Japanse portable has
real staying power

  A TRULY PORTABLE A4-sized computer weighing less than 4lb, with a full-size keyboard, built-in display and printer, is being launched in the UK by, the Japanese company Epson. Priced at under 1500, the pro- duct is aimed squarely at the business user. It is expected to be available in November, under the name HX-20.
  There are no similar machines currently on the market, the closest being the 24lb. mains- powered Osborne 1, or the rather different New- Brain which in its battery- powered version will give little more than four hours con- tinuous operation. The Epson can run independently of mains power for 50 hours using its built-in NiCad cells, re- quiring about eight hours to then recharge fully. The whole package is very compact, while the keyboard is of good quality and feel and has the conventional QWER- TY typewriter-style layout and key spacing. As well as extra programmable function keys and the usual control keys, a numeric keypad has been pro- vided in a novel and space- saving way. The keys U, I, 0, J, K, L, and M, which lie directly under the 7, 8 and 9 keys, operate as number keys 0 to 6 when a special Number Shift key is locked down. A Graphic Shift key provides a further 32 graphic.characters. The screen, or more accur- ately the liquid-crystal display, is immediately above the keyboard and shows four lines of 20 characters using a five- by-seven dot font, or 120-by- 32 dot graphics. It can scroll sideways to show lines up to 255 characters long. The

LCDs used are the very latest from Epson, which is a major LCD supplier to the world market. A knurled wheel at the side of the case allows the viewing angle to be adjusted so that the LCDs are aimed straight at you. The built-in inked-ribbon matrix printer prints graphics and upper- or lower-case characters with de- scenders on to plain paper rolls. The mechanism is the same as that supplied by Epson for the inexpensive Amber 2400 printer.
  The space to the right of the screen can be occupied by either a microcassette drive for program or data storage or a plug-in ROM cartridge. The system comes with 32K of ROM, containing Microsoft Basic and the operating sys- tem, and 16K of RAM. An optional expansion unit which clips on the side of the case can hold an extra 16K of RAM and 32K of ROM. The problem Epson had to

solve to get a truly portable machine, independent of mains power, was how to keep the power consumption down. CMOS circuitry is slow, so there is a trade-off between power consumption and pro- cessing speed. The HX-20 uses the 6301 processor chip from Hitachi, which is an eight-bit CMOS chip resembling the Motorola 6800, running at a clock rate of 0.6MHz. Epson has attempted to design its way around the speed problem by using two of them, one to look after all I/0 and house- keeping tasks, the other for language processing. The system has a built-in speaker, four-octave sound generator, and a date and time clock. Nevertheless external interfaces assume special im- portance on any portable machine, and the HX-20 has one RS-232C, interface in- tended for use with a larger printer or Modem. A match- ing acoustic-coupling Modem will. be available along with an official Epson briefcase, so that the micro, together with its Modem and expansion unit, can all be conveniently lugged around the country�s tele- phone boxes.
  A second serial interface can be linked to floppy discs, a colour TV, or other computers in a local area network. Flop- pies for the HX-20 should be available at the time of launch.
  A cassette interface is pro- vided so that an ordinary domestic cassette recorder can be used for program or data storage, instead of the option- al microcassette drive.
About a dozen applications will be available at the time of launch, including a VisiCalc look-a-like, word processor, mailing list, card-index type Database, Diary, and simple sales and purchase ledgers.
  Epson (V.K.), Dorland House; 388 High Road, Wem- bley, Middlesex HA9 6UH. Telephone: 01-900 0466.

From: PRACTICAL COMPUTING October 1982 page 40