Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Retro Gadget Watch: NEC MobilePro 700

I stumbled on this discussion of what cheap laptop you might want to pick up for blogging purposes:

I tried a number of things (Tandy Model 100, HP Jornada, Palmpilot w/thumboard, alphasmart laptop, etc), but found my favorite to be the NEC Moblilepro 7xx series. I have an ancient 750, but I find it perfect for writing txt files to a Compact Flash card, which I then unplug and transfer to my desktop in seconds. I've been using it for years now, and can't imagine anything better.

Now, this is not a palm-sized machine. It's a tiny tiny laptop, just bigger than a VHS cassette. However, it's the smallest instant-on machine with a nearly-full-size, very usable keyboard you'll find.
The later models, 770/780/790 are readily available on ebay from $60 to $150.

And sure enough, the NEC MobilePro 700 does appear to have an impressive set of features, including a touch screen, a full touch-typeable keyboard, and even voice input. With a CF card slot, it should be possible to cajole the files onto a USB thumb drive somehow.

And they really do go for under $100 on eBay.

I was thinking this might be an ideal machine to pickup for traveling when I didn't want to travel with a real laptop. I could blog on the device and then upload the content when I was near an Internet cafe or at the hotel. Or, I could always make use of the blazing fast 33.6 modem to upload content.

Did I mention it runs Linux?

It's no OLPC, but it does look like it would be a fun device to kick around.


  1. Anonymous2:47 PM

    Stumbled on here from I don't know where, but just thought I'd add some thoughts as a new owner of a MobilePro 900:

    0) Windows CE is paaaaaainful. It's like being forced back to windows 3.1. Unfortunately, for the 900 no Linux is available and so this is the first Windows box I've purchased since 2001. I'm trying to get microEmacs installed and then launch that on boot so I hopefully never have to see the start menu.

    1) They do NOT come with ethernet adapters by default. You would need to get this separately as either a pcmcia or CF plugin that's compatible . I've become used to EVERYTHING at least having a NIC, so this surprised me.

    2) The wireless cards for these are not sold anymore and they're quite expensive to find used, most places being almost equal to the actual device.

    3) There's the SynCE.sf.net project to sync with these devices via USB from linux, but I have not tried it out yet.

    4) The keyboard is quite nice. To their credit, they tried to design it so you shouldn't have to take your hands off the keyboard for 99% of tasks, which is good because the touch screen is obnoxious.

    Overall an interesting and inexpensive toy with the potential to be a highly useful tool with a bit of tweaking. If I were to do it again, I might look for the HP Jornadas, which are supposedly more linux compatible with a decent keyboard.

  2. I have to disagree with Red. Windows CE has come a long way since version 1.0. And like all operating systems, Windows CE has gotten to be a very reliable operating system.

    As for the Mobile Pro 700, it's a great machine. Sure, it's archaic, but what notebook out there now can boast the battery life of the MP700? And when those batteries finally run out, how many can swap out their laptop batteries with AA's found pretty much everywhere?

    I have several old pocket computers ranging from some of the very first introduced in 1996 to some of the latest models like the Psion netBook and have been an avid "pen computerist" since 1997 when I first became aware of the hand held market.

    It's surprising to me that they're not more sought after. Especially with this stupid tablet craze going on today.

    It's become about content consumption and people like us who actually have to have a keyboard to generate content have to take a back seat.

    I'm really amazed. :/

  3. Duncan -

    Thanks for the feedback and insights!


  4. In case anyone is interested, I have a MobilePro 700 that is pristine. I bought it new but ended up using it just a handful of times, so it's been in a box ever since and is like new. Have manuals with it.

    Asking $70.

    1. adguy -

      If you still have the MobilePro 700 I'll take it! I hope this message finds you somehow. I'll try and keep checking this post for a reply...