Happy new year everyone!
Since it’s the start of 2015 it seems like a good time to celebrate the Sharp IQ-7100M PDA!
Recently my best friend was invited to clear the garage of an old guy who had passed away and left behind some items from a computer service business he had been running in his later years. To cut a long story short there were a few good finds in that garage one of which was an untested vintage PDA. I love vintage PDAs and own a growing collection but what made this new discovery stand out was that not only did it fire up first time and have a pretty impressive touch / cartridge based interface for custom software but it had worked immediately and we had a mint condition printer that seemed like it might connect…
After much tinkering with the unit we found that we had failed to get anything to print out. Connecting the printer is easy as there’s a small tabbed connecting wire that will fit only one way up in a hidden port on the PDA but no matter how many times we press the option to print nothing seems to happen. Angered by this we googled up a German copy of the manual in PDF form and attempted to recall any of the German we’d been taught in school.
Tantalisingly on page 99 of the manual there is a section on printing but many of the words in the manual were quite long and had some of the odd characters that aren’t easily input into google translate.
We pondered that this was a pretty simple device and therefore we must just be missing a trick somewhere when suddenly the CE-50P burst into life! It turns out (and I could find this information nowhere online) that in order to output a memo you must perform the following actions:
- Open the memo application and slowly input something (a non-qwerty keyboard makes typing anything on the PDA headache inducing)
- Ensure that you have saved your memo.
- Open up the memo to read
- Press the blue ringed Shift key
- Press the Option key (this is a secondary function of the letter C)
- Press the Numeric 1 key
Gaze in wonder as a PDA released twenty-six years ago outputs whatever wisdom you desire.
Here we can see a video I made of the printer in action, it’s not very good quality:
Elated by this success we probed deeper into the devices guts and sniffed at them until they revealed all the secrets.
I can see why this model was sort of popular but I can also see why it didn’t last the great PDA wars of the early 1990’s – up against Psion? The IQ-7100m does have one interesting hook that to me makes it stand a little apart from the crowd in its media card interface. Rather than just being a slot that accepts an early essay into the PCMCIA type format the front of the slot on the IQ-7100m is transparent, enabling the surface of the card to be printed with ‘buttons’ which control various functions of the organiser. This is clever stuff and we loved it, our card happened to be an English/German translation package which did actually translate some words we tried when you pressed the area on the touch interface that corresponded with an up / down arrow on the media card surface. This was a great idea and it’s shame the only modern examples of the technology I can think about involve very basic children’s toy laptop computers.
I could spend some time reviewing the ROM based software on the IQ-7100m but really it’s all pretty standard stuff such as memo, calendar, world clock etc but none of them are of any particular note other than with this little PDA we can print various aspects out onto a kind of thermal receipt paper. Prepare to be amazed by my business receipt! Marvel as it prints out carriage return symbols between lines!
The PDA can interface with a PC and it may even still be possible to do so but I can’t imagine why even the beardiest hipster would want to get that going.
You can find various versions of the IQ PDA on auction sites and if you’re lucky you can probably find one at a car boot sale for a nominal amount, fun to tinker with for an hour but never going to replace your Newton.