Thursday, July 08, 2004

Taking a hint ... eventually

(Location: Refectory, Level 3, JR
View: in the foreground, empty tables, with chairs stacked, leading onto the terrace and beyond is a view of the emerging extension of the JR - at this stage it is a mere skeleton. It's not often that I'm in limbo, but sitting here after a rather late lunch, I find a little time to start this blog properly. A moment or two to reflect on how it all began... In the mid-80's I was striving to join the hall of fame in developing software for a home computer called the ZX Spectrum, the particular focus of my attention was the board game of Scrabble and I had mustered a program with a vocabulary of a mighty 500 words. However, I realised my limitations and in January '86 sent a speculative letter to Psion House, which had produced a rather more powerful version for the next model up. I made suggestions as to how they could improve its tactics. There was no immediate response, so I had forgotten about it when suddenly received a polite reply in April. My contribution was received with thanks, but I was informed that Psion was at that time in the process of changing its operations. It was going to move away from software and concentrate on portable computers ... [typing a few hours later ... ] I'm now looking at the same construction site, but from a distance - my home happens to has a view of the JR. Of course, being so removed from the construction work, I see only the outline and the gantries. Just as I walked to my entrance, the English 'monsoon' started - heavy rain, flashes of lightning and almost instant echoes of thunder. I've just received an email from a colleague - he says my office is flooded! So if you are living abroad and contemplating a holiday in the UK, it is probably better to wait a few days. When I think of monsoons, my mind tends to go Eastward, to South and SouthEast Asia, especially Thailand. It was there that I made my first proper foray into handheld computing in January '98. Shortly before I was due to fly back to the UK, I was wandering around Pantip plaza, Bangkok's computing and electronics emporia on about 5 floors, and drifted into an authorised HP reseller. My eye was caught by the writing on a box little larger than a shoebox - it claimed Internet and Email on a "palmtop" computer. How could this be? I was intrigued and read the description further: "HP320LX Palmtop PC - the WIDE Screen Palmtop PC with *Backlighting*". Boasting 4MB of RAM and "Loaded with Powerful, Built-In Applications:
  • Microsoft Pocket Word
  • Microsoft Pocket Excel
  • ...
  • Microsoft Pocket Internet Explorer
  • InBox (e-mail)
  • ...
  • Solitaire
In Thailand, you don't have to wait very long for sales assistants and surely enough I was soon able to enquire further, but actually I can't remember what questions I had, though I do recollect it had been brought in as a return and actually it originated in Singapore. I was also reassured about the power supply and included in the package were two adaptors - including one suitable for the UK. This item was end of line and the Pound Sterling <-> Baht exchange rate was very favourable, so I made the purchase and my handheld computing days had begun!"