There was a time when designs of small computer devices were flourishing, a Renaissance period where everything was possible. This, in our era monopolized by slab phones with zero distinguishing features, seems inconceivable.
Going back to the mid-1990s, the Palm Computing had ignited the personal device market with the Pilot handheld computer, called a PDA (portable digital assistant) at the time. Other companies, like Radio Shack and Epson, sold slightly bigger models with slim displays and keyboards. The demand was generated by laptops of the time still being heavy.
And so there was, in this earlier time, a desire to marry a functioning keyboard with a small screen, the result being a portable yet useful device. One of these was the Jornada clamshell from Hewlett-Packard, as HP was then known. Perhaps it was named after journal or journey.
A friend in the industry, who had collected these kinds of devices to investigate their Bluetooth capabilities, gave it to me a couple of years ago, and this year I finally found a power supply that worked with it, and powered it up. It works!
The model he gave me is a European Jornada 710 that came out in 2001, and so it has the German keyboard and a user interface staying stubbornly German, even after I switched it to English. The 710 apprently cost about US$995 at the time, and has the following specs:
- 206MHz StrongARM CPU
- 32MB of RAM shared between data and programs; the Jornada 728 ROM chip can expand the RAM to 64MB, according to a fan site
- 640x240 color touchscreen (8:3 aspect ratio) -- half VGA
- Removable battery with nine hours battery life
- Windows CE 3.0
It is crammed with big ports in its small body:
- CompactFlash slot underneath, primarily used for memory cards
- PC card slot for peripherals; mine came with a CompactFlash adapter and a Bluetooth card
- Smartcard slot for employee Ids
- Headphone plug
- What looks like an IR (infrared) port
For input, it has
- Miniature 7”-wide keyboard (German layout on this one) with dedicated function keys and integrated numeric keypad
- Media keys for volume, play/pause, and so on
- Four dedicated keys on the edge of the touch screen
- An integrated stylus, although fingers work on the touch screen, too
- A clear button that doesn’t seem to do anything
Using the 710
The 710 is ruggedly built, as we had come to expect of HP products. I only had to replace the CR2032 battery inside the CompactFlash port, plug in the power supply, and it sprang back to life 22 years later.
Pressing the power button turns the 710’s display on immediately. The Windows CE interface is instantly recognizable to anyone using even Windows 10. The miniature computer, whose CPU is 10x slower than today’s cell phones and laptops, responds instantly when launching apps and entering data, probably because the apps are all in ROM; this allows them to launch much faster than if from a hard drive. I can have lots of apps open at the same time, switching between them through Windows’ taskbar.
By default, the 32MB RAM is divided equally between 16MB for data (your files) and 16MB for programs (apps). The Systemeigenshaften > Speicher setting lets you adjust the split. On my machine, 996KB was used by data, and 3860KB by programs.
At first, touch-typing on the miniature keyboard means lots of mistyping, and after a few moments I figured this isn’t going to work too well. I had better luck typing with one finger at a time so that I could see the key on which the finger would land.
It has a modem app and even Internet Explorer, but I could not figure out how to connect it to the Internet. One reference suggested the 710 model lacked a modem. Likewise, there is a Network app, but again I don’t know how it is supposed to connect -- perhaps through a network card adapter in the PC Card slot?
I inserted a spare 128GB CompactFlash memory card, considered large capacity at the time. CompactFlash was the first standard in memory cards for digital cameras, and its size is considered huge today. The benefit of the CF standard was the the drive electronics were inside the card, so the computer or camera’s interface could be dumb; whereas now, the computing device has to provide the interface to today’s SD cards.
(My first 1GB memory card was a tiny hard drive in CompactFlash form factor from Hitatchi that I used in one of my earlier digital cameras.)
It took me a while to figure out how to read the CompactFlash memory card with the German interface, but finally found Speicherkarte (memory card) folder under the Desktop > Handheld PC Arbeitsplatz folder. From Softpedia, I found a driver for the Bluetooth card, downloaded it on my HP Pro X2 G2 tablet computer, dug out my old card reader, copied the driver files to the CF card, and then inserted it into the 710.
But it did not work, as the 710 complained the install routine was incompatible with Windows CE. The HPCfactor.com Web site seems to have the correct driver, but I wasn't going to pay to get a copy. So, I was unable to get Bluetooth working. I had hoped to see if I could attach an external keyboard and mouse via Bluetooth.
In the end, I think I would have never have bought a 710 or its 720 North American counterpart from HP, as the keyboard is far too limiting. Back in the 2001 era, I was content with my PalmPilot, having achieved high typing speeds with its stylus and unique alphabet.
HP stopped production of Jornada line of PDAs in 2003.