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  • [jazzy intro commences]

  • Greetings and welcome to another LGR thing about IBM personal computing!

  • This time with a pleasant sprinkling of Palm OS thrown into the mix

  • cuz today were looking at the IBM WorkPad PC Companion.

  • The two megabyte model to be specific, that being the WorkPad 20X,

  • costing $399 when it launched in June of 1998.

  • This delightful little handheld was IBM’s second entry into the realm of Palm personal

  • digital assistants, or PDAs.

  • A series of products IBM dubbedWorkPads

  • keeping in line with their ThinkPad series of laptops.

  • Even if, confusingly, IBM made another WorkPad that looked more like a ThinkPad, the model Z50.

  • That WorkPad was an odd Windows CE machine that’s a topic for another day, whereas

  • this WorkPad is more along the lines of a Palm PDA.

  • And by that I mean that’s exactly what it is: a rebadged 3Com Palm III, built for IBM

  • by 3Com just a couple months after the Palm III came out.

  • Same specs, same case, same software, same accessories.

  • The biggest difference is that IBM’s WorkPad had a black plastic

  • shell instead of the Palm’s charcoal-colored one.

  • And of course, it’s an IBM, which means...

  • things.

  • Professional things, respectable business person things!

  • Things that mattered to a company’s existing relationship with Big Blue, meaning that businessy

  • business folks could bring about business with IBM PDAs matching their IBM laptops and

  • IBM desktops and IBM servers and IBM IBM mlenuneh!

  • Yeah, from IBM’s perspective, that was the strategy: forge an agreement with 3Com subsidiary

  • Palm while keeping IBM customers under the IBM umbrella.

  • While you could buy your own WorkPad through an authorized reseller, chances are more people

  • received one instead, as part of a package deal through IBM or through their employer.

  • Like, purchase a five thousand dollar IBM desktop, get a four hundred dollar WorkPad

  • alongside it, that kinda thing.

  • Either way though, end users were nestled into the massive Palm ecosystem that boasted

  • a 63 percent worldwide market share.

  • And ended up with a rather capable Palm OS 3.0 PDA,

  • without or without the IBM WorkPad branding.

  • Just like the Palm III, it’s a more streamlined, rugged case design compared to its predecessors,

  • while remaining super lightweight at 147 grams or 5.2 ounces.

  • Ideal when recording haphazard b-roll and dropping it from eye level to the floor.

  • [PDA crashes to the ground]

  • Not a dent though, not even a scratch!

  • This thing is almost Nokia levels of bulletproof.

  • The LCD screen is basically the same as the earlier Palm Pilots though, being a touchscreen

  • measuring 85mm or 3.3 inches diagonally.

  • It also has the same 160x160 pixel resolution 2-bit grayscale display capable of showing

  • four shades of gray, with adjustable contrast using a tiny knob under the left side edge.

  • And of course, being from the late 90s it’s a resistive touchscreen, so pressure needs

  • to be applied using a fingernail or using the included stylus

  • tucked away in the back right corner.

  • No smart input features here, just a passive plastic pen for tapping and dragging items

  • on-screen, simple and effective stuff.

  • In addition to the LCD touchscreen, this pale green rectangle below is also touch-sensitive.

  • Providing four shortcuts for searching files and text, opening the calculator app, accessing

  • drop-down menus, and displaying installed Palm OS 3 applications.

  • There’s also a center rectangle for inputting text, with letters entered on the left-hand

  • side and numbers on the right.

  • These are drawn using Graffiti,

  • which was Palm’s single-stroke handwriting recognition system.

  • And yeah, it’s one of those things where once you get used to it, typing in text can

  • be accomplished pretty quickly indeed.

  • It’s all done using predefined gestures and shapes, so the learning period varies

  • depending on how you normally write.

  • Personally I find Graffiti 2 a tad more intuitive, but yeah.

  • This first generation works well enough, I just have to refer to the cheat sheet on the

  • folding cover more than I’d like.

  • Besides, if it gets annoying there’s always the option of bringing up a virtual keyboard

  • by tapping the bottom left and right corners.

  • Or you know, just plug in an external keyboard or docking station.

  • Though at that point youre forgoing some of the advantages of PDAs outright

  • so yeah, pick your poison.

  • Another nice feature of the WorkPad is its electroluminescent backlight, enabled by holding

  • down the power button for a few seconds.

  • A pretty desirable feature in low light situations, though lacking the inverted pixel option seen

  • on later Palm devices, so it’s always black on blue and not the other wayround.

  • Really it’s a tough time finding ideal lighting either way due to the screen’s narrow viewing

  • angle, with bright indoor lights or sunlight being ideal, but not too much since the plastic

  • screen is reflective as nuts.

  • Thankfully, it’s also efficient as nuts, able to last several months in standby mode

  • using only two AAA batteries.

  • Of course, it’s not gonna last nearly that long under constant use, especially if the

  • backlight is turned on.

  • But even then the battery life of the WorkPad is stellar, I’ve used it for a good ten

  • hours on this set of batteries and the power meter hasn’t budged.

  • Something to keep in mind though is that data integrity is reliant on power.

  • So if the batteries die or are removed,

  • whatever was running in memory is lost after about a minute.

  • And after a few months the internal backup battery runs outta juice

  • and user data is lost, reverting back to factory settings.

  • On the topic of storage, when IBM says this is a two megabyte WorkPad?

  • They mean it, the 20x here has no external memory option.

  • However, looking inside youll see a little expansion slot, and that can be upgraded with

  • a larger memory module.

  • Mine only has the factory-installed two megabytes of EDO DRAM.

  • In addition to those two megs, there’s also another two dedicated to storing the Palm

  • OS 3 operating system and built-in applications.

  • And all this is being run by a 16MHz Motorola MC68328, one of their mid-90s DragonBall CPUs

  • based on the classic Motorola 68000.

  • There’s also this teeny little monophonic speaker for playing beeps and bloops, similar

  • to that of a PC speaker but amusingly even punier.

  • [cute little beeps]

  • One big feature 3Com and IBM were super happy to brag about was the integrated infrared

  • transceiver, letting users transfer files wirelessly using IrDA 1.0.

  • Previous models only had this available through an expansion,

  • so having built-in infrared was rad.

  • Radfared.

  • But yeah, as neat as all this is from a technical perspective,

  • what can you actually do with an IBM WorkPad?

  • Well let’s get it synced with a Windows 98 PC,

  • try out the software, and play some games!

  • [jazzy interlude fades out]

  • So getting the IBM WorkPad connected to a PC is absurdly simple.

  • As with all Palm OS devices, there’s this magical feature called HotSync, where you

  • can synchronize data between your machines at the press of a single button.

  • This button, the HotSync button, for syncing hotly in a hot synchronized fashion.

  • The WorkPad has a hidden serial interface on the bottom for connecting it to Palm’s

  • proprietary cables and cradles, and thankfully this bundle came with the latter.

  • Plop in the WorkPad so it clicks in place, connect the 9-pin cable to a serial port on

  • your PC, and then it’s down to the software.

  • This package came with two CD-ROMs, but all you really need is this one with the relabeled

  • Palm Desktop software: IBM WorkPad Desktop.

  • The other disc just comes with a few trial programs that no one really needs.

  • But yeah, so long as youve got your COM port selected,

  • the Desktop software takes care of everything!

  • Simply hit the HotSync button

  • [cheerful beeping noise]

  • and your computer and the WorkPad talk it out for a bit, synchronizing user data between

  • your desktop and your PDA, matching everything up.

  • It can take anywhere from a handful of seconds to a couple minutes depending on much data

  • there is, but once it’s done, that’s it!

  • [successful beeps]

  • Your PC and PDA and now in-sync.

  • Things like emails, calendars, addresses, documents, installed programs,

  • everything you need really.

  • So what you do on one system is cross-referenced and updated on the other

  • every time you HotSync, and it’s awesome.

  • This is also how you install new programs, something to do ASAP since from the factory

  • the WorkPad only comes with a handful of PDA productivity basics.

  • Most of the time, Palm programs are distributed as PRC files,

  • like these games here provided by Palm with the WorkPad.

  • Once theyre copied over, that’s that, no further setup required.

  • I seriously love how simple this is to use, it’s just a pleasure.

  • As for the games it came with, Giraffe here is the simplest one of the bunch, designed

  • to help users learn the Graffiti system.

  • Draw each letter before it reaches the bottom of the screen and... that’s what that is.

  • Hardball is a Breakout clone, doing a great job at highlighting the image persistence

  • limitations of this particular LCD.

  • It’s fine though, and introduces the idea

  • of using the application shortcut buttons for controls.

  • Minehunt is a straightforward Minesweeper game,

  • something ideal for a pen-based touchscreen device.

  • Tap the boxes and don’t blow yourself up, you know the drill.

  • Flagging mines is a little awkward though, done by tapping boxes while holding the page

  • up or page down buttons at the bottom-middle of the device.

  • Puzzle is another lackluster freebie, being one of those sliding number puzzles that I

  • have never found enjoyable in my entire life, but that’s just me.

  • Works well as a monochrome touchscreen game though.

  • And finally, there’s Sub Hunt, one of those games where youre a battleship destroying

  • submarines using depth charges, just like Sega’s classic arcade game Deep Scan,

  • also known as Sub Scan.

  • Easily the best of the bunch in my opinion, since its slow pace and simple concept are

  • bare-bones enough for the WorkPad’s controls and display not to interfere.

  • However, this is only scratching the ocean surface when it comes to early Palm OS games,

  • I tell you hwhat.

  • All WorkPad and no PlayPad makes LGR a dull BoyPad, so let’s install some third-party

  • games about selling illicit substances!

  • Yeah that’s right, there’s no way I wasn’t gonna start with the dopest Palm game of all:

  • Dope Wars!

  • A definitive computer gaming experience going back to the 1980s, where you play a sketchy