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Husky hunter 16 - a new old toy

Adventurer

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Some time has passed since I bought Husky Hunter 16 - MS-DOS 3.3 device with 1MB of RAM, and no other storage options than using part of RAM as a storage. It is a rugged handheld PC, running at 1/4 of CGA resolution. By rugged I mean you could probably use it instead of a hummer, and then continue data entry exactly where you stopped working, it's full metal body and very thick screen cover just feels almost indestructible. As power it uses 4AA batteries, I do not have any power adapters for it. It even has a nice blue baclight, however, you can really notice it if it is really getting dark.

-1813626.sized.jpg


Memory - at first I was getting only 130 KB of storage, however, after launching util.com I reformated storage memory, and I have 360Kbytes free. This utility allows me to use more RAM for storage, I can even leave only 128K for RAM, but for obvious reasons I did not try this option - not sure if eve DOS 3.3 could be loaded from ROM in that case.


I did not used it since I did not have proper laplink cable, and without it there was no way to transfer data to and from another PC. Finally, looking at cables from Sharp PC-3000 I noticed I have a serial laplink cable with DB25 to DB9 connectors, so I thought I might try my luck. In fact, it was even easie than I thought - all I need is to launch hcom on Husky (preinstalled), and connect it with a PC, where it is even possible to use Windows Hcom with graphical interface, very convenient.

I used my trusty Toshiba Libretto 50ct as a host PC, since it is portable and has full size serial port with small docking station attached:

-1813625.sized.jpg


The only problem is that I am getting frequent disconnects from the Husky side, if copying files over 30K - I suspect the battery drain during data transfer could be too high, but not sure.

By the way, do you have tips for any good text editors with word count and word wrap as well? Small size preffered, due to limited storage available. Any games, besides text only adventures?

Thanks!
 

krebizfan

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Small size, word wrap, able to work with small screens are requirements that suggest looking at LapWrite, a minimalist word processor that used to be bundled with LapLink. About 40k. Don't know if it has word wrap.

The next best option is to track down one of the free WordStar analogues with source code and tweak it for the undersized screen.
 

natcha

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The only problem is that I am getting frequent disconnects from the Husky side, if copying files over 30K - I suspect the battery drain during data transfer could be too high, but not sure.

I was never aware of the Husky Handheld. I've had many of the DOS based handhelds over the years and they are a lot of fun to play with.

As to the disconnects, it most likely is the battery voltage dropping on you. I have the same problem when using an HP OB-430 on batteries to transfer data to/from my Sharp PC-1600.

Since you don't have an AC adapter you may want to try a set of Everyready Lithium AA batteries. Just be aware that they give very little notice before they die. But they have a long life and give pretty much full voltage over their life span - until they instantly die.

You didn't mention what speed you are transferring at. You may want to try a lower bit rate - maybe 300 baud.

Enjoy your new toy.

Bill
Smithville, NJ
 
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Adventurer

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I was never aware of the Husky Handheld. I've had many of the DOS based handhelds over the years and they are a lot of fun to play with.

That's not a surprise - there were so many devices produced, some of them are more rare than others, and it is always possibility to discover some "new" machines. This product was not typical consumer device - rugged characterestics were needed for military or other outdoor usage, but not for a typical handheld PC, such as Tandy T models.

Until the end of last year I was pretty sure that Toshiba Libretto was first ultra mobile PC produced. Then I found out about IBM PC 110 (thanks Kyodai :) ). Life is full of surprises after all.

Data transfer speed was set to 38400 baud rate, however, the problem is resolved now. It seems hcom with Windows interface is simply unstable - I have had no errors in using hcom DOS version, even for transfering files over 300K, so I can still use my Ni-Mh batteries.
 

kyodai

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Too bad about the weird screen res - the form factor looked so much like 640x200 CGA to me.... :(

I guess that limits gaming to Zork I to III...

The IBM is still a miracle today in my eyes. Just amazing how they managed to stuff so much tech into that tiny thing and still have space to fit a camcorder battery inside. XD Took around 20 years to have me fascinated again by miniaturization and that was the Fujitsu F-07C phone...errr laptop....errr "phone PC"???
 

Adventurer

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It is a bit funny about DOS software compatibility. It seems that this computer is emulating CGA mode - but, of course can not display program fully. Graphics programs do launch, and somehow it is possible to scroll the screen to see the rest of the application, but it is very inconvenient anyway. Unless there are some extra settings hidden, but I do not know it because I need original user's manual for it, which is also rare, and I have not found any PDF online as well.

As for text editing - I guess I will have to stick with built in edit.exe, which at least has correct word wrap for current screen size. I tried a dozen DOS text editors - while most of them seem to work, there is either a problem with unable to wrap the text for this screen, or inability to use the program, because menus takes more than available screen size. An annoying feature of built in editor is it beeps and does not allows me to type text after the screen is full, so I have to press Enter each time I reach the end of the screen, just like the end of line of a typewriter...

Just a few more photos:

Side view with massive COM port and massive battery compartment door as well :)
-1813630.sized.jpg


Top view - additional com ports for connecting barcode scanners or Oracle Gt battery operated floppy drive:
-1813631.sized.jpg
 
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krebizfan

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Check if any of the software being run has an Atari Portfolio/Poquet PC mode. The Husky Hunter 16 uses a display at the same resolution as the Portfolio.

I think the systems are different enough so Portfolio exclusive applications won't run on the Hunter so no games though. I could be wrong about that.

I have had problems finding sites that showed early PC software from when the install would let one define screen size and thus would work correctly with all non-standard systems. Even software I know was originally written for tiny screens doesn't seem to show the options to handle smaller displays.
 

Adventurer

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I finally decided to crack it open, and to look for potential problems. Sure enough, they were found.

First, after unscrewing 12 torx screws, everything else comes apart.

Back cover with thick rubber for isolation, and speaker with connector:

-1813638.sized.jpg


View of the mainboard in place:
-1813641.sized.jpg


View of the mainboard removed. The caps look good, however -
-1813636.sized.jpg


The backup battery is leaking - sooner or later I will need to replace it:
-1813637.sized.jpg


Photo of the inside - keyboard and serial ports still in place. Not a common sight to see silicagel package for moisture removing inside a PC :)
-1813639.sized.jpg


Well, so far at least it looks there was never water or dust inside. The only problem is backup battery leaking, this was actually the main problem I suspected before even opening then device. I believe it has never been replaced, and it looks the Husky has never been opened as well. Now all I have to do is to put everything back, and if it will still work, I will test Atari Portfolio software on it.
 

Adventurer

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Well, I have a problem. Maybe not me, but Husky for sure does...

First, I copied 4 programs from Atari Portfolio downloads - Pocket Chess, Sokobox, Portfolio text editor and Qedit.

Qedit - works, but again it looks that programs is tricked, thinking it works in CGA mode, so menus are off screen, and text is not wrapped correctly.

Portfolio's edit.exe - similar, besides it displays white on black (I hope it can be changed), however, trying to turn word wrap and different shortcuts, the machine stopped responding. I need to reset it, but I can not. Previously it helped to remove the batteries, put back, and press Ctrl+Alt+Del when turning on - machine rebooted and everything was Ok. Not this time. How I wish it had a reset button. Now all I can do is to remove batteries, and hope, that backup battery will not hold charge for a very long time...

A funny approach from machine manufacturers side - In case of serious lock up, all you can do is to remove the batteries, then wait for backup battery to discharge, loosing all data on the machine. Unless there is some hidden keyboard shortcut I do not know about...
 

Adventurer

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Well, after waiting for several hours, I checked the Husky, and sure enough the backup battery was faithfully doing it's job, keeping all data safe, including fatal crash. I decided not to wait, and opened Husky again. Decided to short-circuit backup battery, since it is not easily removable.

First check - still 3.16 Volts

10 seconds short circuit - data still there
1 minute - the same
3 minutes in a row - I was pretty sure it is enough, but no - I still have that crash on my screen
7 minutes in a row, and finally - the data is gone and Husky lives again!

Decided to take a chance while formating RAMdrive again, and left 416 KB of RAM - now I have over 500K for storage. I really do not need 640K for all the small apps I can launch on this device.

Tried another software, and here are the results:

From HP95LX - so far only H14 text editor and Gnuchess works, others tend to open, but there is blank screen when graphics should be displayed.

With software for Atari Portfolio it is a bit better, however, the ones which do not work tend to make fatal crashes, which makes me nervous, given previoud experience. Micromaze was the worst - giving error divide by 0, horrible speaker sound and 5 minutes or removing/inserting batteried, trying Ctrl+Alt+Del. Finally I did reset this Pc.

Software - Portris not working, Micromaze - fatal crash, pedit - fatal crash (might be my mistake though, pressing everything to get to the menu), Sleek - launches and exits.

The ones which are clearly working:


Tetris - working well, however no sound effects:
-1813646-Edit.jpg


Pcchess - fully working, no problems:
-1813644-Edit.jpg


Sokoban: seems to be working, but for larger level it displays only lower part, even if main action is in upper area. Maybe a keyboard shortcut I do not know?
-1813643-Edit.jpg


For smaller levels everything is Ok:
-1813642.sized.jpg


Text only adventure game for Portfolio - works flawlessly:
-1813647.sized.jpg


Well, I think enough testing and crashing for today :)
 
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You've probably already discovered these but for the sake of completeness, the following list are Husky Hunter 16 built in "Paw" commands:

These all use the Paw Key and
R or C increase or decrease the backlight
X or E increase or decrease the contrast
H is the Screen/Keyboard/Power settings
M is Graphic view of the screen (80x25)
L is the Backlight on/off toggle
S is the Sounder on/off toggle
Up arrow pans the display up (number pad 8 )
Right arrow pans the display right (number pad 6)
Down arrow pans the display down (number pad 2)
Left arrow pans the display left (number pad 4)

Hope this helps.

Tom
 
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Adventurer

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Too bad about the weird screen res - the form factor looked so much like 640x200 CGA to me.... :(

There was also a Husky Hunter 16/80, which should be CGA compatible, however, given the fact these are rare machines I doubt I will have another one soon in my growing collection of weird devices...
 

kyodai

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If you replace the battery you should solder a small switch between the battery and one of the contacts, so you could reset it easier. Chess and Tetris look really nice on this machine, good findings!
 

Adventurer

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This machine does not stops to impress me...

Today I received a new battery, so I decided to replace the old and leaky one. For sure, I backed up all data, opened the machine, desoldered old battery with it's three legs, and soldered new one. Not the same model, but the same voltage, specs and size - should work.

-1813670.sized.jpg


I put everything back, including main batteries, and switched it on, being pretty sure the data is gone. Instead I was greeted with battery info message, which appears each time the main batteries are removed. I typed DIR, and all of my data was there. Somehow machine managed to keep my data safe even without any backup power left. The machine was without any backup battery for several minutes, while I was replacing it. My only guess is that those two large capacitors on the mainboard could supply backup power for some time. That could also explain why shorting out the backup battery before did not cause immediate data loss.

Anyway, my hat is off for those who made this machine!

Now I'm waiting for a Tandy 102 with external floppy drive to arrive - will try to see if the drive works with this machine...
 

Adventurer

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Some news - I have another Husky Hunter, this time - it's the model 16/80, and finally with original instruction manual as well:

-1813999.sized.jpg


They look almost the same outside, however, there is one distinctive feature, that really sets these two machines apart. Husky Hunter 16 has 1/2 cga screen, however, Husky Hunter 16/80 - full CGA, so full support for most DOS applications. This machine has 2MB of memory, which is twice as more than on my Hunter 16.

Some new screenshots testing DOS applications:

Volkov commander:

-1814002.sized.jpg


Arkanoid game:

-1814003.sized.jpg


-1814005.sized.jpg


Happy to get another Husky, since they are becoming rare as hen's teeth nowadays. The only downside for 16/80 is that the text is really a bit small for reading/writing. It does have a mode to emulate 1/2 cga, but then readibility is not great - the text looks a bit "foggy".
 

kyodai

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Wow, the Husky Hunter 16/80 really looks nice. Finally full CGA graphics in it's true glory (With that i mean "monochrome").

I assume this one also lacks PCMCIA or any other storge media?


Still for some CGA games a pretty cool machine. Looks like loads of fun.
 
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