The OFFICIAL distribution of the 200LX FAQ. This latest version was last updated December 22, 1998.

This version of the FAQ (c) 1998. Please obtain permission before copying and/or modifying it.

For the text-only version, visit http://www.hplx.net/faq.txt


1. Contents

  1. Contents
  2. How to get this FAQ
  3. Disclaimer
  4. Basics -- What are these HP Palmtops, anyway?
  5. Memory considerations-- from 1MB to 64MB
  6. Hardware and physical characteristics
  7. DOS compatibility
  8. Built-in Software
  9. Add-on software
  10. Programming the 200LX
  11. Modems & Telecommunications
  12. Connectivity to desktop computers and other devices
  13. PCMCIA Cards
  14. Batteries, Battery life, AC adapters, etc.
  15. Obscure undocumented tips, tricks, and trivia
  16. Common problems
  17. For more info
  18. Copyright Info
  19. Acknowledgements

2. How to get this FAQ

This particular faq is posted at http://www.hplx.net/faq.html

3. Disclaimer

This FAQ is the work of unpaid volunteers. It does not represent the official position of anybody, much less anybody's employer. It is likely to be filled with errors. Mentioning a product or business does not constitute any sort of endorsement unless we say so. If you act on any information in this file, any damages you suffer are just your tough luck. We will go so far as to say you should NEVER listen to us under ANY circumstances. If you're wise, you will LEAVE NOW.

This is not intended as a substitute for the 200LX manual. There are many more useful tidbits located in the manual than will ever be in this file, and the manual is likely to be more accurate.

4. Basics -- What are these HP Palmtops, anyway?

[Editor's note: the information pertaining to the 100LX is left in here because some people might still be interested in the details, or in buying a used palmtop. Though it is probably accurate, it is not being updated because of the lack of availability of 100LX palmtops...]

Q. What is the HP100LX?
Depending on your point of view, it's either an IBM PC-XT stuffed into a very tiny case with some Personal Information Management (PIM) software and Lotus 1-2-3 built into ROM, or it's a high-end electronic organizer that also runs MS-DOS software.

Q. What is the HP200LX?
It's the successor to the 100LX. It's essentially a 100LX with cosmetic changes and the addition of Pocket Quicken, LapLink Remote, and some feature enhancements for the PIM applications in the ROM.

Q. What is the HP Omnigo 700LX?
It's basically a somewhat faster 200LX with a docking cradle for a Nokia GSM cellular phone, some LEDs on the front, and some extra built-in communications software. It is only available in Europe and Asia/Pacific, where the GSM standard is, well, standardized. This product has been discontinued by HP and is no longer sold. If you can get a used one, it's possible to use it in the US if you live in an area where GSM coverage is offered (i.e. California, Nevada, etc.) if you get a compatible phone. The Nokia 2190 fits the OmniGo 700LX's cradle and works in the US, for example.

Q. Why would I want an outdated DOS palmtop when I could get a modern Windows CE machine?
The 200LX may be a few years old, but it is a far better computing device than any Windows CE machine. A few of its strengths:
- Battery life (up to 2 months on a single pair of batteries)

- DOS compatibility (can run millions of programs written for desktop computers)

- High-resolution screen (fully CGA compatible, 640x200 [33% wider than most WinCE units])

- Better keyboard (separate numeric keypad; nice solid feel with good tactile feedback)

- Better PIM apps (built-in apps are unsurpassed for quality and ease of use)

- Pocket Quicken built in (keep track of your finances without spending any extra money for the financial software)

- Better expansion support (see flash cards and other memory expansions as a drive, not just a folder)

Q. Why would I want an outdated DOS palmtop when I can get a sleek PalmPilot or Palm III?
The PalmPilot series is made for a completely different purpose than the 200LX. The 200LX is essentially a full-blown computer that fits in your pocket, and doubles as an organizer. The PalmPilot series are meant to be organizers and to help connect with desktop computers. Both platforms have their strengths and weaknesses, but for real computing in the palm of your hand, the 200LX is the only choice.

Q. Why would I get an outdated DOS palmtop when I can get a Toshiba Libretto / IBM PC110 that runs Windows 95 and Linux and everything?
There are several advantages to the 200LX, chiefly longer battery life, instant-on, smaller size, and excellent software. In the end, it comes down to how important size and convenience are for you.

Q. What's the difference between the 100LX and the 200LX?
- Pocket Quicken from Intuit has been added to the 200LX. This is a limited version of the Quicken financial management software sold for MS-DOS and Windows. It does not use the same file format as Quicken for DOS or Windows, but if you buy the 200LX connectivity kit, you can share data with the full DOS or Windows version of Quicken (Windows version through 3.0). Pocket Quicken Connect, if you can find it, will allow you to share data with newer versions of Windows Quicken. (Like the 100LX, the 200LX can also run the full version of Quicken for DOS, which is more powerful but not as convenient to access.)

- The DataComm application is faster in the 200LX. It can pretty much keep up with a 9600 or 14.4 modem. The painfully slow DataComm application was a notorious deficiency in the 100LX, so this is a welcome fix.

- The case has changed color, from the black 100LX to a slate grey color for the 200LX. The keyboard layout has changed slightly, in order to give Pocket Quicken its own dedicated key. The labels on the keycaps have a slightly different, italic, look to them.

- The default topcard (picture displayed when the machine is turned on, and the system manager is running, but no apps are yet activated) looks different.

- There is an extra megabyte of ROM (3MB in the 200LX, vs 2MB in the 100LX). This is how they managed to add the new built-in software to the 200LX without deleting any of the old 100LX features.

- There is a power-on "global" password feature.

- Some extra goodies have been added to the d:\bin drive (in ROM). Hearts & Bones and Lair of the Squid are two games that are included. A hexadecimal calculator is also included.

- LapLink Remote has replaced the redirector for use with the connectivity pack.

- The appointment manager has a daily pop-up message reminding users of "to do's" and appointments.

- The on-line help has been improved.

- The phonebook can present phone and address details in "business-card" or the 100LX-style "form" format.

- Support for flash cards is improved.

- Hardware is much more easily upgradable.

Q. What is the same between the 100LX and the 200LX?
Most things. Hardware is virtually identical, including size, batteries, AC adapter, serial port, PCMCIA port, display, keyboard (except very minor changes to keyboard layout, and cosmetic changes to the labels on the keycaps), processor, RAM, availability of versions, etc. DOS compatibility is unchanged; both machines use MS-DOS 5.0 and CGA. Lotus is the same. All the same PIM apps are included, and they can share data between the 100LX and 200LX, but the 200LX versions have a few enhancements here and there. Most software written for the 100LX will run on the 200LX. All vanilla DOS software should run exactly the same. Most 100LX-specific software will probably run the same. One user reported that "about half" of the features of 100Buddy worked unchanged. 100Buddy is probably the most 100LX-specific (least portable) software available for the HP. (However, since 200Buddy has been out for years now, and is now on version 3.0, this is not really a problem.)

Q. What's the difference between the HP-100/200LX and HP-95LX?
The short answer is that the HP-100/200LX is faster, has better and more powerful software, better MS-DOS compatibility (full CGA compatiblity), fully standard serial port with hardware handshaking, longer battery life, and has a PCMCIA Release 2.0 slot.

Q. Where's the best place to buy a 200LX? A RAM Card?
At this point, it seems the best place is Thaddeus Computing and the PalmtopPaper site. Most national office-supply stores have discontinued selling the 200LX in favor of the PalmPilot or Windows CE machines.  There are other Internet mail-order vendors as well, such as Shier Systems and Software.

HP has discontinued the 1MB version of the 200LX, having come out with a 4MB version and lowering prices. Of course, actual selling prices vary, and they change too quickly to report in this FAQ.

When pricing memory cards, be aware that some manufacturers package disk compression software with their cards, and some of these may advertise a 5MB card with compression software as a "10 MB" card. (or "10 MB compressed", or "Up to 10MB", etc.) Quoted disk compression numbers tend to be optimistic, especially if you're storing executables or compressed files. Be sure you do an "apples to apples" price comparison between different vendors.

Q. How can I upgrade my 100LX to a 200LX?
Essentially, the only way to do this would be to buy a 200LX and swap the motherboard and keyboard. It would be rather pointless to do so, of course. Some companies may offer a trade-in on a newer palmtop.  Thaddeus Computing buys used palmtops, or try selling your 100LX privately.

Q. What upgrades are available for the 200LX?
Currently, there is a 4MB RAM upgrade (taking you to 5 or 6MB) and a double-speed (31MHz) clock crystal upgrade. There is also an 8MB upgrade (taking you to 8MB total), a 32MB upgrade, and a 64MB upgrade. There is no commercial backlight upgrade available (yet!) although there are some individuals working on it. There are several home-upgrades you can do, including installing an external speaker jack.  There are larger memory upgrades in the works, along with more exotic upgrades that have not yet been announced to the public.

5. Memory considerations-- from 1MB to 32MB

Q. HP sells a 2MB and 4MB unit.  Is the 4MB model worth the extra money over the 2MB Model?
The only difference is the extra two megabytes of internal "disk" storage on the C: drive. It may be cheaper to buy the 2MB model and invest the difference in a bigger PCMCIA flash or SRAM card, or to buy a third-party internal upgrade. But if you want to keep the PCMCIA slot open for a PCMCIA modem or other device, you're stuck with internal storage only, and the extra memory may be worth the money. Given the relative ease of upgrading the memory on the 200LX these days, it is probably a good idea to go for the 2MB version anyway.  If you opt to go with the 4MB version and later decide you want to upgrade to 6MB, 8MB, 32MB, or 64MB, you'll end up losing 2MB (though some companies may offer a small trade-in).

Q. Does the 2MB (4MB, 6MB, 8MB, 32MB, 64MB) 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. But several EMS (not XMS or high memory) drivers have been written; EMM200 is freeware and takes a lot of work to configure for anything other than a 1MB or 2MB 200LX, while Times2 Tech has a better EMM driver called TREMM that works with all the memory upgrades.

Q. How do I upgrade the memory on a 200LX?
If you want to do it yourself, you have only one option these days: Times2 Tech offers third-party memory upgrades (through their dealers) which will take you from 1MB or 2MB to 5MB (or 6MB on newer models). There is also an upgrade from Times2Tech and authorized dealers that will take you up to 8MB, 32MB, and 64MB.  However, these upgrades are considerably more complicated than the 5/6MB upgrade and can only be done by sending in your palmtop for service.  Note that any of these upgrades will void your warranty from HP; however, the third-party upgrades usually carry a warranty.

Recent policy changes may affect the availability of the memory and speed upgrades in kit form.

6. Hardware and physical characteristics

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.

The HP Palmtop Paper has published articles on methods to use when typing on the keyboard. The information is also contained in Thaddeus Computing's book, PC in Your Pocket. Read these articles for assistance.

Many users adapt very well to typing on the palmtop and some have reported speeds of up to 70 words per minute. It is easy to transpose characters and make small mistakes on the palmtop, so you have to watch out for that.

If you really want to do a lot of typing on your 200LX and are willing to sacrifice a little in the size department, you can now hook up a Newton keyboard.  Shier Systems (http://www.shier.com) sells them for $129, including the customized cable and all necessary software.

Note that the keyboard speed depends on how fast your machine is running.  Faster typing is possible on a double-speed unit than a single-speed unit.

Also note that the space bar and Enter keys on the 200LX are susceptible to premature breaking if hit constantly on one side of the key.  Pressing these keys in the center is critical if you want your keyboard to last.

The screen is very sharp and contrasty, but your eyes might not be. Try before you buy, especially if you have trouble reading fine print in dim light. The print is quite small in 80x25 mode, but you can use special key combinations to zoom and pan around, displaying only a portion of the screen, magnified, on the 200LX physical screen. The screen does not have a backlight, and is easiest to read in bright light.  Check the 200LX Hardware Hacking page for backlighting info when it becomes available.

Though there is currently no commercial upgrade available for backlighting, but there are numerous external lighting sources.  The most elegant may be a small pocket light sold at Barnes and Noble and also through the Palmtop Network.

Q. Where can I get a carrying case for a 200LX?
For a cheap padded case, look for one designed for a pocket 35mm camera, game machine, personal stereo, or calculator. For a fancy executive-style leather case, see ads in the Palmtop Paper. One case that the 200LX fits quite nicely into is the nylon case for an HP 48G(X) calculator.

7. DOS compatibility

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. To give you an idea of its compatibility, here's a partial output listing from MSD.EXE, Microsoft's diagnostic tool. Note that, although MSD seems to detect a bus mouse, parallel port, and game adapter, there is no physical hardware for these devices. This was run on a 1MB 100LX.

------------------- Summary Information-------------------

                          Computer: Phoenix/Phoenix, 80186

                            Memory: 636K
                             Video: CGA, Unknown
                           Network: No Network
                        OS Version: MS-DOS 5.00
                             Mouse: Bus Mouse
                    Other Adapters: Game Adapter
                       Disk Drives: A: B: C: D: E: F:
                         LPT Ports: 1
                         COM Ports: 1

----------------------- Computer--------------------------

                         Computer Name: Phoenix
                     BIOS Manufacturer: Phoenix
                          BIOS Version: Version 1.04 A  
                                        ROM BIOS Ver 2.14
                         BIOS Category: IBM PC/XT
                         BIOS ID Bytes: FB 00 04
                             BIOS Date: 08/19/93
                             Processor: 80186
                      Math Coprocessor: None
                              Keyboard: Non-Enhanced
                              Bus Type: ISA/XT/Classic Bus
                        DMA Controller: Yes
                         Cascaded IRQ: Yes
                     BIOS Data Segment: None

----------------------- Video -------------------------

                    Video Adapter Type: CGA
                          Manufacturer: Unknown
                          Display Type: CGA Monitor
                            Video Mode: 3
                     Number of Columns: 80
                        Number of Rows: 25
                    Video BIOS Version:
                       Video BIOS Date:
                VESA Support Installed: No
                     Secondary Adapter: Hercules or Compatible

---------------------- OS Version  -----------------------

                       Operating System: MS-DOS 5.00
                      Internal Revision: 00
                      OEM Serial Number: FFH
                     User Serial Number: 000000H
                     OEM Version String:
                         DOS Located in: ROM

                             Boot Drive: A:

-------------------- Disk Drives ---------------------

Drive  Type      Free Space   Total Size
-----  -------   -----------  ---------- 
[editor's note:  PCMCIA card data removed]
C:     RAM Disk  211K           346K
512 Bytes/Sector
D:     RAM Disk  0K             501K
512 Bytes/Sector
[editor's note: D: is the ROM drive, containing built-in
--------------------- COM Ports -----------------
                     COM1:      COM2:      COM3:     COM4:
                     -----      -----      -----     -----
Port Address         03F8H      N/A        N/A       N/A
Baud Rate            57600
Parity               None
Data Bits            8
Stop Bits            1
Carrier Detect (CD)  Yes
Ring Indicator (RI)  No
Data Set Ready (DSR) Yes
Clear To Send (CTS)  Yes
UART Chip Used       8250

Q. Can I run Quicken for DOS on it?
Yes, users have reported success with DOS-based Quicken through version 8 (most recent DOS Quicken version). Recent versions may require more memory than is available under the system manager, but it's easy enough to exit the system manager and run Quicken directly from the DOS prompt, or run it in a separate Software Carousel work area. The "disable filer" trick may allow you to squeeze even the latest Quicken in under the system manager.

Some kind of extra storage (flash or SRAM card) will undoubtedly be necessary for recent versions of Quicken, especially for the 1MB 200LX.

Of course, Pocket Quicken is built in to the 200LX, and it's available separately from Intuit for the 100LX. It's System-Manager compliant, but some users still may prefer the full feature set of DOS Quicken.

Q. Can I run 4DOS on it?
Yes, but the advantages mostly occur outside the system manager. For swapping, usage of an EMM driver is recommended. Unfortunately, if you call DOS from the system manager, it will be the hard-wired d:\dos\command.com.

Q. Can it do Windows?
Yes, but probably not the way you're thinking.  For Windows 3.1 or later, try an Omnibook or another larger laptop. Windows 3.1 requires a 286 or better. Don't even think about Windows 95.  Windows 2.03 and 3.0 are possible, and run quite well on the 200LX. Many users run old Windows versions of Word and Excel on the palmtop.

Q. Why don't Intersvr, LapLink, Procomm, etc. work?
They do work, but not under the system manager. The System Manager slows down the serial port. It can also interfere with console I/O. If you're having trouble running something under the System Manager, try exiting completely (Menu- Application-Terminate all) and run the program from raw DOS.

If the program runs under raw DOS, you can probably get it to run under the system manager by putting an inverted exclamation point (keystroke Fn-Filer) into the comments field of the Application Manager. This effectively disables the System Manager and prevents switching to another application while the current application is running.

8. Built-in Software

Q. What software is built into the 200LX ROM?
MS-DOS 5.0, Lotus 1-2-3 release 2.4, an appointment manager (capable of waking the 200LX up and sounding an alarm or running a program even when the machine is turned off), 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 (but the 100LX version is too slow to use above 1200 baud, you'll want a different communications program for a fast modem), a general purpose database, a note taker, a file manager, a keyboard macro editor, and cc:Mail. Note that, although MS-DOS 5.0 is built into ROM, not all of the external commands (e.g QBASIC.EXE, EDIT.COM, ANSI.SYS) are included. These may be copied from a PC running MS-DOS 5.0. (There has been concern about this being illegal. People have come forward stating that the license for DOS on the palmtop includes all support files, and anothers state that it only covers the included files. In any case, Microsoft probably isn't going to come after you for copying files onto your palmtop, but you never know. You have been warned.)

The 200LX contains Pocket Quicken and LapLink Remote, in addition to the above.

Q. Does anybody actually use cc:Mail on the 200LX?
cc:Mail on the 200LX requires that you have access to a full cc:Mail Post Office set up for dial-up access, and those don't seem to be very common. However, PALMTOP.COM offers free dial-up access to a cc:Mail-Internet gateway. People send you mail at username@palmtop.com and you can call up and download it into cc:Mail.  The disadvantage is it's a long-distance phone call for most people.  Check their web site for further info.

Qua!-LX is now available. If you have shell access, and UQWK, you can download QWK packets and convert your mail and news into a cc:Mail format.

Q. What is the System Manager?
It's the core software under which all of the PIM applications run. It allows multitasking (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. How can I transfer data to/from the database manager?
Read the manual on the smart clip feature, or use the gdbio software (C source code included) available on eddie to import/export in comma delimited format.

9. Add-on software

Q. What's some good software?
The HP200LX is an almost completely compatible MS-DOS machine. Just about any MS-DOS software will work if it: fits in available drive space, needs only what MS-DOS system RAM is available, needs only CGA graphics, and runs in Intel x86 real mode.

Some HP-200LX specific software can be found at http://www.palmtop.net/super.html

Q. What is 200Buddy?
It's a shareware program which lets you do lots of neat tricks, including make the filer automatically start an application based on a file's extension (e.g. click a .wk1 file to start 1-2-3), get a shifted value of a character by simply double-clicking the character, get battery voltage displayed in a status bar in the filer screen, reprogram the blue application keys, automatically capitalize letters in Memo, add password protection to the 200LX (registered users only, and not quite as useful as it was on the 100LX, but it does allow you to display a personalized "owner screen..."), display the world-time map with nighttime areas shaded (also registered users only), and lots of other shortcuts and tricks. The current version is 3.0b.

Q. What is VR?
Vertical Reader, a shareware program for reading ASCII text files while holding the 200LX with the hinge vertical, like a book. VR has several attractive fonts available, and allows searching for regular expressions. This shareware may be registered by merely sending a postcard to the author, or by donating $10.00 to Project Gutenberg, an organization which makes public-domain documents and literature freely available in ASCII text form.

Q. Can I use the 200LX as a remote control for my TV, VCR, stereo?
The shareware program REMCOM, originally developed for the HP95LX, works on the 200LX and turns it into a universal learning remote control, using the infrared port. RC is a similar program which is also reported to work. There may be other such programs developed for the 95LX which work on the 200LX. Unfortunately, the 200LX has a fairly weak IR transmitter (weaker than the 95LX), so the range may be only a meter or two, less than the typical distance from couch to TV.

Q. What is Software Carousel?
It's a commercial application, completely redesigned for the 200LX, which allows task switching between DOS applications.  It's kind of like cramming several 200LX's into one machine, each of which can be custom configured to run different programs, and switched between. Sold at The Palmtop Paper Site.

Q.  Can I use the 200LX as a phone dialer?
The HP95LX had a D/A converter that could drive the speaker and produce touch tones fairly easily; sadly, this feature was dropped in the 100/200LX. That converter is instead used to monitor battery charging.

However, there is a program, called ATDT, which uses some fancy tricks to get touch tones out of a standard PC-AT. It does work on the 200LX, and it's available on eddie.mit.edu in the hp95lx/unknown directory (ATDT01.ZIP). It is not integrated with the phone book application, it requires the video mode be set up different from standard (see the readme), and, depending on the phone you use it with, the 200LX speaker may not produce sufficient volume to reliably dial.

There is also a program called TT available, with source code, on eddie.mit.edu. TT comes ready-to-use, but if you have a C compiler and know how to use it, you can modify TT and integrate it into other programs. Like ATDT, TT suffers from the limitations of the volume output from the 200LX speaker, and your success with it depends on your patience, the sensitivity of your telephone's microphone, and the placement of the 200LX speaker near the microphone.

Q. Is there an EMS driver?
Yes, EMM200, available at S.U.P.E.R. It uses a paging file on C: and supports EMS 4.0 almost completely. There are also other drivers, such as Times2 Tech's TREMM, which is only available to Times2 Tech customers and works with all memory upgrades. (EMM200 may need a little tweaking to work with the newer 2MB 200LX, and a LOT of tweaking to work with anything beyond that.)

10. Programming the 200LX

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 $99.00.

There is a free version of the SDK info available at the HPLX Unplugged site, called LXREF.  This version runs on the 200LX or desktop as a DOS app.

The new HP Palmtop Paper CD Infobase 1999 will include an HTML version of the SDK as well.

The PAL library is also available. 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. You then don't need the SDK or to learn how to program the 200LX specifically. Also, PAL provides many good features such as clipboard access.

Many of the HP's interrupts are documented in the interrupt list, maintained by Ralf Brown, available at ftp://oak.oakland.edu/pub/msdos/info/interNNx.zip and elsewhere.

Of course, if you only want to program the HP as a DOS machine, without accessing any of the palmtop's unique features, there are plenty of widely available books giving details on DOS programming.

If you need the file formats for the built-in applications, gdbio (on eddie) has C source code which should provide a good starting point. 

There were some articles in PDA Programmer's Journal that were available on the specifics of System Manager and PAL programming, as well as the database formats used in the 200LX. Look in the 1994-1995 issues.

11. Modems & Telecommunications

Q. What's a good modem?
Just about any pocket modem or 14.4 PCMCIA modem. A full-sized external modem will work fine too, but of course it's not as portable. Specific features such as size, modulations and protocols supported, cellular phone support, power drain, and others vary considerably. Remember that, though your modem may be rated at a high speed, you probably won't be able to get more than 14.4 out of your palmtop unless you have a double-speed crystal.  A good 28.8 PCMCIA modem with a double-speed 200LX will do nearly 28.8.  Remember to test a PCMCIA modem before buying-- some use too much power to work reliably in the 200LX.

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. Most 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 much shorter, as little as 15 minutes. Use of an AC adapter is usually recommended.

Since there's only one PCMCIA slot, it can either hold a modem or a SRAM/Flash card, but not both. So a PCMCIA modem can only transfer data to and from the internal RAM drive of the machine.

Also, keep in mind that many 28.8 or faster modems will draw too much power for the palmtop, causing it to shut down immediately upon insertion. The PCMCIA slot can only supply 150mA max, so make sure your modem will take less than this. Most 14.4 modems will work.

Q. What cable do I use for an external modem?
The HP cable will work, but you'll have to use a gender changer/null modem adapter. See the description of the connectivity pack elsewhere in this FAQ. Or you can make your own cable.

Q. Why is my modem so slow?
If you're using a 100LX and DataComm, it's probably the DataComm application.  The 200LX does not suffer from the slow screen update bug on the built-in DataComm application like the 100LX does.

The reason the modem is slow is that the 200LX has only an 8250 UART, so you can't go too fast (9600-14.4) without getting errors.  Double-speed palmtops with PCMCIA modems (which have a built-in 16550 UART) will work much faster.

Q. How can I read Usenet and mail offline with the 200LX?
There's almost nothing special about the 200LX in this regard, it's just like any other DOS PC. Check out the newsgroup alt.usenet.offline-reader. Their FAQ may be found here.

If you want to ask questions over there (AFTER reading their FAQ), just tell them that your HP is an IBM PC-XT compatible running DOS 5.0 with CGA.

People have reported success using a UQWK/YARN combination to transfer mail and news via SOUP.

PNR, the Palmtop News Reader, is available specifically for the 200LX, at The PNR Site.

WWW/LX Plus 2.0 will allow you to do news on and offline.

Q. What's a good fax program?
There are several good fax programs available that will run on MS-DOS with CGA. Your modem may have come with one. Users have reported success with the following, but there are probably more.

SSFAXER: Shareware on eddie.mit.edu. Must register in order to receive faxes

BGFAX: Available at ftp://ftp.csn.net/Computech

There's a free demo package from TurboPower software that contains a small toolkit for sending and receiving faxes. Can send faxes from PCX, TIF, TXT formats. But fax viewer software only supports VGA, hence viewer won't run on palmtop. This package is actually a demo of their Pascal/C++ communications toolkit. Available at ftp://rainbow.rmii.com/pub2/turbopower/faxdemo.exe

ACEFAX: No longer available since ACE went out of business.

Q. What sort of program should I use to get on the Internet?
There are several options here.  Any standard DOS TSR PPP packet driver should work, and you can then run any DOS Internet programs you want (such as Minuet).

For those preferring a more palmtop-savvy solution, try Nettamer.  This shareware software does it all: WWW, e-mail, news, etc.  It has a palmtop-specific version.

For the ultimate in 200LX Internet solutions, get WWW/LX Plus 2.0 from D&A.  This software will allow you to browse the web, send and receive e-mail, use newsgroups, ftp, and telnet.  It's not cheap ($89.95 at last check) but it's worth it.

12. Connectivity to desktop computers and other devices

Q. How do I connect the 200LX to a desktop PC?
A connectivity pack is available for the 200LX (F1021B, w/English docs, F1021C with multilingual docs). 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.  It generally runs about $129.

A "software-only" version of the 200LX connectivity pack is also available, for those users who already have cables and such from a 100LX.

Q. What if I don't want to buy the Connectivity Pack?
If you don't want to buy the connectivity pack, you may connect the palmtop and desktop with a serial cable and use your choice of DOS connectivity software. The interlnk/intersvr programs that come with DOS 6 work fine.

You may also take advantage of the built-in LapLink Remote software in the ROM.  A brief sketch of how to do this:

1. Add the following line to your AUTOEXEC.BAT on the palmtop before the "200" line.
Then reboot your palmtop.

2. Copy the following files from D:\BIN on the palmtop to a directory on the PC (use the built-in Datacomm application and a terminal emulator on the PC, or any other method you choose.)

3.  Edit the TSI.INI file on your PC as follows:
In [general], change ComputerName= to something else (such as desktop)
In [Redirector], change Enabled= to Yes.

4. Edit the LLRA.BAT file on your PC, changing all file paths from D:\BIN to the PC directory you copied them to in step 2.

5. With the PC and palmtop connected via serial cable, enter the AppMgr on the palmtop and start the LapLink Remote Access program.

6. On the PC, change to the directory where you copied the LapLink files, and type "LLRA".  In a few seconds you should hear beeps from both the palmtop and the PC indicating that a connection has been made.

7.  On the PC, type "LLRA /M" to display the drive mapping.

8. To unload LapLink from the PC, type "LLRA /U".

Q. Where can I get just the HP200LX serial cable without the Connectivity Kit?
EduCALC, etc. HP sells it as part no. F1015A. The same cable is used for HP's calculators (it comes with an adapter to fit their serial connector), so check the calculator section of a well-equipped store if you don't see the cable near the HP200LX display.

Q. Where do I get an adapter to use HP's serial cable with a modem, serial printer, Sun workstation, etc.?
HP sells a connector/adapter kit (HP F1023A). The HP serial cable ends in a female DB9 connection with a null modem, so it's ready to plug directly into the standard DB9 serial connector found on most desktop PC's. The adapter kit contains four adapters, which make the COMBINATION of HP serial cable + adapter look like:
0) female DB9 with null modem (stock cable with no adapter)
1) male DB25 with null modem (for serial printer)
2) male DB25 without null modem (for modem or other devices)
3) female DB25 with null modem (for PC with DB25 serial port)
4) male DB9 without null modem (for modem or anything else you'd plug into your desktop's DB9 port).

Try the serial printer adapter to connect to a Sun workstation's DB25 port. Some other unix workstations are reported to use MacIntosh-style serial ports, and the MacIntosh serial cable will work with these. Similar adapters should be available at any well equipped computer/electronics store, or you can build your own. The adapter kit comes with the connectivity pack.

Q. What software can I use to transfer files if I don't get the Connectivity Pack?
You don't need anything beyond the software in ROM on the 200LX, as the datacom application supports xmodem, ymodem, zmodem, and kermit. Zip (not the data compression package), MS-Kermit, LapLink, Interlink, and other software works fine. See the minimal-software-list.

Q. Where can I get a compatible serial port connector?
If you already have the HP cable, it comes with an adapter to plug the 10-pin connector into a 4-pin HP95 or HP48. One clever use of this adapter is use it as a mold to make a "bump" on Digi-Key 10-pin connector using 5-minute epoxy. This "bump" is not essential, but it will help prevent you from inserting the 10-pin connector upside-down.

Q. How can I connect the 200LX to an Apple Macintosh?
HP sells a serial cable to connect the 200LX directly to a Mac; it's part #F1016A. This handles the physical link, reducing the problem to "How can I get a Mac to talk to a PC across a serial link?"

DataViz (1-800-733-0030) is a company which makes a product called MacLink Plus/HP Palmtop, which handles file transfers, and converts the HP200LX application's files (memo, database, phonebook, etc.) to popular Mac formats (Excel, MacWrite, Word, etc.). One current shortcoming is that the "Notes" section of the 200LX Database/Phonebook programs is not supported in the Filemaker translation. But this is reportedly being worked on.

MacLink Plus works with all the HP Palmtops (95/100/200). It includes the serial cable. File translations include:

Memo to: MacWrite, MacWrite II, MS Word 4 & 5.x, MS Works, Mac WP 2&3, WriteNow 2, RTF.

Appt book to: Excel 2,3,4, Lotus WKS, MS Works SS 2,3, SYLK, Comma Separated, Tab Separated, Tab Text

Phone book to: Address Book Plus, Dynodex 2,3, Excel 2,3,4, Filemaker Pro, Lotus WKS, SYLK, Comma Separated, Tab Separated, Tab Text

Database to: FileMaker Pro, MS Works DB 2,3

Palmtop Lotus to: Excel 2,3,4, Lotus WKS, Ms Works SS 2,3, SYLK, Comma separateed, Tab Seeparated, Tab Text.

Among other places, it's available directly from DataViz or from MacWarehouse (1-800-255-6227).

The best answers to generic PC/Mac connectivity are probably found outside this newsgroup (anyone know where?), but here's a shot at some alternatives:

Most any terminal program on the 200LX (including the built-in DataComm) will handle simple file transfers via kermit, xmodem, etc.

MacLink Plus/PC is a commercial package made by DataViz which is intended for use on any IBM-Compatible, and is reported to work on the 200LX, and allow easy file transfer. But see above for a customized HP version that supports the HP apps.

Q. Intersvr complains about the E: drive when I start it. What can I do?
This is a stacker/interlink incompatibility. You could stop using stacker, but a less drastic solution is to get a copy of SUBST.EXE from a PC with MS-DOS 5.0 and include the statement "SUBST E: A:\somedir" in your AUTOEXEC.BAT. "somedir" refers to any existing directory on your A: drive.

Q. Can I run the Connectivity Pack under Windows 95?
Yes, but it's not for the faint of heart.  Laplink really doesn't like Windows 95.  You can still run the Connectivity Pack applications okay, but the actual connectivity part suffers.  Better to use the free Transfile utility available on HP's site.

13. PCMCIA Cards

Q. What's the difference between flash memory and SRAM?
SRAM is fast, expensive, requires battery back-up, doesn't take much power to use. Flash memory is cheaper per megabyte, available in larger sizes, will hold data forever without power, very slow for writing (on the order of the speed of a floppy disk), requires significant power for writing, and will eventually wear out when written to many times (though some flash cards have a lifetime guarantee, and nobody has yet posted that their flash card wore out).

Both technologies have plenty of satisfied users, but most people prefer flash for the price and capacity.

Q. Will <Random PCMCIA Card> work in a 200LX?
Best answer: ask the vendor, and be sure you're allowed to return it if it doesn't work. Most vendors will know if their cards are compatible with a machine as common as the 200LX.

Longer answer: The 200LX PCMCIA slot is PCMCIA 2.0 compatible, and able to accept type I or type II cards. It supplies 5 or 12 volts. It can supply up to 150mA of current, and thus has trouble with certain cards which attempt to draw high current. Most modems, SRAM cards, and ATA (Sandisk-style) flash cards work fine. Most ethernet adapters and GPS receivers draw too much current to work. Intel-style flash cards (like the Newton uses) are not supported, but see next question.

Common confusion: PCMCIA _Type_ is always listed in roman numerals, and refers _only_ to the thickness of the card. PCMCIA _Release_ is listed in arabic numerals, and refers to the version of the interface specification.

If your card requires special drivers, it probably won't work unless it's designed specifically for the 200LX. The Card and Socket Services drivers are not the version most special drivers require, and the controller in the 200LX is not a standard Intel-compatible PCMCIA controller. Therefore, unless someone hacks out a new driver, we're stuck with cards that are designed for the 200LX.  Examples of cards that DON'T work with the 200LX: SCSI cards, most network cards, sound cards, etc.

If a card draws too much current to work in the 200LX, using the AC adapter may allow you to keep the palmtop ON while the card is in, but if the card draws much more than 200mA it will shut off the unit anyway, and this could cause hardware problems, so it's not a good idea.

Q. How can I use a Newton flash card in a 200LX?
This is not for the squeamish. HP does not support Intel-style flash cards on the 200LX, so if you have any problems making it work, you're pretty much out of luck.

However, some users have reported varying degrees of success with them. They require that you obtain MS-FLASH.SYS for normal use, and MEMCARD.EXE is required to format the card. These files are NOT public domain, and not available at any ftp site. Some people have reportedly pirated them from an Omnibook (probably illegal). If anyone knows of an official way of obtaining up-to-date versions of these files, please tell the editor.

At least one user has reported that there is some incompatibility between the system manager (or at least the database apps) and MS-FLASH.SYS, such that the flash card could only be used in raw DOS mode outside of the system manager. Other users have reported that continually writing and moving files around on the card slowly consumes small amounts of disk space, which can only be recovered by backing the card up, reformatting, and restoring.

Note that this entire discussion is about Newton flash cards, not Newton SRAM cards. Several posters have been able to use Newton SRAM cards without difficulty.

Q. Help!  My PC Card modem won't work!
To use a modem in your PCMCIA socket, you need to have D:\BIN\CIC100 /GEN 1 loaded. (Or Stefan Peichl's excellent replacement, LXCIC, which is available at SUPER. It is then automatically configured as COM2.

Q. How can I use a PCMCIA ethernet adapter?
There is a special card (made by Silicom) that is designed specifically for the 200LX.  There are also drivers available for Accton PCMCIA cards.  Ironically, the Silicom card is incompatible with the double-speed palmtop, but the Accton cards will work in either speed configuration.
  There are some third-party solutions that use less memory, such as the CICFAKE utility available commercially in Japan, or CIC200, available as freeware.  However, they do not work with all modems.
Most ethernet adapters draw more power than the palmtop can provide. The Socket Communications ethernet adapter is reported to work. The Xircom ethernet adapter is reported to come close to working, though there are problems getting the supplied drivers to work on the 200LX. This is related to the Card and Socket Services problem.

See the 200LX Networking FAQ for further information.

Q. Why would I want to use a PCMCIA ethernet adapter anyway?
Despite the small amount of storage, a palmtop network diagnostic tool is very useful.  There are several programs which will run on the 200LX and provide a good network diagnostic utility.  Precision Guesswork (www.guesswork.com) sells a bundled solution which includes a 200LX, their LANWatch software, and a Silicom card.  There are plenty of other uses for ethernet cards in the 200LX.  See usenet:comp.dcom.lans.ethernet for further information.

Q. Should I turn off the 200LX when I insert/remove a PCMCIA card?
Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: some sources say you cannot "hot swap" cards in the 200LX, and should turn it off.  Others say it doesn't matter.  Generally, you can insert/remove a flash card without turning the machine off, because they don't draw a tremendous amount of power.  Modems and ethernet cards, however, will frequently draw so much power so suddenly upon insertion that, if the palmtop is on, it will drop the unit into "Backup Mode."  Basically, this is the same as rebooting.  Kiss any files you had open and unsaved goodbye.  Therefore, it's probably a good idea to turn it off before inserting the cards, at least.

14. Batteries, Battery life, AC adapters, etc.

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 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. Rechargable 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.

Rechargable 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 rechargable alkalines or NiMH batteries.  (Note: newer NiMH batteries can be recharged right in the palmtop, with the type set to Nicad.)

Q. Why won't my NiCad batteries hold a charge anymore?
You probably use the AC adapter most of the time, and have NiCad charging enabled. There's plenty of mythology, folklore, and an occasional fact or two regarding NiCad "memory effect", which won't be repeated here. Suffice it to say that you can damage NiCad batteries by repeatedly overcharging them when they're already charged. The 200LX has two charge rates: for the first 6 hours after the adapter is plugged in, the batteries charge at a high rate (100mA), then charging switches to a low-current "trickle charge" (45mA). Each time you plug in the adapter the cycle repeats. If you plug the machine in each day at work, and again when you get home, you can kill the batteries fairly quickly.

Simple way to avoid trouble: if your NiCads have a full charge or close to it, and you want to use the AC adapter, then disable charging. A slightly less conservative approach is to use 200Buddy or the shareware BATSET program to limit the fast charge time to one minute, since trickle charging isn't likely to damage the batteries as quickly.

ABC/LX is a commercial battery monitoring program available from D&A Software that works well for charging batteries in the palmtop.

Q. What kind of batteries are the best?
This depends on your individual situation.  Generally, rechargeables will cost you less than alkalines in the long run.  A recommended battery is the 1300 mAh NiMH battery from Times2 Tech.  These batteries hold a charge very well, and last a long time during use.

Q. What kind of AC adapter does the 200LX use?
CAUTION: It's different from the 95LX! The 200LX uses 12VDC, negative tip, up to 750mA, approx 5.5mm OD barrel-type connector.  Plugging in an adapter with a positive tip, or one that puts out AC instead of DC, will kill your palmtop's adapter jack and you'll be left to battery power alone.  This is fixable, but not cheaply.

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.  Very nice adapter, but rather pricey ($25-$50 depending on where you get it.)

Thaddeus sells a small adapter that works very well with the palmtop, and takes up minimal size. In addition, it's rated at 800ma, so it should be plenty even for demanding units.

Radio Shack Cat no 273-1652B seems to work, and is probably cheaper. It's only rated at 500mA, so there may be problems when using with high-current PCMCIA cards. It appears to work ok with flash cards while charging NiCad's, though, and current measurements indicate that the 200LX draws much less than 500mA with this adapter even when writing to a flash card, charging NiCads, and using the serial port simultaneously.

Other compatible adapters are certainly available from various sources. The 200LX does not include an adapter in the box.
If you find an adapter at Radio Shack or elsewhere that gives the required 12 volts, but the current output is higher than 750mA, you should be fine. This is because the current rating on an adapter is only the maximum current it can supply without melting down, causing a fire, etc. The palmtop will only draw what current it needs.

15. Obscure undocumented tips, tricks, and trivia

Q. What is xine?
It is a built-in file compression program (D:\BIN\XINE.COM). To use, type "XINE infile outfile". If infile isn't compressed, xine will compress it to outfile. If infile is compressed, xine will expand it to outfile. CAUTION: Don't specify infile and outfile as the same name, or you'll lose your data. Xine is not documented, although it appears in all versions of the 200LX (including non-English versions).

Q. What is pushkeys?
Pushkeys is a program to run keyboard macros from a DOS batch file. It's in D:\BIN, but it has its hidden file bit set, so you must use "dir /a:h" to see it. Run it once with the /i argument, and it installs itself as a TSR. Run it again with the name of a .MAC file, and it run the 10 macros in sequence. Pushkeys is not documented, and may be missing from some non US-English versions of the 200LX. It does appear in the European-English 200LX, however. International users who don't have it built-in may be able to get a copy from the Palmtop Paper.

Q. What is hexcalc?
It's a programmer's calculator that supports hex, octal, binary, and decimal. It's System manager compliant, and included in the 200LX ROM, but not automatically included in the system manager menu.

Q. What is ICN200LX.COM?
It's a simple icon editor in the 200LX ROM.

Q. What are the special characters I can use in the comments field of the Application Manager?
An inverted question mark (keystroke Fn-3) inhibits the "Press any key to exit from DOS ..." message after finishing the application.

An inverted exclamation point (keystroke Fn-Filer) disables the system manager and prevents switching to another application while the current application is running, giving the application total control of the console and serial port. This is needed to make certain DOS programs (intersvr, terminal emulators, etc.) work properly.

Neither special character is documented in the 100LX manual, though both appear in the 200LX manual (they work the same on both machines).

Q. How can I customize the fields in the phone book? (e.g. add an e-mail address)
Close the phone book, open the database manager, select file/open and open the phone.pdb file (the file formats are the same for the database manager and phone book, only the extension is changed). Now use file/modify database to add/subtract/move fields to your heart's content, quit the database manager, and use the phone book.

Be aware that certain other software which reads phone book files expects the fields to be "vanilla", so don't use this trick (or at least back up your data and test it first) if you plan to transfer your phone book data to such software. The "Xlate/Merge" feature of the connectivity pack is one program which wants the files to be vanilla.

Q. How can I get the filer to run a program based on a file's type?
Create the file c:\_dat\filer.ini, containing file extensions and commands to run, as shown in this example:


When you select a file and press ENTER, if the selected file has the extention ".ICN" the icon editor on drive D: is started and the file name (the `%' is replaced by the name of the selected file) is given as argument. If the selected file has the extention ".ZIP" it is automatically unzipped (assuming PKUNZIP lives on a:\bin).

Q. What's the "disable filer" trick?
As shipped by HP, the application manager always keeps the filer in memory, consuming approx 58K of RAM. This is so that, if you run out of disk space while using an application, you can enter filer, delete some files, and save your work. The "disable filer" trick allows you to completely terminate the filer, and recover that 58K of RAM. This is undocumented, unsupported, and nobody at HP has recommended it, although several users have reported success with it. Nevertheless, please back up your disk before trying this. To disable the filer, do the following:

Activate the application manager (press {More}).

Move the filer to the first position, using F7.

Close the application manager.

Start DOS (cntl-123), and type the following: debug c:\_dat\appmgr.dat e 10a 01 w q

Start the application manager and move the filer back to its original position, if desired.

Now, you can close the filer by first opening it, highlighting it in the application manager and pressing F6, or by menu/application/close all. The filer's quit command will behave as before, just putting the filer to sleep, not recovering the RAM. If the filer is asleep, the application manager CANNOT close it. The filer must be open (awake) for the application manager to close it. If the filer has been completely terminated (not just put to sleep), it will take two presses of the filer key to open it up again.

Q. How do I prevent the 200LX from powering down while on batteries?
There are several utility programs to do this, but the following procedure will create a short assembler program that should do the trick. Warning: back up your machine before running this, as a typing error might wreak all sorts of havoc.
The computer says:           You type:

A:\JUNK>                     debug
-                            a 100
1970:0100                    mov ah,46
1970:0102                    mov bx,0000
1970:0105                    int 15
1970:0107                    int 20
-                            r cx
CX 0000
:                            9
-                            n timeout.com
-                            w
Writing 00009 bytes
-                            quit

Now, you've just created a short program, called timeout.com, that you can run to inhibit the automatic time-out feature. Re-booting will restore the default timeout limit, or you can create a corresponding "timein.com" program, by following the above procedure except change the second mov statement to "mov bx,0c9a", and change the n statement to "n timein.com". The number after the "mov bx," is a hexadecimal integer equal to 18 times the number of seconds desired for automatic power-down. 0433 corresponds to 1 minute, 0C9A means 3 minutes, 14FF means 5 minutes, 3EFD means 15 minutes, etc.

Again, back up your machine before running either of these programs, until you're confident the programs work correctly.

Q. What are the various ROM revisions?
(incomplete list of bugfixes/features, need help here)
1.01a  Original version.  Some were EPROMs.
1.02a  Infected by the HEU bug
1.03a  HEU (sHift kEy bUg) fixed, speed up for carry-forward todos.
1.04a  Last ROM version prior to 2MB Model.  Currently shipping on
        many 1MB models.  Does not need FS.COM that comes on 
        the CPACK disk for the redirector.
1.05a  Added support for 2MB
1.06a  Most current. Some cc:Mail bugs fixed.  Found on latest 2MB
        units, and on some 1MB models.  

At least one user reported a dramatic (2x) speedup in the calendar
app monthly view when updating from 1.02a to 1.04a.

1.00a  Present on at least one Japanese language version
1.01a  Earlier 200LX ROM version.
1.02a  Latest version of 200LX ROM.  Present on most 2MB 200LX models  
       I've seen, including old and new 2MB versions.

Q. How do I determine which ROM version I have?
Reboot the machine (cntl-alt-del) and watch the screen.

Q. What is the Shift Key Bug (HEU)?
It is a bug that occurs on 100LX ROM versions 1.02a or less. Occasionally, the key that is pressed after the shift key is ignored and the next key pressed is capitalized. If you try to write "Shift Key Bug" it becomes "Hift Ey Ug". This problem is intermittent and not all users observe it.

Q. What information is encoded in the serial number?
The week it was manufactured. A serial number is of the form:


Where y is the last digit of the year of manufacture, ww is the week of manufacture, and nnnnn is the individual serial number. Thus SG45101234 is the 1234th unit manufactured in the 51st week of 1994. The "SG" is the country of origin (apparently all are manufactured in Singapore).

It seems a similar scheme is used for many HP calculators.

16. Common problems

Q. Why can't I unzip this file?
This isn't really a 200LX question, but it's been asked frequently enough. PKZIP works the same on the 200LX as on any other MS-DOS machine. Chances are you don't have your file transfer software set up in binary mode. If you're absolutely positive that the file was transferred in binary every step of the way, then maybe you have an old version of PKZIP. 2.04g is the most recent as of this writing.

Q. I can't turn it off while it's charging the batteries!
That's right. It needs to be awake to monitor and regulate the charging rate. LCD screens don't suffer "burn-in" from continuous use (think about LCD watches), so it's really nothing to worry about.

Q. My unit makes a buzzing noise near the screen.
If your unit has been speed-upgraded, this noise occurs especially frequently when with a PC Card in the socket. The screen power supply also supplies power to the PCMCIA socket. Under higher drain, it buzzes. Generally it's nothing to worry about, unless you notice a drastic reduction in battery life. Then it could indicate a problem with the supply.

Q. My screen gets very light when I'm charging the batteries.
This is a problem with the design of the palmtop.  There is a sensor which is supposed to sense the temperature of the unit and adjust the display contrast accordingly.  Unfortunately, when the batteries are charging, a component on the motherboard near the temperature sensor warms up. Sensing the heat, the temperature sensor is fooled into thinking that it needs to lower the contrast.  There's not much that can be done about this.  Fortunately, once the temperature returns to normal, so does the contrast.

Q. Help! My machine is stuck! What do I do?
The manual's "Getting Started" chapter contains some suggestions. Try the following, listed in order from least likely to destroy data to most likely.

Reboot with ctrl-alt-del. If the machine starts to boot, but freezes up during the boot process, you have a problem with something in your CONFIG.SYS and/or AUTOEXEC.BAT. Boot from the D: drive (press alt during boot for menu) and use the memo editor to remove the offending line(s) from the startup files.

Press ctrl-shift-on. Ctrl-shift-on will ask if you want to destroy your C: drive, so be careful. It will also alter battery settings from the setup application (if you were using NiCads, for example).

Replace your AA batteries with fresh ones and try again. Replacing batteries while the machine is hung up may destroy the data on your C: drive.

Remove PCMCIA card and all batteries, including backup battery, from the 200LX (but if you have a SRAM card, leave its battery installed while the card is out of the 200LX!). Let the machine sit without power for awhile, and reinstall fresh AA batteries BEFORE replacing the backup battery. This will, of course, erase your C drive, reset the clock, and in general make the 200LX forget everything you ever taught it. Data on the PCMCIA card should survive this process, unless you have a SRAM card with a dead battery. But there's no guarantee that your PCMCIA card wasn't already trashed by whatever crashed your system.

If none of this works, your machine may need service. Try running diagnostics by pressing ESC-ON, and following the menu if one comes up. Follow the instructions in the manual for obtaining service.

Any time any MS-DOS machine crashes hard enough to require a reboot, it's a good idea to run CHKDSK on all drives, to clean up the file systems and recover any clusters that may have been lost.

Q. How do I fix a loose hinge? A loose latch?
To fix a loose latch yourself, you can stuff something compressible behind the latch. Posters have suggested rubber bands, surgical tubing, packaging foam, and other similar materials.

To fix the hinge yourself, pull off the right end cap (it should come straight off using no tools harsher than a fingernail), and clean the center with a few drops of isopropyl alcohol.  Alternatively, pull off the left end cap and insert a rubber band in the vertical slot under the cap. Trim off excess and replace cap.

Be careful not to get the hinge too tight; see the next question.

Q. What is this "hinge-crack" I keep hearing about?
It seems that HP has been besieged by complaints of a loose hinge in recent years, and thus tightened the hinge significantly.  The right side of the screen is what has the actual friction clasp in it.  Thus, on the top of the unit, a millimeter or two above the round right hinge, a crack will often develop.  It is often very difficult to see in the early stages.  For a while, HP denied the existence of this problem, but now seems to be repairing machines with this crack under warranty.  There are a few options: ignore it and hope it doesn't get any worse (it may or may not), loosen up the hinge with some sort of oil (not recommended, and it would be highly annoying anyway to have a floppy screen), superglue the crack (deforming the outside of the case), stick the nameplate that goes in the bottom across it (might work), or try to superglue it from the inside (probably the best option, if it works).  For more information, and a picture showing you where to look for the crack, please visit The Hinge Crack Problem Page on hplx.net.


17. For more info

Q. Where should I read and post articles concerning the HP200LX?
The main source of 1/200LX info on the Internet is now the HPLX Mailing List.

The Usenet newsgroup comp.sys.palmtops is also a source, as well as alt.comp.sys.palmtops.hp, but they seem to mostly be focusing on Windows CE handhelds these days. The comp.sys.handhelds group is for calculators, not palmtops. The commercial services include CompuServe HPHAND, America OnLine PDA section.

If your question concerns using DOS on the 200LX, perhaps one of the comp.os.msdos.* groups might be appropriate. Just tell them the 200LX behaves like a PC-XT with CGA and 640K, running DOS 5.0.

Q. What's the Palmtop Paper?
It's a newsletter, published 6 times a year, that covers the HP palmtop computers. It's filled with tricks and tips, stories of how people use their palmtops, and ads for all kinds of accessories and software. Contact Thaddeus Computing at P.O. Box 869, Fairfield, IA 52556 (515) 472-6330, FAX:(515) 572-1879

18. Copyright Info

Much of this file is taken verbatim from the public domain FAQ. However, this particular version (with many, many improvements and additions) is copyrighted. Please obtain permission from the editor, David Sargeant, before distributing it, posting it to another site, or modifying it. This change has become necessary because several sites have taken copies of the FAQ and posted them. Unfortunately, I frequently update this version, leaving them behind and creating confusion for readers. Links to this page are always welcome.

19. Acknowledgments

I'm not sure who to acknowledge for this version of the FAQ. Thanks to all the members of HPLX-L for their assitance, and the members of HPHand on CIS. And Ian Butler for the spiffy new look, although it really messed up the formatting. But what do you expect? Kids today, they got no respect... sigh. [Me and my formatting, eh? I'll show you. <pow> -ian :)]

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

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