Hewlett Packard 95LX, 100LX and 200LX

Vital Statistics

Introduced 23rd April 1991 (95LX), May 1993 (1Mb 100LX), Feb 1994 (2Mb 100LX), 1 Aug 1995 (200LX), 3rd Feb 1997 (4Mb 200LX)
Retired: 1st November 1999
Price: $699 (95LX), $549 (1MB 100LX), $749 (2MB 100LX), $599 (4Mb 200LX), $449 (2Mb 1000CX)
Quantity Sold: 400,000 approx.
Countries: Worldwide
Dimensions: 16cm x 8.5cm x 2.5cm
Weight: 312g (11 oz) with batteries
Ports: PC Card slot, RS-232 serial port, Infra-red "eye" for serial comms
Usable RAM: 95LX: 512K or 1Mb, 100LX: 1Mb or 2Mb, 200LX: 2Mb or 4Mb (expandable to 32Mb!)
Built-in ROM: 1 Mb
Colours: 4 Greyscales (100LX and 200LX only)
Battery Life : Up to 2 months (single pair of AA)
Graphics: 95LX: MDA (240x128 graphics, or 40x16 text mode)
100LX/200LX: CGA (640x200 graphics, or 80x25 text mode)
Sound: Piezo beeper
CPU: NEC V20 @ 5.37 MHz(95LX), Intel 80186 @ 7.91 MHz (100LX+)
Built-in O/S : MS-DOS 3.22 (95LX), MS-DOS 5.0 (100LX/200LX)
Codename: Project Jaguar (95LX), Cougar (100LX), Felix (200LX)

more ...


What's it like today?


Fun Factor:
3/5
Rarity
: Fairly common
Typical value: £?
Boxed & Mint: £?

 

In early 1990, HP engineers designed and developed codename "Jaguar" - a new handheld PC/XT compatible computer. Within just 15 months, Hewlett Packard launched their new device as the 95LX, one of the first MS-DOS-based palmtop PC compatibles. Two years ealier, Atari had already released the Portfolio (aka Folio), and a year earlier DIP had released their "Poquet PC", but neither of these were truly MS-DOS compatible. The key strength of HP's little machine was its almost 100%-compatibility with MS-DOS, allowing them to run tens of thousands of applications and utilities that others just couldn't. It came with the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet built-in (very popular at the time) and a very good collection of PIM applications. The only real restrictions was the graphical capability, with the 95LX running a lower resolution screen, both in graphics and text modes (40x25), and supporting only MDA (Monochrome Display Adapter). Later versions improved on this: the 100LX and 200LX both came with full CGA support, complete with a full resolution screen (80x25 text, and 640x200 graphics), making them even more able to run "normal" MS-DOS software.

95LX

The 95LX, launched in April 1991, has MS-DOS 3.22 built into a ROM chip, along with a collection of PIM (Personal Information Management) applications. At its core it runs an NEC V20 CPU, which is similar and pin-compatible with the Intel 8088 used in the first IBM PC and IBM PC/XT computers.

It was initially available with 512K of RAM. If you purchased the 512K you couldn't upgrade later to 1MB as there was no internal memory expansion capabilities, although you could purchase a PCMCIA v1.0 card to increase RAM and/or Storage space. In January 1992, larger capacity RAM cards greater than 1MB became available with disk compression capabilities so more data and DOS software could be stored. The 1MB RAM version of the 95LX became available in April 1992. No other changes were made to this version over the 512K version. In December 1992, PCMCIA "SunDisk" expansion cards of 10MB were released to the market, making 95LX users even more able to store large databases and other storage-intensive programs.

 

100LX

The 100LX (codename "Cougar") was a worthy successor to the 95LX and was released in May 1993. HP moved manufacturing of the 100LX from the US to Singapore early in the prototyping phase, with complete and usable prototypes being produced as early as January 1992. It boosted the CPU processing capability with a new Intel-developed SoC (System-on-a-Chip) called "Hornet", which was based around their Intel 80186 CPU, and running at 7.91 MHz. This new chip reportedly improves performance by 66% over the 95LX, whilst reducing the battery consumption by 66%. The 16-bit processor allowed the 100LX to run DOS software designed for the 80286 microprocessor as long as the software didn't make use of protected mode memory.

The graphics capabilities were also a big improvement over the 95LX, with 100% CGA (Colour Graphics Adapter) compatibility. The 4-colour palette was converted into grey scales for the 100LX screen, which now supported the more IBM PC-standard 80x25 text mode and 620x200 graphics mode. The built-in applications functioned in a standard 64-column-by-18-row mode. At this size, the characters look smoother than the 95LX characters due to their 8x12 pixel bit-mapping. They are also half the size of the 95LX characters. Fortunately the display mode MEMO and text-based DOS applications easily toggle to a 40x16 with the Zoom key.

The applications, including the main System Manager shell were dramatically improved, and became fully graphical in nature. A special bit-blitter chip accelerated the graphics display to bring the apparent speed of the new machine to match that of the 95LX's text mode.

Applications-wise, the database became customisable and this app now powered the Phone Book, Appointment Book, NoteTaker and World Time. The main operating system was upgraded to MS-DOS 5.0, the last ROMable version of DOS, and the built-in DataComm program was enhanced with the addition of Lotus cc:Mail Remote.

All these additional programs meant the ROM chip grew to 2MB - double that of the 95LX.

The first 100LXs came with 1MB RAM, but a 2MB version would be made available for purchase from February 1994. A limited-time upgrade program for existing owners of 1MB 100LXs began on 1 February 1994 and ended on 1 July 1994. The upgrade price was $297 plus sales tax. The upgrade would typically take 1-2 weeks to upgrade and be shipped back to the owner, and the existing warranty would be honoured. Any devices that were out of warranty would receive a new 90-day warranty. This upgrade involved a complete replacement of the system board, including the latest ROM version.

On the hardware front, the PCMCIA slot was upgraded to support v2.0 cards (maximum 5V @ 150mA) meaning larger storage capacities were supported up to 64MB plus fax/modem cards, the serial port was made more standards-compliant than that in the 95LX with full 10-pin signalling, and the SiR-compatible infra-red now got a transfer speed boost to 115 Kbaud. The 100LX now also catered for rechargeable batteries (with charging capability while on AC power). Furthermore, the keyboard keycaps are now black letters on light grey tops. This change significantly improves readability of the keys. However, the keyboard now more closely resembles a standard PC-compatible AT keyboard. The !@#$%^&() keys are now in the shifted positions above the fifth row of keys. In fact, any key that can be generated on a standard PC- compatible AT keyboard can be generated on the 100LX. The Shift keys are in the same locations, but the CHAR key is gone. In its place is a more traditional function key (Fn), which is used to access dual key functions such as HOME, END, INS, etc (the 95LX used the SHIFT key for this). Finally, the Fn key is used to access some new shortcut keys for the CUT, COPY, and PASTE functions as well as new current DATE and TIME insert keys.

A special version of the 100LX was also released called the 1000CX, which was effectively a 100LX with 1MB of RAM, but without the built-in PIM software. Designed for vertical market developers with DOS applications ideally suited to palmtops, it was sold at a different price point in quantities no less than 50. The keyboard was modified slightly, with the ZOOM, PRTSCR and Fn features left intact on the bottom row. Missing, however, are the Date, Time, Cut, Copy and Paste functions. The Menu key is there, but blank. The HP 100LX blue application keys have also been replaced by white keys with the shifted values, !@#$^&(). When booting the 1000CX, the user is presented with the C:> prompt in MS-DOS 5.0.

 

200LX

On 1st August 1995, the 200LX arrived (codename "Felix"), and came in either 1MB, 2MB or a little later, 4MB versions. On the same date, the 1MB and 2MB 100LX models were discontinued.

Hardware-wise, the casing colour was changed from the 95LX/100LX's black to a subtle green/grey. It got a slightly better keyboard with improved tactile click, and a few minor cosmetic changes (the blue cc:Mail blue key was replaced with a Quicken key), but the key difference was in the software. Bundled in ROM with the 200LX was Intuit's Pocket Quicken financial software, Laplink Remote for file transfers, and some further feature enhancements to the other PIM software.

The 200LX came with MS-DOS 5.0, the same as that found on the 100LX, and came with the same array of PIM software, with the exception of Redirector (replaced by Laplink Remote). All PIM applications now support global password protection, meaning individual files can be password-protected like the 100LX, but also the entire palmtop, just like the 95LX. Improved terminal emulation software includes cc:Mail, VT-100 terminal emulation, Kermit, and X-Y-Z modem support, letting customers connect to all major e-mail networks. The Appointment book now allows users to print out monthly calendars and a daily greeting feature brings up a screen the first time the 200LX is switched on each day, showing To Do items, appointments and events that day.

 

 

A quick comparison of the three models:-

 
95LX
100LX
200LX
CPU NEC V20 @5.39 MHz Intel 80186-compatible "Hornet" SoC @ 7.91 MHz (can overclock to 15.8 MHz) Intel 80186-compatible "Hornet" SoC @ 7.91 MHz (can overclock to 15.8 MHz)
RAM 512K or 1MB 1MB or 2MB 1MB, 2MB or 4MB
ROM 1MB 2MB 3MB
PCMCIA Card Slot Version 1.0 Type II Version 2.0 Type II (5V @ 150mA max.) Version 2.0 Type II (5V @ 150mA max.)
Display Support MDA with special 'LX' graphics mode CGA CGA
Max. Resolution (Text) 40 x 16 80 x 25 80 x 25
Max. Resolution (Graphics) 240 x 128 640 x 200 640 x 200
Serial Port 3-wire serial interface, 2400 baud Infra-red interface Full serial interface, 115K baud Infra-red interface Full serial interface, 115K baud Infra-red interface
Operating System MS-DOS v3.22 MS-DOS 5.0 MS-DOS v5.0
Bundled HP Software PIM Applications (Appointment Book, Phone Book, HP Financial Calculator, Data Communications, Memo Editor, Filer) PIM Applications (Enhanced Electronic Agenda, General Database, HP Financial Calculator, Data Communications, Text Editor, Note Taker, World Time, Filer) PIM Applications (Enhanced Electronic Agenda, General Database, HP Financial Calculator, Data Communications, Text Editor, Note Taker, World Time and Stopwatch, Filer)
3rd-Party Software Lotus 123 R2.2 Lotus 123 R2.4
Lotus cc:Mail Remote
Lotus 123 R2.4
Lotus cc:Mail Remote
Pocket Quicken

 

Follow-on HP palmtops including the OmniGo 100 (see below) continued to enhance the same theme as the originals until the launch of Windows CE in 1996, when HP launched the 300LX. For some users, 'upgrading' to Windows CE meant going backwards since it lost DOS compatibility, running ARM- or MIPS-compatible CPUs instead of the Intels.

This page was last updated on 13th January 2015.