Epson HX20 - first laptop !EVER! 1981+

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CMcDougall
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Re: Epson HX20 - first laptop !EVER! 1981+

Post by CMcDougall » Sun Mar 22, 2020 8:45 pm

glad you got it working Paul 8)

one other thing I mind is that, when you save your typed letter, it Needs the MicroTape player on right to save to,
it won't save out to Mic so can't put a lead to laptop for a .WAV file :(

can't compare your machine with my expansion machine, as it's also a after market re-jig.

have fun! :D
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Re: Epson HX20 - first laptop !EVER! 1981+

Post by pixelblip » Wed Mar 25, 2020 7:47 pm

My first laptop was an HX20.
My Dad brought it home from the Polytechnic.
I was in awe of it. To think it had a mini cassette player and a printer built in.
It was like James Bond to me.

I can remember typing out a few basic programs on it and getting some nice graphs printed on the thermal paper.
That was probably about the same time....around 1982.

What really struck me about it even now was it's compactness and the keyboard on it. It had a really nice action.

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DutchAcorn
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Re: Epson HX20 - first laptop !EVER! 1981+

Post by DutchAcorn » Sun Mar 29, 2020 8:43 pm

GeoffB17 wrote:
Tue Feb 19, 2019 12:02 am
...

But for immed purposes, yes, line 570 should be changed to

570 IF BY=28 THEN 590

Also, once I'd changed this, the game went further, but then I got a SN (syntax) error. When I checked the line, I found the statement !SUB xxx. This is a damaged BASIC token, prob introduced by the HXTAPE code.

....
It gets a bit more entertaining after changing line 100 to:
100 IF INKEY$=“” THEN 70
Paul

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Re: Epson HX20 - first laptop !EVER! 1981+

Post by GeoffB17 » Sat Apr 04, 2020 11:05 pm

Regarding the BOMBER game for the HX-20 - I am still in pursuit of this, trying to find the game, and I have a note that there are folks here who would like the game.

I now know that there are two versions of BOMBER, quite different.

There is a version written by William Smith, for Epson, and this version was included on a tape of games sold by Epson back in the 1980s. This is the version that involved a plane trying to bomb a tank.

The other version was written by Simon Taylor (TaySoft) and this is the version where the plane is bombing a city to remove the buildings to allow the plane to land. This is the game featured in the piece of video that is on YouTube, which shows the loading of the game, and the start of play (only) on an HX-20. This game I now understand to be an HX-20 version of the same 'game' produced by Simon Taylor for the Vic-20 (and other platforms) and called BLITZ. This version seems to be rather difficult to find, but I'm still working on it, as this would seem to be a FAR more interesting game and well worth the trouble. I have found a listing of essentially the same game, but for an Amstrad CPC, this would need a substantial rewrite for the Epson screen although much of the game logic will be OK.

I'll get something sorted, one way or another.

Geoff

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Re: Epson HX20 - first laptop !EVER! 1981+

Post by jonb » Sun Apr 05, 2020 10:31 am

I'm still looking for a working display module for mine. :(

The main board seems to be fine and the module kindly sent to me by VCF member Koolstar42 has expired (it was only partially working, but enough for me to see the menu being rendered). I think my keyboard is flaky too, but I have a spare.

The display module has a set of six NEC surface mount controllers which are in a rectangular package having 19x13 pins. They are D7227 types but I've not found any in this package yet. If I could replace them I might be able to resurrect it.

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Re: Epson HX20 - first laptop !EVER! 1981+

Post by DutchAcorn » Sun Apr 05, 2020 10:50 am

GeoffB17 wrote:
Sat Apr 04, 2020 11:05 pm
Regarding the BOMBER game for the HX-20 - I am still in pursuit of this, trying to find the game, and I have a note that there are folks here who would like the game.

I now know that there are two versions of BOMBER, quite different.

There is a version written by William Smith, for Epson, and this version was included on a tape of games sold by Epson back in the 1980s. This is the version that involved a plane trying to bomb a tank.

...
That's the version posted in this thread. Is there a source for software for this machine other than a few basic listings?

Actually already had quite a bit of fun with mine. The printer is really a nice feature.
Paul

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Re: Epson HX20 - first laptop !EVER! 1981+

Post by GeoffB17 » Sun Apr 05, 2020 2:22 pm

Yes, I think that I put the version there as someone was asking, but I later determined that they were really looking for the other version.

Regarding the software, what sort of thing are you looking for if NOT BASIC listings? The machine was originally sold into a business market, and the bulk of the software originally written was for a 'vertical' market, and was prob provided already installed onto ROM. When I bought my machine in late 1982 there was very little available, unless I wrote it myself, which was actually very educational! I quickly got the TF-20 floppy drive unit and was writing various things relating to data manipulation etc.

I've got the ECALC prog, a spreadsheet, but that's a 'BASIC listing too? This was sold by Epson on one of the ROM modules (in place of the cassette drive) but I've saved it as a normal prog, now as a .WAV, and it loads/runs as normal. I need to do a scan of the manual!

I keep hearing of many applications that were running of the machine back in it's day, all very 'business', highly specialised, unfortunately not 'saved'. Note the references to ex-Bundeswehr machines coming out of Germany, the software on them relating to firing solutions for artillery! I remember a reference to a system where a HX was installed into a racing car and recorded all sort of data while the car was hurtling around the track, data was then downloaded to bigger computers for detailed analysis. I've seen HX machines used in a currency exchange cabin near the Eiffel Tower. Other examples already referred to in this thread.

So, it you want something, write it yourself. It may not exist otherwise.

Geoff

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Re: Epson HX20 - first laptop !EVER! 1981+

Post by DutchAcorn » Wed Apr 08, 2020 7:33 pm

GeoffB17 wrote:
Wed Feb 20, 2019 10:46 pm
Hello Col,

Further to ongoing discussion, have you seen mention of the FLASHX20 system.

Try http://members.aon.at/nkehrer/

This looks very interesting, to attach a PC to your HX and, via the facilities of the PC, provide floppy disks (as per the TF-20) and full monitor access (via a sort of display adaptor/emulator).

I downloaded the system to try, but it does not work for me. BUT I'm pretty sure this is merely because there's something 'broken' with the High Speed connector in my HX, and this is why the link to my TF-20 also does not communicate. Hopefully, the system will work for you?

Geoff
Tried this with some result. There is a mistake in the instructions to build the serial cable; the RXD and TXD are reversed. The correct Epson-PC connection wiring is:

Code: Select all

Epson - PC
    1 - 5 ... GND
    2 - 2 ... RXD
    3 - 3 ... TXD
With this cable and DIP switch 4 ON, the HX-20 ran into a Trap! when starting BASIC on my setup. However with DIP swith 4 off, I could enter the SCREEN 1 command and get screen output on my PC. The FILES command did not work.

This could be because of the PC I used (an old Pentium 3). I have a USB-Serial converter on order, I'll see if that gets better results.
Paul

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Re: Epson HX20 - first laptop !EVER! 1981+

Post by GeoffB17 » Wed Apr 08, 2020 8:32 pm

Hello,

I've been in corresp with someone in Sweden, who I understand has been using the flashx20 system for a while. He reports that there seems to be a number of bugs and problems with the system, although he wasn't specific about all of them. Maybe the problems you've had are in the system, and NOT something you're doing.

If the detail of the cable is wrong, I should investigate that. I THINK that the problem I have with my TF-20 is at the socket end on the HX, and the fact that the Flash system did not work confirmed this. But if the cable is wrong, then maybe I'm wrong. When I start up the TF-20 disk drive unit, it makes all the usual clicking noises as it accesses the boot disk, but it's a quite sophisticated unit inside and there's quite a lot else that MIGHT be wrong.
Ronny (the chap in Sweden) says that the virtual floppy drives are great, and the screen functions are a help apart from the bugs. As for things like FILES, yes, any functions that need to make direct disk access (like DSKO and DSKI) I can understand, and the normal working of FILES may be reading the DIR and this might also make direct disk access, but of course this system is using virtual disks so it may require quite different routines which have not been done.

I'll ask Ronny about the cable, he didn't say anything about that. And about the other problems he's had.

Thanks for the info. Could be very helpful

Geoff

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Re: Epson HX20 - first laptop !EVER! 1981+

Post by CMcDougall » Wed Apr 08, 2020 8:37 pm

so Paul, is this lead wired correctly? I never made it, so should be the original that came with it.
Never tried linking to any of my old PCs or laptops,
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Re: Epson HX20 - first laptop !EVER! 1981+

Post by DutchAcorn » Wed Apr 08, 2020 8:43 pm

CMcDougall wrote:
Wed Apr 08, 2020 8:37 pm
so Paul, is this lead wired correctly? I never made it, so should be the original that came with it.
Never tried linking to any of my old PCs or laptops,
This seems to be a serial cable to connect to the RS-232C interface of the HX-20. The cable needed for the FLASHX20 disk/screen emulator is for the high speed serial port (5 pin din socket).
Paul

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Re: Epson HX20 - first laptop !EVER! 1981+

Post by DutchAcorn » Fri Apr 24, 2020 8:49 pm

Today I received a USB-Serial converter but discovered that the Trap! issue was caused by the 16K internal expansion card my HX-20 was fitted with.

With the expansion card removed the flashx20 works fine :D

The disk basic loads when starting basic, the remote screen works and loading files works. As a bonus, without the 16K RAM card installed the expansion roms also work.

Had a quick look at the software. Some of the programs are too large to load with the expansion card removed... The BOMBER game is the bomb-the-tank version.


BTW, I could not find information on the expansion card on the web, added pictures below.
Attachments
HX-20 16K Front.jpg
HX-20 16K Back.jpg
Paul

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Re: Epson HX20 - first laptop !EVER! 1981+

Post by GeoffB17 » Fri Apr 24, 2020 9:50 pm

Hello,

Regarding the RAM board, please look at the documents on the web by Martin Hepperl - search for Hepperl HX-20 and you should go right to it. He shows two different German origin ram boards, and the one you picture looks VERY similar to the Type 2 he shows. He gives details of the Mfg, and some other details about it.

May be possible to work out WHY there is a problem.

My RAM board always worked fine with the TF-20 disk drive, my RAM bd is a UK mfg, not one of the German ones. The flashx process should be merely emulating the load/starup use for the TF-20?.

Did you save the details of the Trap? May be possible to backtrack from the info given on the MONITOR screen as to where in RAM the problem has happened, and maybe find why.

Otherwise, the flashx20 project is still ongoing, maybe contact the writer (GitHub project I think).

Geoff

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Re: Epson HX20 - first laptop !EVER! 1981+

Post by DutchAcorn » Sat Apr 25, 2020 6:42 pm

Thanks very much for that information! With the documentation that Martin published here I learned that
  • the MX-20 has capacitors that need replacing. That could explain intermittent errors I get with the expansion rom
  • the 16K RAM board needs initialisation before the memory can be accessed
  • Martin has created an alternative MH-20 Display&Disk Controller that works in Java (see same link) and does not run into a Trap! with my configuration.
Paul

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Re: Epson HX20 - first laptop !EVER! 1981+

Post by GeoffB17 » Sat Apr 25, 2020 9:53 pm

Paul,

Thanks for the update.

Yes, I see references to the electrolytic caps in the HX. Some folks like to repl them anyway. Others refer to problems with the lcd display indicating that the caps need repl. The caps in mine have NOT been repl, everything seems to be working OK (apart from the hs serial link which I suspect is mechanical) and I've been using it since Dec 1982 and it's usually been charged (maybe 90+% of the time). Repl caps is not something I'd be keen to undertake unless it was essential.

My RAM board does NOT need enabling, although there are MONITOR commands to turn ON/OFF the Option ROM which I need to use if I need to activate or deactivate my FORTH ROM. But yes, other boards seem to need 'enabling'

The MH-20 system seems to be VERY similar to the flashx20, but may be more robust/complete. Good to hear that this one works better for you. I may try it just in case the reason flashx20 did not work is NOT because of the connector, but was the cable or the software?

Geoff

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Re: Epson HX20 - first laptop !EVER! 1981+

Post by DutchAcorn » Sun Apr 26, 2020 7:22 pm

On the 16K expansion board; I believe this document is the installation guide for the board. It also provides an explanation why the option ROM does not work with the card installed. Regrettably the instruction on how to enable it (write 8 @ &FFF5) does not have any effect on my configuration.
Paul

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Re: Epson HX20 - first laptop !EVER! 1981+

Post by GeoffB17 » Sun Apr 26, 2020 8:57 pm

Noted. The enable instruction seems similar to the one for my board.

I assume the problem you have is that this facility is for release 4 or higher. You must have an earlier release, which does not allow the soft switching of the ROM. There's prob nothing you can do about that.

Geoff

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