Welcome to Reviews OnLine: New Portable Products at Fall Comdex 1993
New Portable Products
Fall Comdex 1993
by Rick Smith (November 1993)

Manufacturers are creating new portable products and are using advanced technology to enhance peoples' life styles, increase leisure time and improve the way people work.

Most new portable products at Comdex Fall 1993 were PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) devices. These small (about the size of a stack of a few credit cards) units were initially used only as portable memory storage devices. These devices are now the main interface medium for the hand held palmtop, small notebook and laptop computers! Since many portable computers have a limited number of PCMCIA slots, several manufacturers are combining features onto a single card. Other manufactures are creating small Parallel to SCSI converters to utilize the parallel port of the laptop to connect to more devices.

Data Storage
Epson [(800) 922-8911 ] displayed the ATA Series of Flash memory cards which are available in 2.5 [$399], 5 [$479], 10 [$799] and 20 megabyte [$1499] capacity. These cards come with a pre-installed software compression program which could double the card's listed capacity.

SyQuest announced their new SQ1080 PCMCIA hard disk drive. This tiny (about 2"x 2"x.41" - 18 grams) removable 80 megabyte cartridge is able to handle up to 2000Gs of shock without affecting the data.

Fax Modems
Ego Fax/Modem [$459 - Chaplet Peripherals - (408) 732-7950] is a PCMCIA card combining a Hayes compatible AT modem (14.4K bps V.42 bis) and a Class 2, Group III fax modem.

WorldPort Fax/Data PCMCIA modem [$399 - US Robotics - (800) DIAL-USR] combines an AT command set compatible 14.4 kbps modem and a Class 1, Group III fax modem.

The ComCard-3 [$699 - DataTrek Corporation - (219) 522-8000] is a faster PCMCIA fax modem (28,800 baud - V.fast) with two RJ-11 jacks which allows for data/talk switching on the same call. This card is software upgradable to future versions of the PCMCIA standard.

The new 9624 Mercury [$245 - MagicRAM, Inc. - (800) 2-PCMCIA] voice/fax/modem card can perform the usual modem and fax (Class 1) functions along with voice mode which can be configured as an answering machine or for voice mail functions. Automatic answer recognition for fax and voice is provided.

The Socket Trio [$695 - Socket Communications, Inc. - (800) 552-3300] combines the multiple functions of a 14.4 kbps fax (class 1 and 2), 14.4 kbps modem and an Ethernet 10 BaseT and 10 Base2 LAN adapter on a single PCMCIA card. You can use the fax modem and the LAN adapter at the same time.

Hayes featured high-speed communications products such as its Optima 144 + Fax144 for PCMCIA.

Several networking cards were shown that connect portable computing systems to Ethernet and Token Ring networks.

EgoLAN [$310 (twisted pair 10 Base T), $325 (Coaxial 10 Base 2) - Chaplet Peripherals - (408) 732-7950] is a Novell certified PCMCIA Ethernet card.

MagicRAM provides PCMCIA 10Base T or 10Base 2 Ethernet [$295 - MagicRAM, Inc. - (213) 413-9999] and PCMCIA Token-Ring [$545] adapters.

Socket EA [$349 - Socket Communications, Inc. - (800) 552-3300] is an Ethernet 10Base T PCMCIA card with NE2000 emulation.

Solectek demonstrated their AIRLAN PCMCIA Ethernet adapter [$699 - Solectek Corporation - (800) 437-1518] which allows you to connect to your local LAN with complete mobility, without the burden of network cables. The spread spectrum radio technology used in the AIRLAN provides omni-directional coverage up to 800 feet and allows data to pass through walls, ceilings and floors. Distances can be increased with the use of an AIRLAN hub.

Wireless communications
Modems that could be connected to cellular telephones were also shown.

The Megahertz 14,400 bps PCMCIA cellular fax modem [$459 - Megahertz - (800) LAPTOPS] attaches directly to Mitsubishi and NEC cellular telephones without additional cables AND can be used like a conventional modem to connect to standard telephone lines via an RJ-11 jack.

The CELLect 14.4 PCMCIA [$549 - Motorola UDS - (800) 451-2369] is a PCMCIA fax modem which enables wireless data exchange over cellular networks when used with a Motorola MicroTAC cellular phone. This fax modem also connects to the standard telephone line. The CELLect 14.4 [$399] connects via a 9 pin serial connector.

Motorola Paging Products Division [(800) 542-7882] demonstrated the NewsCard and NewsStream Advanced Information wireless receive only modems. These modems receive messages when attached to a computer or when carried separately. Available through computer manufacturers and paging service providers [$249 - U.S. Paging Corporation - (800) 473-0845] or [$249 - Embarc - (800) EMBARC4].

Cincinnati Microwave displayed the MC-DART (Mobile Cellular Data Access Radio Transceiver) 100 [$495 - (513) 247-DART] which allows reliable two-way mobile data communications over the CDPD (Cellular Digital Packet Data) network.

The Ubiquity 2000 [$1595 - Pacific Communication Sciences, Inc. - (619) 535-9500] is a communications module which interfaces to a portable computer via the serial port. It combines a wireless CDPD modem, a cellular wireless data/fax modem, a cellular and standard voice telephone (requires optional handset for voice operation) and a standard fax modem in a 1.8 pound package.

The PageCard [$395 - Socket Communications, Inc. - (800) 552-3300] is a standalone alphanumeric pager which can be installed into a PCMCIA slot and change a portable computer into a wireless mobile messaging system.

Chaplet Communications [(408) 732-5260] gave advance information about their TopPage personal computer pager which can also receive messages either standalone or detached from the portable computer.

Portable systems
INEX combines a full-featured laptop computer with an optional direct connect model 100 cellular phone [$500] and modem into the Mobile Office Note [$2995 to $4495 - INEX Technologies, Inc. - (408) 986-9941] which features wireless fax, data and a digital voice answering machine.

Hewlett Packard announced their first 486 based super portable notebook computer called the Omnibook 425 [$2125 and up - Hewlett Packard - (800) 443-1254]. It weighs 2.9 pounds, has a full sized keyboard, runs on standard batteries for up to eight hours with "instant-on" ROM versions of major Windows applications.

The iLuFa 486 Pro [$2449 (DX250 monochrome) to $4299 (DX266 active color) - Chaplet Systems USA, Inc. - (408) 732-7950] combines a 486 laptop with local bus VGA, two type II PCMCIA slots, optional docking station and a 12 bit Sound Blaster compatible digital voice play and record channels. Currently under development is the TV module option allowing broadcast television and Super VHS video inputs.

The new Series 3a palmtop computer [$895 - Psion Incorporated - (508) 371-0310], offers optional voice processing and a digital audio system.

For those who need a mobile computer system for their new four wheel drive Hummer and intend to use their computer in harsh environments, should look at the NDE notebook [$10,000 - DE, Inc. - (212) 909-0550] or the ATD large portable [$15,000 - DE, Inc. - (212) 909-0550]. Both models are rainproof and shock resistant.

Small portable laptops systems having multimedia capabilities were there. Smartbook II [about $4000 (486DX266) - Commax - (800) 5 COMMAX] with built-in microphone and speaker for digital audio recording and reproduction.

Pen-operated devices such as MiniWriter [$1395 - Data Entry Systems, Inc. - (205) 430-3023] and ScriptWriter XL [$1455 - Data Entry Systems, Inc. - (205) 430-3023] can be used to assist in remote and mobile data capture. These American made devices can capture data electronically and on paper at the same time. This can be useful while performing inspections, taking surveys or analyzing quality control.

DFI introduced a full power laptop called the Road Warrior [$2000-$4500 - DFI - (916) 568-1234]. When this 486 based laptop with integrated PCMCIA slot and trackball is parked in the docking station it can access two 32 bit VESA slots, four 16 bit ISA slots, a SCSI port, a multimedia sound system, 3.5" and 5.25" drive bays, a full-sized keyboard, a super VGA monitor and a mouse.

The DOS based EHT-30 [$1919 - Epson - (800) 289-3776] hand held computer has a high resolution backlit LCD display, signature capture, pen and finger touch input, 16 bit AT compatible main processor, lithium ion battery, PCMCIA slot and optional character recognition software. The unit weighs 21.6 ounces and with printer 30.4 ounces.

Kalidor is featuring its new pen computer and accompanying docking station. The 386/25MHz palmtop pen computer weighs just above three pounds and is ruggedized for use in harsh field environments. The K2000 is fitted with a fast 85MB hard disk and supports up to 16MB RAM, PCMCIA slots and options such as integrated GPS and a 24-bit digital camera. The infrared docking stations are individually addressable by the host.

Innovasys showed palmtop and subnotebook computers with multimedia features. These computers are 286, 386 and 486 DOS-based with window capabilities. Features include built-in pagers, three-hour voice compression capability for dictation, and built-in PCMCIA slots with optional fax/modem, LAN and Ethernet capability.

Global Positioning System (GPS)
Socket also announced a mobile GPS card [Socket Communications, Inc. - (800) 552-3300] that will allow you to accurately determine your location and speed. The GPS system is the $12 billion dollar satellite-based positioning system that is maintained by the Department of Defense. The time can also be accurately determined from the atomic clocks onboard the satellites.

Rockwell [(800) 854-8099] made an early announcement of their 90 gram NavCard, a GPS receiver completely contained in a PCMCIA card.

Even multimedia was not ignored at this Comdex event as there were several portable sound cards there.

Messenger-IC is a text-to-speech synthesizer PCMCIA card [$995 - Aicom Corporation - (408) 453-8251] with an onboard audio amplifier, volume control and a 2.5mm phono jack.

The PORT*ABLE sound PCMCIA card [$279.95 - DSP Solutions - (916) 621-1787] is Sound Blaster compatible, except when using DOS based programs which include a DOS extender. It allows MIDI and WAVE files to be played simultaneously.

The Tempo Audio Card [$399 - I/O Magic - (714) 497-4576] is another PCMCIA sound card which is compatible with the AdLib and Cardinal Audio boards.

A new PCMCIA 16-bit Sound Blaster compatible sound card .WAVjammer [$399 - New Media Corporation - (714) 453-0100] can play back 16 bit stereo sound along MIDI play capability.

A parallel port color video grabber Computer Eyes/LPT [$399.95 - Digital Vision, Inc. - (617) 329-5400] allows you to acquire 24 bit video images while you are mobile.

The Focus Video PCMCIA card [$599 - I/O Magic - (714) 497-4576] provides the ability to capture motion video, stills and video overlays on a portable computer. It is compatible with any standard NTSC or PAL compatible source.

The EZShow-NB [$1629 - EZ Show Systems, Inc. - (604) 299-0295] is a PCMCIA graphics card that connects a notebook computer to a display screen. It provides output resolutions from NTSC to 1600x1200 in 256 colors.

The Dock101 [$99 - Key Tronic Corporation - (509) 928-8000], a full sized keyboard and viewing platform for portable computers was introduced. It allows a more comfortable full sized keyboard to be attached to a notebook, subnotebook or HP95LX computer via the serial port when the operator is at home or in the office.

Mustek announced a 256 grayscale hand-held scanner [$299 - Mustek - (800) 4-MUSTEK] that interfaces via a PCMCIA card. It is an "environmentally green", five volt, TWAIN compliant scanner and the package includes both OCR and Imaging software.

Extra ports
Quatech announced the PCMCIA 100 (RS-232 card) [$195 - (800) 553-1170] and the PCMCIA 200 (RS-422 card) [$195].

Linksys announced ParaSCSI Plus [about $200 - (714) 261-1288], a parallel to SCSI converter capable of connecting up to 7 SCSI devices to a parallel port.

Cristie Electronics showed Nexus [$229 - available from Parallel Storage Solutions - (800) 998-7839] which also plugs into the parallel port and allows you to connect SCSI devices.

Both products contain a printer connector for simultaneous printer access.

The color Notebook Printer II [$399 - Citizen America Corporation - (800) 4PRINTERS] weighs 2.2 pounds, has battery capability, 360 dpi resolution and uses a thermal fusion technology.

P-Touch PC [$449 - Brother - (908) 356-8880] is a new computer controlled label (1/4" to 1") printer that is small (6.6"x8.9"x3.2") and portable (2.64 pounds).

The DeskJet 310 [$379 - Hewlett Packard - (800) 752-0900] is a printer that does not sacrifice typical desktop features for small portability. It combines optional color, good speed (3 pages per minute) and HP DeskJet 500C compatibility.

The MobileWriter PS [$999 - Mannesmann Tally - (800) 843-1347] is a PostScript-compatible 6 pages per minute, portable printer for PC and Mac systems.

Qualtec Data Products offers a security kit [$34.95 - (800-628-4413] which secures a portable computer in the office, at home or on the road. It is an easy and cost effective way to secure "mobile" computers.

WIBU-Box/M [available from Southwind International - (301) 570-3497] is a PCMCIA version of their hardware copy protection method, which allows software vendors to integrate copy protection into mobile systems.

As time goes on, it will be interesting to see how these small portable devices and the related technology will change our lives, where and how we work.

Copyright 1993 Rick Smith All rights reserved.

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