.  Well, naturally, you need to know where you're headed.  So you whip out your 200LX and your GPS and find out.  Okay, so far so good.  Nothing you couldn't do with a Windows CE unit.  So the plane lands, and you surreptitiously slip out of the plane and take a cab to the local center of government.  On the way, you wirelessly receive an e-mail from the government agency you work for advising you that the evil dictator whose regime you're about to crush has left for a state function an hour early, and you'll have to scrap the assassination plans and find some other method of overthrowing the government.  So you find a local telephone jack, plug in your modem, and hack your way into a few supercomputers, erasing all records of the current ruler's past and installing yourself as supreme leader of the land.   (Maybe transferring a few bucks to your bank account too while you're at it.)  Unfortunately, the guards at the palace don't see it that way when you try to get in, so you're forced to deflect their bullets with you sturdy 200LX while you wire it up to their LAN and order the security system to incapacitate everyone.  Bam!  There you have it.  But if you were using a Windows CE unit, your batteries would poop out halfway through the wireless e-mail, and even if you had a spare pair, the machine would then freeze up and maybe spit out a fatal exception or two.  Frustrated and left without communications with your superiors, you'd try to slip it back in your pocket.  The loud ripping noise of your pocket tearing away from the large size and heavy weight of the machine would attract all kinds of guards, who would shoot at you.  The shoddily constructed plastic case of your WinCE machine would shatter on impact, offering you no protection and actually increasing your injuries as bits of plastic lodge themselves in your head.  You'd be left a mere greasy spot to be shipped back to your next of kin.  Yessir, that's how we should promote the 200LX: the palmtop for the quality secret agent.  Maybe Pierce Brosnan is available as a spokesman...

Copyright 1999, David Sargeant.
Last Updated 1-2-1999

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