Rants, Raves, Reviews

Shiny new but old

By Gary R, in , posted: 5-Apr-2007 08:37

I am collector of old PDA's and when I see something obscure for sale I just can not help myself, I have to have it. My latest acquisition is a Sony Magic Link PIC-1000 circa 1994. It cost me $70
The Magic Link was released before the Pilot 1000 and ran an OS called Magic Cap which was developed by one of those 'crash and burn' start ups called General Magic. Sony were one manufacturer and Motorola had another product using the same OS called the Envoy.

The specs were stunning for the era:
-- Built-in serial and 38.4-Kbps infrared ports (non-IRDA)
-- 2400-bps data/9600-bps fax send modem
-- RJ-11 jack, phone/microphone/speaker
-- PCMCIA Slot
-- Weighs 550 grams
-- Up to 10 hours of battery life
-- Six AAA batteries or a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack
-- Touch Screen (No handwriting recognition)
-- 16-MHz Motorola ``Dragon'' 68349 CPU
-- 4-MB ROM holds built-in PenCell spreadsheet, Pocket Quicken,
   spelling checker, PersonaLink, and AOL access software
-- 1 MB of RAM workspace (expandable to 2 MB with optional PCMCIA SRAM card)
-- 480 x 320 LCD (4 grey scale, reflective FSTN (no backlight))

The OS is fascinating. General Magic developed an OS which is multi tasking and object orientated. The GUI looks like a an office:
Originally designed as a consumer PDA the US$900 price tag put it out of reach of most consumers and it didn't quite fit into the business market. The screen is absolutely horrible and doesn't look as nice as the picture above. Without a back light it is quite a strain to read it. My purchase came with quite a few accessories and all the original manuals. According to the accessories guide a 1MB SRAM PC Card had an RRP of USD219.95! My unit came with a 2MB card, I would hate to think what that would have cost. Luckily I also have the Lithium Battery which has a life of up to 10 hours. Otherwise the unit requires 6 x AAA's.

After playing with it for a couple of days I must say that I am quite impressed with what General Magic managed to achieve with a such a small amount of memory and only a 16-MHz CPU. I think PDA designers these days could learn a thing or two from these older devices. A faster CPU and more memory do not necessarily equate to a better user experience.

General Magic ceased operations in 2002. It is interesting to note that Microsoft invested in General Magic in 1998. There is a whole Wiki page dedicated to General Magic


Other related posts:
Update to the ebay vanishing Enigma auction
An Original Enigma Machine for sale on ebay
Atari 2600 Tear Down

Permalink to Shiny new but old | Add a comment (10 comments) | Main Index

Comment by chiefie, on 5-Apr-2007 09:16

do you have any Apple Newton MessagePad? I had MP120 and it was great... Would have got MP130 too but they're harder to come by in Chch back years ago...

Author's note by Jama, on 5-Apr-2007 09:32

I have a Messagepad 100 and 120. I am after a 2000 or 2100. I have been offered an eMate 300 but it is a bit expensive for me although it is in great condition.

Comment by chiefie, on 5-Apr-2007 09:56

I was very close to be Mac-ified years ago... not sure whether that's a "phew lucky" or "awww damn" due to the price tag on Apple's stuff.

I reckon MP120 has the best handwriting recognition than even today's Transcriber on WM.

Comment by stevonz, on 5-Apr-2007 10:28

I have a Sony Clie SJ22 with some extras if you want it... let me know.

Extras include
-external backup power supply (uses AA batteries)
-MS camera module
-protective case
-some games

All genuine SONY products and in excellant condition. I went PPC/ wi-fi with a HP4150 (which got stolen) then Dell Axim X51, which I still have.

Author's note by Jama, on 5-Apr-2007 10:39

How muchy Stevonz? Limited budget these days - 1 kid and mortgage.

Comment by chiefie, on 5-Apr-2007 10:49

trade the kid for clie. hehe save you the uni-fees

Comment by inane, on 5-Apr-2007 12:02

just on your comment about what they achieved with a 16mhz cpu, i'm afraid i'm unimpressed.

the engine that was used for Duke Nukem 3D and Doom2 GBA editions were far superior - and was run on a 16 mhz processor with similar specs.

in fact they were capable of doing real-time reflective rendering of water (using a number of different methods of choice, including bump mapping or raytracing) at a better frame rate than the geforce 3 ultra (which at the time was the be-all and end all of extreme graphics performance)

so while what they did was good, its still unimpressive in my own mind as to what can be done with a 16mhz processor :)

Comment by barf, on 5-Apr-2007 12:32

is that a PCMCIA type 1 or type 2 slot?
I have a a 16MB PCMCIA type 1 RAM card here if you want it.

Comment by HamishMacEwan, on 5-Apr-2007 12:46

Spooky, I've just returned from Alan Blackwell's seminar about:

Human-Computer Interaction and the Origins of the User

where this device was used as an illustration of the methaphor model of HCI and its failures...

And found your post.

Author's note by Jama, on 5-Apr-2007 16:40

Hamish that is spooky. Do you have some more stuff to share with us about the seminar you attended? Were any examples of good HIC design for a PDA given?

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