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Handheld Computer / Digital Diary / Organiser with PC connectivity

urbancamo

Member
Joined
Dec 15, 2009
Messages
28
Location
Windermere, UK
I'd like to use a vintage computing device for logging amateur radio activations. The requirements would suit a vintage handheld computer from the 1980s or a Digital Diary/Organiser.
  1. Standard Qwerty layout keyboard with numbers above.
  2. Preferably not clamshell but one piece (if clamshell it would be important that the keyboard doesn't extend to the upper part for usability).
  3. Connectivity with a PC. the simpler the better
The idea is it is lightweight, not power hungry but with a real keyboard. I operate amateur radio from fell and mountain tops. Using a mobile phone with external keyboard just won't work out in the field practically, it needs to be one unit. One option is the Psion 3A, but something even simpler would be fine. I don't really want a phone with a keyboard, as I have a phone which is fine now. I would rather this device had one purpose. Transferring the ASCII log file to a PC should be straightforward. I appreciate that there are programs for example for the Casio FX-720p with FT-3 tape interface that could record a file on a PC as a sound file and convert that, but a serial interface would be even better. I have a Panasonic Toughbook CF-31 with a 'proper' RS232 connector.

Log entries are like this:

20m ssb
1415 ea2if/p 14.285 59 57 sota ea2/ad-123

for example, normally a log file wouldn't be more than say 40-60 of these lines maximum, and I only need to store one log at a time.

Any ideas? This would seem like the best place to ask. If had a search around the internet but not really found anything obvious. Happy to code up a simple logging program in BASIC if required.

Thanks. Mark.
 

thenzero

Experienced Member
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Messages
425
Location
Perry, GA
FYI the keyboard on the 5mx is better if you have bigger fingers like me. I might also suggest that instead of direct transfer you consider that a lot of devices have a cf slot. Cf cards are a lot cheaper than the special and increasingly rare rs232 cables for a lot of these devices.
 

g4ugm

Veteran Member
Joined
Feb 22, 2011
Messages
2,746
Location
NorthWest England (East Pondia)
I think the issue that may give you problems is PC connectivity and you may end up needing a virtual XP or older machine to connect to, although I must admit its a long time since I used any Psion Link software/
 

thenzero

Experienced Member
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Messages
425
Location
Perry, GA
There is a working Linux utility for connecting to the 3A. If you go for a 5 or 5mx you can just use the cf card to transfer data though.
 

commodorejohn

Veteran Member
Joined
Jul 6, 2010
Messages
3,162
Location
California, USA
Depending on how stuck you are on "handheld" vs. "ultra-light portable," the AlphaSmart Dana is a PalmOS device, so it should work with jPilot, has USB connectivity built-in (no need for a dock,) and has a real "real keyboard." Even has a user-accessible rechargeable battery, which definitely isn't something you see on modern portable devices :lol:
 

compaqportableplus

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2011
Messages
859
Location
USA
Probably not what you want, but if you’re willing to learn, Palm OS devices with “Graffiti” handwriting recognition work great, but you’ve gotta learn the system (it’s super easy).

And, the Apple Newton MessagePads running OS 2.0 and up have really good print and cursive handwriting recognition.
 

thenzero

Experienced Member
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Messages
425
Location
Perry, GA
Just to add to that, the psion 5mx has good pen input and there are some handwriting recognition apps out there although I don’t think they were ever very widely used.
 

compaqportableplus

Veteran Member
Joined
Apr 21, 2011
Messages
859
Location
USA
I wasn’t aware that there was handwriting recognition software for Psions, pretty cool. Would like to play with one of the newer Psion devices, but I have yet to get one.

I do have a Psion II from around 1986 that I found at Goodwill. It’s a really interesting device. I wish I had the serial cable for it so I could hook it up to one of my old IBM PCs or XTs.
 

thenzero

Experienced Member
Joined
Feb 19, 2021
Messages
425
Location
Perry, GA
I have a 3a and a 5 and 5mx. I’ve never tried handwriting recognition myself but I’ve seen the apps here and there. The pen on the 5mx is fun for doodling and jotting quick notes but what really stands out to me is the keyboard which feels surprisingly standard for such a small device.
 

larryw

Member
Joined
Mar 7, 2022
Messages
17
What did you end up using? I wanted to do something similar with my old NEC PC8201A which I've literally taken around the world on business trips but then I found the Alphasmarts on Ebay for around $25.00. The Alphasmart DANA runs Palm OS and has several logger programs but the Alphasmart NEO is my goto device as its basically just text. You could toss these like a frisbee (not recommemded) but these WERE aimed at K-12 schools. They look like a keyboard when connected to a computer so data transfer to PC or even phone is easy. Definately useful for POTA or field day.
 
Joined
Dec 28, 2021
Messages
11
Location
Portland, Oregon United States
What did you end up using? I wanted to do something similar with my old NEC PC8201A which I've literally taken around the world on business trips but then I found the Alphasmarts on Ebay for around $25.00. The Alphasmart DANA runs Palm OS and has several logger programs but the Alphasmart NEO is my goto device as its basically just text. You could toss these like a frisbee (not recommemded) but these WERE aimed at K-12 schools. They look like a keyboard when connected to a computer so data transfer to PC or even phone is easy. Definately useful for POTA or field day.
I'm late to this thread, but was going to suggest the original poster check out a TRS-80 Model 100 or the NEC 8201A. The keyboard is really quite good and, like you, I've found it travels well and can be remarkably flexible. There are recently-created add-ons that would make it pretty easy to get data from the Model 100 / 8201A (e.g., the Backpack gives you access to storage on a microSD card).
 

twolazy

Veteran Member
Joined
May 22, 2011
Messages
1,359
Location
Chicago, IL
Personally I have just used an EEE pc, like one the orginal 700 series. Small enough, low power, and even works with win95/3.11/dos. I would use one as my portable dos machine, but no way to get sound working in dos on one.
 
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