27 March 2012

My First Laptop

Magazine ad for the Epson PX-8 "Geneva"
I bought one of these used in 1986 or so... It was OK for what it was, but very limited by today's standards. What makes it unique is its very existence... it cost much less than the Tandy laptops of the day, which were pretty much the only game in town.
  It used a micro cassette for file storage. Anyone who has ever used cassette tape computing will know how horrible this was...but in those pre-disk days it was all we had. At any rate, the tape unit was pretty good in this machine, as it was computer controlled, and acted just like a (SUPER SLOW) Disk drive.
It utilized a Z-80 processor, and its OS was a version of CP/M.

These were discounted and sold through  the favorite geek catalog of the 80's, DAK.

The oddest thing about the PX-8 was its ROM based application programs. ROMs were , of course, nothing new, and in fact were a staple of most 8 bit home computers of the 80s. But these weren't ROM-PACKS in attractive plastic cases..there were actual ROM IC CHIPS . You had to remove a panel on the back, pull back the shielding, pry out whatever firmware rom was in there and push in the new one.  If I remember right, you could have 2 in at once. I had Basic, CP/M utilities, Wordstar , CalcStar, Scheduler, and dBase II 

The feature that killed this innovative , well made machine was its display: 80 column by 8 lines of dim LCD grey on grey text.  There just wasn't a lot you could do with it...a valiant effort, but too little, too soon I am afraid.

Here is a 1984 review from COMPUTERS & ELECTRONIC magazine,

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