Saturday, April 21, 2012

Revisting the Tandy Model 100 Computer

Seeing this article got me thinking about the Tandy model 100 computer I owned many years ago:

I would love to build a modern version of this venerable machine.  I would make it more of a laptop format.  I was thinking of having an epaper display for extra long battery life, but with a small color screen for displaying images or videos.  When the machine is docked at home it should be able to connect to a full sized monitor. 

The main board could be an arm similar to:  Which is very powerful for it's size and weight.  A real time clock would need to be added to keep accurate time.
 Another large compartment could take various thumb drives, a memory card reader, bluetooth, and wifi.  This would allow a lot of optional expansion to customize the unit for any particular use.  Once this area was covered by a snap in panel it would look neat and clean even though a bunch of various sized  stuff was plugged into the unit.  Currently lap tops accept usb things on the side, which makes them awkward to hold and these parts tend to get broken off a lot.

It would be great to let this be powered by 8AA rechargeable like the old unit. Ideally this computer should run for at least a week using it 8 hours a day not connected to power.  This is using only the e-reader screen and a text editor or e-reader which is programmed to put the machine in a lower power mode.  As long as it could last 16 hours between charges running full out, that would be acceptable too.

I would make the bottom of the computer be thick, but tilted towards the user.  This would give room underneath to have a removable cover with a small breadboard wired up to an arduino, which could be used to build custom circuits of the users choosing. 

This development area could be used to expand the machine to be a GPS, or put in an accelerometer, or a magnetic sensor, or any of a variety of any of the chips available for for the arduino community.   Additionally the machine could be powered from a solar panel and left in a remote area with a phone card for remote sensing application.  

Once the bottom cover is installed the machine would look like a finished unit.  The back of the machine could have a replaceable flat, square plastic piece that slides in place and the user can modify to add in their own ports. 

There could be a few controls on top wired to terminals inside this area as well.   pushbuttons, slide switches, knobs, sliders, rotary gray switches and other common controls could be above the keyboard, slightly recessed and low, to clear the top lid.  On the lid, to the right of the epaper dispay, and below the small color display, there could be a row of LED's with room to label what they are for, all controlled by a single 16 channel rgb driver chip.  An LCD panel could be here too, as well as a dial or two. 

I believe that a very powerful, inexpensive, and infinitely expandable and user customized machine could be built that would meet the needs of practically any hobbyist.

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