My First Tablet-ish PC

Back in 1998, I bought a Cassiopea Windows CE 2.0 Handheld PC.

It was just under half the size of my current infatuation (the P1610) used a fold-out form factor with a 640x200 screen (CGA hi-res!) had a small and fiddly QWERTY calculator-key-style keyboard, used an awkward serial port connection, was as monochrome as a gameboy, and had a touch screen built in.

It was amazing. At the time, I remember raving about the touch screen to my friends. I just assumed that In The Future, all laptops would have touch screens. It was inconceivable that they wouldn't. It was convenient, speedy, generally pretty good to use. The Cassiopea has long been left uncharged in a drawer (I ran across it yesterday, prompting this post), but I remember gradually becoming disillusioned with it when it became obvious it would never quite be that ultraportable windows PC I really wanted.

Flash forward eight years, and I now own an ultraportable Windows laptop with a touch screen, all in a pleasantly small form factor.

But I've never seriously considered owning a laptop before this one. One of the reasons was that since using the Cassie, I wanted a touch screen - to be able to jab menu commands and icons directly with my finger, and not have to use a scratchpad or mouse. (Ideally I'd like to be able to move the cursor with eye tracking, but that's more in the future.) The other major reason was that they were just too big.

So why did touch screens take so long to "take off"? (a follower of the "laptops aren't real computers" religion actually buying a laptop would seem to be a sign of the end times, and is cited as my evidence of "taking off")

Did having a separate TabletPC edition to this point somehow redirect demand for touch screens in all laptops towards the high end? Did TabletPC have a stigma attached to it?

Is it just the swivel that puts people off? I'd buy a non-convertible laptop with touch before one without.

Active digitizers (only) tend to annoy me by requiring me to pick up the (special) pen before being able to point - it's the same problem I have with a mouse, which is that I have to engage another intermediate device to interact with something on the screen, with no option. Lenovo look like they're taking a step in the right direction with the Lenovo X60 - it squeezes in both an active digitizer and touch capability, if I'm reading that right.

If Windows XP Pro supported touch screens without any hullabaloo, would more laptops sold today have them?

Guess I'll have a chance to find out now that Windows Vista supports the tablet stuff in all the non-Basic SKUs. It also looks to have a bunch of new touch-specific features I'm eager to try out.

If you're someone that bought a non-Tablet laptop - why? Did you consider a Tablet? If a passive (aka resistive) touch screen had been an option on your non-convertible, would you have gone for it?

Comments (3)

  1. Tristan K says:

    Heard good things about the Ninos at the time! I upgraded to a colour Jornada in 2000, and it was great for carrying around with me while helping run a corporate network, back before wireless was something you could do on a handheld.

    I just cracked open the battery pack on the Cassiopea to find… 2 1999 AA batteries! I didn’t remember it being battery powered at all! How cool is that!? 🙂

  2. My first PocketPC is my current PocketPC. WindowsCE 2 based Philips Nino 210 is from 1998 to now.  

    Synchronization still works fine and only stylus was gone. 🙂

  3. Darryn says:

    You misquoted me. The actual quote is "a laptop is not a computer", and at the time it was true. Well, for my purposes it was.

Skip to main content