HP 200LX

HP 200LX is a pocket-sized PC XT compatible computer, released in 1994. It has a software package in ROM: MS-DOS 5.0, Lotus 123 spreadsheet and PIm suite with calendar, organizer, plaintext and formatted text editor, cardfile database, notetaking application and some communication programs such as LapLink, Lotus ccMail or terminal. 200LX uses Intel Hornet processor which is a 7.91Mhz System-in-a-chip device compatible with 80186 processor. It is powered by 2 AA cells, rechargeable or not.
In fact 200LX is not entirely compatible with PC, as for example PC speaker is controlled with one channel, without frequency tuning (required DAC was used to control battery), but there are workarounds of it allowing even playing WAV files with 200LX's speaker, yet in poor quality because of buzzer, low sampling and electromagnetic noise inside.
Base 200LX unit has 1MB of RAM. There were 2MB units too, most LX had connector allowing to expand memory with module up to 4MB, later even 64MB extensions were developed. Usually 640kB is used as DOS RAM when the rest is going for RAM disk.
HP 200LX is still popular, there is a mailing list about it and some people still use it. There was Minix port to 2MB unit but it offered less than most Unix and is not maintained.
200LX is very durable, my unit fell once from about 1-1,25 meter to concrete floor - PCMCIA card popped out, but the palmtop suffered only a scratch in battery cover.

Manufacturer Hewlett-Packard

Origin USA
Year of unit 1994
Year of introduction 1994
Type Pocket PC
CPU Intel Hornet (80186), 7.91MHz
RAM 1MB (640K + 352K RAM disk)
Floppy Disk None
Hard Disk None (possible to upgrade with PCMCIA)
Other media PCMCIA card
Graphics and display: CGA-compatible greyscale non-backlit LCD
Sound: PC Speaker (non-standard)
Keyboard and pointing device: Small keyboard with additional functions keys, Fn key, numeric part as the only way to enter numbers.
OS: MS-DOS 5.0, PAL (Palmtop Application Layer) Applications, Lotus 123 (all these in ROM)

Power supply:

1 - +12V DC, 1A
2 - GND


I/O:  - Serial port
 - Infrared (proprietary standard)
Possible upgrades: Memory, changing quartz oscillator to overclock CPU.
Additional peripherals:  Charger, DIY serial plug, PCMCIA CF reader with card.

I'm still using my LX in most situations as PIM, data collector (spreadsheet), notepad, ebook (TXT) reader, mathematical calculator and simple games device, and I usually have it in my pocket or bag. It has two big advantages which are absent in today's devices: One: It works on one charge of batteries for few weeks (I'm using Sanyo Eneloops), Two: It doesn't spy the user as every today's device with communications chip (these chips are never turned off, they may be disabled by software, but they may perform some operations even when disabled).

HP still offers User's Guide for 200LX to download. Get it and see if you plan to use LX.

Contents: First steps Typical problems Useful programs Own codepage Easter eggs Serial port Links

1. First steps

If you've never had a HPLX:  RAM disk is C:. If you put a CF card in PCMCIA, it becomes A: drive, not D: (ROM disk is D:). Its speed is only a little higher than floppy drive, but it's non-volatile so it's good to save RAM disk for example for DOS swap file (see MaxDOS) and keep documents and programs in A:.
Second thing: EXM files are programs which can be run from System Manager after creating their icon.
Third thing: If you put a " after program and number there, this is memory allocated to program, for example when path in system manager is:
Then 120K will be used for this program giving more memory for System Manager programs.

To make locale work, you need to extract locale kit files (hp200lx.kit and hp200lx.fon) from ROM to root of RAM drive files using supplied software and use KEYBEZ to set keyboard and locale (for example keybez pl - Polish keyboard and character set). Useful hack to save RAM disk space needed for these files is described here.

Don't forget to look at hacks page which has some hacks for HP LX.

I recommend to copy AUTOEXEC to CF card and get rid of unneeded TSRs such as LapLink, CIC TSR or card assigning, they consume memory which may be used for better purposes.

One more thing. I think you know that there is a RAM support battery near IR port, it's a normal CR 2032. It rarely requires replacing if AA main batteries are running.

2. Typical problems

Hinges. If your LX hasn't broken hinges, you should prevent breaking by loosening right one. I know it's  not looking good, but if you don't want to break hinges you must make it loose, optimally to let the lid open by itself VERY slowly when left opened at ~135 degree angle.
Right hinge contains most of tightening  mechanics. Open palmtop 90 degrees and remove right hinge cap, it should come off only using fingernails. Now use small amounts of lubricant to loose the hinge. SMALL AMOUNTS - less than a drop, it's good to use piece of paper rolled to a small tube to apply it. Every application open and close palmtop a few times to check. It's better when it's too loose than too tight, but if you want to tighten it, apply alcohol instead of lubrication.
Never take right hinge apart. I have no idea how to put the spring-cone assembly back without telekinesis.

If you charge batteries, your LCD will temporarily loose contrast. It's normal. LCD's contrast depends on temperature, LX has temperature sensor to compensate it. When you charge LX, temperature inside rises and sensor tries to compensate it, but LCD is still in room temperature. Just wait after charging to cool it down and it'll be back.

Icon from another directory - if you add icon, you have quite limited icon range, as it looks in program's directory and in ROM. This program deals with the problem. Readme says about MoreEXM launcher, but for deafult one JUST CREATE ICON for selicn.exm, make its shortcut key and use it when setting another icon. Launcher should pop out and you can select an icon.

3. Useful software

Here I'll describe what software I'm using. Everything works from 64MB ComactFlash card, and I never use more than 40MB on it.
Shareware/freeware programs which could be found on former SUPER library will be placed here for archival purposes. SUPER library may come back, but I don't know when.
These are programs other than these found in LX's ROM, a very good PIM, calendar, task list, contact list, database, Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet and some other programs.

True DOS: MaxDOS
This program will make DOS session with maximum available memory, but without switching between PAL programs. Needed for some games or big programs. You need to modify your AUTOEXEC.BAT properly: Add this before running of System Manager (200 or 100):
A:\PATHTO\MAXDOS.EXE - self-explainatory
-L - Load driver
-E25 - use 25 pages of swap file
-WC: - swap file will be used in C drive (RAM disk), taking ~235kB. Better place it in RAM drive or it'll start really slow.
In Path of entry instead of:
Let's create shortcut for pure-MaxDOS session. Path is:
To use it as DOS shortcut, you should give it a title "MAX-&DOS" and place it in front of normal DOS icon to be the first icon of D shortcut.

DOS Programs Manager: HDM Launcher
Must-have if you use many programs, as LX's program manager is somewhat limited to 32 icons. Just place an icon to HDM Launcher (using MaxDOS as stated above) and you have more space for DOS programs.

Key assignments: ExKey
You want to assign function keys to what you want or swap some of them? Use this small program! You must run it from Autoexec.bat before System Manager, the way as follows:
Some samples of EXKEY.INI lines:
{Filer}={ctrl+123} - if you don't use Filer, this command uses Filer key to swap to running DOS program (DOS session button is configured as Ctrl-123). Useful.
{cc:Mail}={ctrl+Memo} - if you don't use Quicken, after using this combo Quicken key will be used to run NoteTaker.
Genearlly {Pressed Key}={Effect}

Task manager: Tasklist
Very useful, especially if you want to save memory: Here's a trick: After you run System Manager, run this task manager and CLOSE (F5) Filer process. This will free the memory. Filer is always loading at boot-up and if you don't use RAM disk, you can remove it from memory. If you use RAM disk only, Filer in RAM is needed if you run out of RAMdisk and need to move/delete some files.

E-book reader: VertRead (shareware version) (Polish fonts) [Author's page]
This program can display ebooks in vertical form, so you can hold palmtop as a book while reading. It supports TXT format, all e-books should be converted to it. Well, this is good when you read in a bus.

Maths: Derive 4
This is a full-featured algebra package for DOS, something like today's Maxima. It allows me to quickly solve differential and integral problems. Unfortunately it's commercial and open alternatives require thousand times faster CPU and bigger RAM.

Remote: Remote Commander (shareware version)
This small app uses LX's infrared adapter to work as universal remote controller. Its operating range is not big, but it works nicely to control TV and DVD with one device. You have to teach it signals from existing remote then it replays them.

Battery: ABC/LX (shareware version) [Manufacturer's site]
This program allows to display battery voltage in screen corner (it works as battery charge indicator) and controls charging process by displaying voltage graph. It works with cells up to 1600mAh, so to charge for example 2000mAh (about 19 hours with LX fast charging) battery, you have to charge for 16 hours and then for 3.
Remember to add ABCTSR.COM to Autoexec.bat before System Manager.

Periodic table of elements:  simple, advanced, more advanced
I have all 3 in my unit, but I'm using simple one, as it takes less memory I can use for spreadsheet, which I'm using together with table. TABLE2 is normal, TABLE3 has Polish element names.

Alarm Clock: HP Alarm clock
Just a simple alarm clock! A bit different sound as in Appointment Manager, easier to hear.

Measuring ruler: Scale/LX
Very useful. Just run it and you'll have a ruler on your screen to measure things. You can place it "negatively" to start with beginning of palmtop's lid, not the screen.

Drawing: PALDraw
Maybe you think that it's stupid to draw with cursor keys. Well, if you get used to this program, you can do simple technical drawings without problems. You can freely register program on developer's site.

Font editor: PFE
You want to localize fonts for Vertical Reader or WWW/LX browser? This application allows you to do it.

Icon editor and browser: ICNEDIT

At the end... My Cthulhu wallpaper :). If you download it and you have inverted colors - LX displays it negative, it's normal.


Games which will work:
 - SimCity 1 (commercial) - can be driven with cursor keys. Well, it's good for boring lectures :D
 - Nice Tetris clone - works in text mode!
 - Castle (simple ASCII pseudo Rogue) If you stand its instabilities and glitches.
 - Most CGA XT games will work.

4. My own codepage

It's possible to make your own codepage with keyboard definition and font by manipulating values in locale kit files, I don't remember exactly how, but these were nicely documented/commented text files. I've modified Polish codepage to fit some mathematical symbols needed in engineering DOS programs, so I could enter them in documents by pressing key combinations such as Fn-J (gave integral symbol in my programs).

Easter eggs

Easter eggs are hidden demonstration functions in a program, usually introduced by development team without knowledge of their company. It's similar to scratching "xxxx WAS HERE" on a wall in some place. LX has few of these and they'll be described here:

Lair of Squid game gallery:
Run the game, do not move just type "gallery". You'll be placed in a gallery of development team.



Self-test Easter Egg 1:
Exit all programs, turn palmtop off, pres Esc-ON to go to test menu. Go to Display, press Enter 14 times to get to the limerick:

"There once was thisthing from HP
That fit in your pocket, you see.
    A caveman would stare
    And pull out his hair
And wonder. "What could this thing be?" "


Self-test Easter Egg 2:
Go to self-test as in previous trick, then one cursor down to Display option, then Ctrl-Enter. Now hold ALT and press Enter 13 times to see another poem:

"Felis Concolor

A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum
When I encountered a group in search of a quorum.
They came from a city, The Burg On The Wire.
If I tried to describe it you'd call me a liar.
They wanted to charge me a really quite large fee
For the dubious pleasure of sharing their treasure.
"I'm a very Good man (Mark my words if you can),"
"But, the Dickens, I say, I simply won't pay!"
And with poetry, then, I proceeded to bore 'em
Then proceeded myself on my way to the Forum."


Self-test easter egg 3:
Go to the self-test mdoe as previously, Cursor down to Display, Ctrl-Enter, Now holding Shift press Enter 13 times.

"Nine lives has a Cat, and each Cat a name,
All of them different, none are the same.
Jaguar was first, it made quite a roar.
Cougar was next, oh, how it did soar.
Felix is third, my heart it does quicken,
Who knows what comes next, the clock is a tickin'."

A little explanation: Jaguar is a codename of HP 95LX, Cougar is 100LX, Felix is 200LX.



Hexcalc - hidden application
Make an icon with path: D:\BIN\HEXCALC.EXM.

More applications
Press "&...", applications menu will appear. Hold ALT and press F9 4 times, then F10 once. Until ALT is presset, you'll get technical info about System Manager's icons.

Serial port pinout:

 [1 2 3 4 5 ] [12V DC jack]
 [6 7 8 9 10]

1 - DcD
2 - Rx
3 - Tx
4 - DTR
5 - GND
6 - DSR
7 - RtS
8 - CtS
9 - RI
10 - Shield ground

Notice that by soldering simple PCB you can make HP LX - DB9 converter:


5. Links:

http://www.hermocom.com/en/knowledgebase/hplx - Everything you wanted to know about HP LX.
http://www.upl.cs.wisc.edu/~orn/tech/200lx.html - Memory upgrade
http://web.archive.org/web/19970707031653/http://coyote.accessnv.com/davidsa/hp/inside.htm - Detailed disassembly. I recommend using disassembly instructions not to break your LX.
http://www.palmtoppaper.com/ - Palmtop Paper - Articles about palmtops, mostly LX.
http://www.hplx.net/ - more articles, how to disassemble, etc.
http://www.hplx.net/hardware.pictures.html - Good resolution photos of 200LX internals
http://web.archive.org/web/20030423184106/http://minix.technoir.org/ - Archived copy of DOWNLOADABLE Minix for LX images
http://palmtop.cosi.com.pl/ - Blog about old palmtop computers