Interfaces to Go
Interfaces to Go
Portable computers with screens and keyboards similar to those of their desktop cousins could use similar interfaces. The mouse might become a trackpad, but the difference was subtle.
For handhelds, engineers had to rethink user interfaces from scratch. The small screens and the tiny or non-existent keyboards demanded new approaches.
The earliest generation of handhelds created surprisingly usable interfaces with as little as a single line of text. Context sensitive commands were key.View Artifact Detail
Anticipating New Uses
Mobile computers weren’t just small versions of big computers. Mobility invited entirely new uses—from salespeople checking prices to doctors making rounds.
Expanding the mobile market often depended on manufacturers and entrepreneurs anticipating things users might want to do, and then designing machines to meet that new need.
Inventory control and retail price checking were early successful applications for handheld computers.View Artifact Detail
Handle With Care
If you can carry your computer, you can drop it. That wasn’t a danger with mainframes.
Ruggedness was suddenly important, and “drop testing” became part of every design cycle. Engineers had to balance durability with cost. Military mobile computers emphasized ultimate toughness. Consumer products are strong enough to be practical…but no more.
Mobile computer manufacturers conduct drop, water, dust and vibration tests as part of product development. This high speed camera image shows an MC9500 Rugged Handheld Computer dropping at very cold temperatures, where plastics become brittle.View Artifact Detail
Engineers continually squeeze more and more capability into less and less space—helpful for computers on your desk, but essential for ones carried in your pocket.
The challenges have changed. Early on, the big problem was making inexpensive display screens. Today, it’s having enough battery life for fast processors and wireless connections.
A 1960s corporate mainframe, a 1980s personal computer, and a 1990s handheld all featured roughly the same memory and processing power.View Artifact Detail