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Hewlett Packard

Untitled Document

The HP-110 was the first laptop computer to offer the power and the possibilities of a desktop. As it was possible to connect a printer and a disk-drive to it, it was a very serious machine in its category, with Lotus 1-2-3 integrated.

This was the good occasion for Hewlet-Packard to introduce a laptop computer when IBM and Apple were not yet on this part of the market. The HP-110 is somehow compatible with its big brother, the HP-150, and can communicate with HP "calculators" like the HP-41c.

Its design looks like the Dulmont Magnum or the Gavilan produced at the same time. The screen can be tilted to accomodate the right angle of vision for the user.

The HP-110 is equiped with a 8086 CPU which is much more powerful than the 8088 for example used in the HP-150. At that time, it was the first laptop to use a real 16-bit CPU.

The HP-110 is never turned-off but can be shut down in a "sleep" mode, and can be waken up by pressing any key. It is autonome for up to 16 hours thanks to its CMOS technology and lead batteries.

The screen is also quite good for its time. It can displays 80 columns by 16 lines, whereas most of the other laptops offered only 8 lines... Thanks to a small video memory, it's possible to re-display the lines that disapeared from the screen (up to 48 lines).

The graphic resolution is thus of 480 x 128 pixels ! There's nearly no difference with a classic monitor, which is really impressive. Its display rate is also quite impressive and equals monitors display rates...

The keyboard is quite complete with 8 function and arrow keys but has no numeric keypad. The touch feeling is not excellent though.

The lead batteries



HP made the choice of Acid Lead batteries instead of Nickel-Cadmium batteries because for its better linearity.

The HP-110 is full of CMOS components which explains is low energy consumption : around 1 watt. A normal light bulb alone needs much more ! Thus, the HP-110 can work for 16 hours.

The CPU is a 80c86 from Harris, and is entirely compatible with a classic 8086 from Intel. The 8kb RAMs are japanese and the ROMs are from Hewlett-Packard, arranged in 12 groups of 32 kb each. They contain the built-in software.



There is a sort of simple OS built-in : the PAM (Personal Application Manager), which sits on top of the DOS and proposes the different programs built-in ROM via menus : Lotus 1-2-3 (spreadsheet), Memomaker (small wordprocessing), Terminal (communications) and DOS. The PAM also displays all the programs available in the virtual memory (176 kb max.) and on the disk-drive if connected, and offers some file management commands (delete, format, copy, etc...), the internal clock and the system configuration.

The PAM shows the battery charge and warns you when it is down, and when it's really low, it turns the HP-110 into a sleep mode which is classic in nowadays but was an innovation in 1984.



Lotus 1-2-3 is thus a spreadsheet specially adapted for the 16-lines display of the HP-110. The user can define up to 256 columns and 2048 lines. This is a very complete spreadsheet with a graphic module and data-base features. It can access the virtual RAM disk and texts can be easily imported from Memomaker.

Memomaker is a small spreadsheet allowing to work on texts of 600 lines approximatively. In fact, Symphony (the successor of Lotus 1-2-3) was planned to be integrated into the HP-110, but because of delay problems, that was not possible. Symphony had wordprocessing and communication software, so HP included at the last minute these features to the special HP-110 version of Lotus 1-2-3. That explains why Memomaker is just a modest wordprocessing software.

"Terminal" is there to manage the communication with other systems using a modem. The american version of the HP-110 has a built-in modem whereas the french version for example has only an external acoustic modem as the internal modem was not authorized by the french government...

There is also a tool called HPLINK that allows to exchange files with the HP-150 via a HP-IL / HP-IB connection or with an IBM PC equiped with a special board.

The HP-IL connection is mainly used to communicate with the other HP systems (calculators & computers). It's a low-range serial connection and is quite slow (1,5 kb/s). This explains why the use of an external disk-drive is so slow.

The HP-IB connection is faster but depends on the number of peripheral connected.



It's possible to connect a Thinkjet printer to the HP-110 via the HP-IL interface. This Thinkjet printer was one of the first inkjet printer to be commercialised ! Like the HP-110, the printer is battery operated and as it is quite small (30 x 20 x 10 cm), it can be easily transported along with the HP-110.

There is also a 3"1/2 disk-drive but the transfer rate is soooo slow... This is caused by the HP-IL connection which is made through only 2 wires ! The HP-150 which uses the same disk-drive but through a HP-IB connection, is a bit faster.



In 1985, HP released the Portable Plus. The main differences are that it's now possible to change the built-in software as they are delivered on separate ROMs that you plug into the system. Thus you can have Microsoft Word instead of Memomaket. That was a main drawback of the HP-110, and it is now resolved !

The Portable Plus is sold with 256 kb of RAM but can be upgraded to 1 Mb, allowing to reserve as much as 896 kb for the virtual RAM disk !

Finally the screen is bigger and displays 25 lines per 80 columns instead of only 16 lines for the HP-110.

With these news features, the Portable Plus is matching the power of a desktop computer.



This laptop was quite powerful when it was commercialised. It had a powerful 16-bit CPU, a 16 lines LCD screen, enough RAM space and good software integrated. HP made the choice to integrate lead batteries instead of a disk-drive, as both in the same casewould have been quite unfeasible in 1984... HP also integrated software clearly oriented for the US market, offering no alternative for another choice of built-in software. All the choices maybe limited the sales of the quite good machine.

Fortunately, HP understood the main drawbacks of the HP-110 and released the HP-110 Plus. But, these machines still lacked a built-in storage device, like a disk-drive, to match its competitors...



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