London W1-based portable computing specialists Psion Plc launched its new range of Mobile Computers yesterday in which several new technologies, courtesy of Intel and Microsoft, have been implemented for the first time. The range itself consists of the MC 200 and MC 400, using Psion’s proprietary operating system, as used in the Organiser, and the […]
London W1-based portable computing specialists Psion Plc launched its new range of Mobile Computers yesterday in which several new technologies, courtesy of Intel and Microsoft, have been implemented for the first time. The range itself consists of the MC 200 and MC 400, using Psion’s proprietary operating system, as used in the Organiser, and the MC 600 which has full MS-DOS built in. All the products use Intel’s Flash Memory for operating systems, built in software and applications and as mass storage. Consequently, users can access the system software and applications with faster read and write times than are possible with floppy or hard disks. Each of the plug-in modules is the size of a matchbook (2.5 by 0.75 by 0.2) and contains four Intel 28F010 1M-bit flash memories. The flash memory is offered in access speeds from 150nS to 250nS in both 28-pin CERDIP and 32-lead plastic leaded chip carrier packages. However, the parts could not be used just like a disk without Microsoft’s Flash File System. This System coexists with the standard MS-DOS File Allocation Table to enable flash devices to perform block erasures – a function that is not used in the traditional file allocation table system. Microsoft has also announced the availability of MS-DOS read only memory version 2.0, based on version 3.21 of MS-DOS. This is a significant announcement for manufacturers of portable computers because it offers: RAM economy by executing MS-DOS functions directly from ROM; low power consumption because it doesn’t need a floppy disk to run; no end-user installation because it is already burned into the ROM; and the convenience of instant-on because the operating system doesn’t have to load from disk. Plus, of course, the advantage to Microsoft that it can’t easily be copied. Intel’s Flash Memory and Microsoft’s Flash File System and MS-DOS ROM 2.0 are for sale to all manufacturers but Psion’s MC range is the first commercial implementation of each of these technologies. All of Psion’s Mobile Computers are A4 size, are 2 thick and weigh 4.3 lbs. In other words, they fit as snugly under the arm as a file or document case.
Retardation film LCD
They all feature 16-bit CMOS static Intel 80C86 processors and full travel, full-size Qwerty keyboard. Each model has an impressive battery operating life which has been achieved using the CMOS solid state technology along with a custom chip developed with the Santa Clara-based company Maxim which monitors and and controls power consumption, freezing the processor when it is not in use. Consequently, the MC 200 has a continuous operating life on eight AA (penlight) alkaline batteries of 75 hours. Equivalent battery lives for the MC 400 and MC 600 are 60 hours and 30 hours. The MC 200 costs UKP545, has a Graphic User Interface, 128Kb of RAM, and a 640 by 200 Supertwist blue on white liquid crystal display. Priced at UKP845, the MC 400 also has a Graphic User Interface, but has 256Kb of RAM and a 640 by 400 black-on-white Retardation Film liquid crystal display. This Retardation Film has been developed in co-operation with Hitachi and has involved the production of new surface mount semiconductors. It is also incorporated in the 640 by 200 CGA black-on-white display on the MC 600. This is the most expensive model in the range and because of its MS-DOS compatibility it is also the most important for Psion in its bid to set portable computing standards via its use of new technology. It runs the MS-DOS 3.2 operating system, has 768Kb of RAM (with a 1Mb internal RAM disk) and costs UKP1,500. Both the MC 200 and the MC 400 have built-in text processor, personal database, diary, calculator, alarms and terminal emulation and there’s a Dictaphone capability so that you can speak your notes into it, while the MC 600 has a built-in laplink for connecting to a desk-top MS-DOS machine. The MC range is to be marketed through distributors as well as through high street retailers. The range is primarily targeted at the executive and corporate market, but an advertising campaign running up to Christmas wi
ll also target the ABC1 individual – that includes you and me. The boards are being stuffed at Timex Ltd up in Dundee, Psion is doing its own assembly, and the Mobile Computers are planned to be available at the end of October.