View Full Version : Agnes: The Pen is Mightier Than...

Terry Yager
April 29th, 2005, 10:20 PM
If you're shopping for early pen-based computer technology, you'll do well to look to Toshiba. Thier first offering in the field of tablet PCs, the T200CS/80, is a very capable system for it's day.
Introduced in 1993, the T200 is a 40MHz i486DX, with a base of 4Mb of RAM, and a 80Mb internal IDE HDD. The RAM may be upgraded using standard DRAM PC cards in a dedicated slot, to a maximum of 20Mb, which is plenty for running DOS and Windows 3.1 applications.
The unit being reviewd here, affectionately known as "Agnes", is equipped with 12Mb of RAM, and an additional 340Mb PCMCIA ATA drive, mounted in one of it's two PC card slots, one of which is Type II and the other is Type II/III. The card slots are arranged in a side-by-side configuration, allowing use of the Type III slot while still leaving the other slot available, unlike most laptops, which stack the slots on top of one another.
Agnes is running DOS 6.22 and Windows for Pen v.1.0, which is a set of pen extensions that install on top of the basic Win 3.1 installation. There are also Win 9x drivers available, but I haven't tested them on this machine. My experience with the Win 9x Pen Services 2.0 is that the Win 3.1 version is easier to use, and the character recognition is about equal, so all things considered, I prefer Win4Pen 1.0 for doing actual work. One of the main differences is that the v.1.0 uses pen "gestures" which are various movements of the pen, to do basic operations usually performed from the keyboard, such as space, backspace, undo, new line, delete, etc. These gestures are performed right on the same area of the screen where you are writing, so it is not necessary to break the flow of your writing to insert a space or whatever. By contrast, the Win 9x version uses a toolbar at the top of the screen containing icons for the same operations, making it necessary to continuously move the pen back and forth between your writing and the toolbar, a process I personally find very annoying.
Agnes comes with a full 1Mb of VideoRAM, allowing for a 640 x 480 x 256 color VGA diplay, which although it is DSTN technology, is very clear and bright, with good contrast adjustment, and is viewable in all but the brightest sunlight. I frequently use it out-of-doors, which is often not possible with other laptop displays.
She comes with a full compliment of ports including a PS/2 keyboard/mouse port, a 9-pin RS232C serial port, an external VGA monitor port, all PC standard, as well as parallel & floppy disk ports, which are unfortunately proprietary, requiring a special type of cable to use them.
Battery life is outstanding for a tablet of this power, running for 3 hours on the NiMH battery with a fast 4 - 5 hour charging time.
Computers like Agnes can very frequently be found at on-line auction sites such as eBay, ranging in price from around $20.00, up into the 50 - 60.00 range. If you have an opportunity to pick one up, it will be a welcome addition to your vintage computer collection.

EDIT: Subsequent to writing this, I have learned that there was an earlier DynaBook also, the '386-based T100: