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My first laptop computer was an NEC 8201, a machine with 32 kilobytes of RAM (Random Access Memory), 40-character, four-line display, a telecommunications program, a word processor and a few other gadgets that we never used. The 8201 operated on a rechargeable battery or, in a pinch, could be populated with 4 standard 1.5 Volt AA batteries, purchasable at any convenience kiosk within hailing distance of a deposition or meeting throughout the country. The 8201, a marvel in its day, seems pretty primitive by today’s standards, but I fondly recall taking a lot of notes out of the office, and even sent and received e-mail (at the amazing speed of about 30 characters per second). When I heard about a computer being sold today with a small display powered by an 8-bit, Z80-like processor, I had to take a look. After receiving the unit, I went through our storage areas to pull out the 8201 for comparison. (That computer still works when filled with fresh batteries, although when setting the date, it insisted on thinking that it was really 1901.) The Laser PC6 is really retro, and a little expensive, but some lawyers might find it a useful gadget. The Laser PC6 is a 11.6 by 8 by 2.25 inch, 3-pound machine with a selectable eight-line, 80-character per line, or four-line, 40-character per line display, with 256 Kilobytes of memory. It comes with a rechargeable NiMH battery pack and battery charger, or can take four AA batteries. The keyboard looks more like that of a typewriter than today’s computer, parts of which can be used as standard numeric input keypad, and with trigonometric functions for the scientific calculator mode. After installing the NiMH battery into the machine and charging it for 24 hours, I disconnected the charger, turned on the computer, and selected the word processor from the start menu. The eight-line/80-character mode was too small for older eyes to read with ease, but switching to the larger to 4/40 mode can be accomplished with the push of a button. Click to create a file, give it a name and began typing. Various editing and navigation commands can be issued with Control (Ctl) Key combinations. Ctl-F to Find, Ctl-I to Insert, Ctl-N Ctl B to mark the beginning of a block of text, and so forth. When finished with the document, hitting Escape closes the document. Simply turning off the computer accomplishes the same purpose: Turn the computer back on and the document is still on the word processing screen. The built-in spell checker works, but it is so unbelievably slow that it’s not worth using. Getting the file back into the desktop machine involved installing an infrared receiver between the keyboard and the computer, launching a word processing program on the desktop machine, aligning the IR Port at the rear of the PC6 with the IR reader, and pressing the IR Send button on the PC6 keyboard. The upload isn’t particularly fast, but the unformatted text appears on the word processor, just as if you had typed it in. The PC6′s spreadsheet module is reminiscent of and, we are told, compatible with Lotus’ 1983 version of its 1-2-3 electronic spreadsheet. The / key brings up the program menu, just as 1-2-3 still does. I didn’t bother with the calendar, name and address modules, or the typing tutor. Taking the PC6 to a couple of meetings and a commercial flight was a convenient, and relatively quiet way to take notes. I was even able to draft this column with it. Substantial editing was difficult with the 4/40 display, and subsequent work is better left to the desktop machine. USEFUL, MAYBE The PC6 costs about $350, including the IR receiver and a rechargeable battery rated for 20 hours use on a charge. The PC6 is light and quiet, and the keyboard is suitable for taking notes at a meeting. The unit does not, of course, run Windows, deal with e-mail, coordinate with Outlook or other computer calendars, doesn’t hold all the phone numbers and e-mail addresses most people have, but it fit very well on the airplane tray table. The PC6 won’t do all of the things that a laptop will do; it won’t even do all the things that a Palm handheld with a keyboard will do. But you can grab the PC6 as you run out the door to a meeting, to court, to the library, or for a short trip, tossing in four standard AA batteries if necessary, and bring back excellent, typewritten notes on what happened. Some lawyers will find that quite enough to be useful. On a dollar per megabyte basis, the PC6 is pretty costly, but for just taking notes, it may be worth the money. SUMMARY The very retro PC6 isn’t much of a computer by today’s standards, but it is light, very easy to use, and an excellent way to take very good notes for eventual deposit into your real computer. Laser PC6 Price:$345.00 (with rechargeable battery and Infrared receiver) Address:Perfect Solutions Software, Inc., 15950 Schweizer Court, West Palm Beach, FL 33414-7128 Phone:(800) 726-7086 Fax:(561) 790-0108 Web: www.perfectsolutions.com E-mail: [email protected]

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