Pocket power

GCN at 25

Anyone who relies heavily on a handheld computer to get through their day can thank, at least partly, the Army's Communications and Electronics Command, which 15 years ago put in an order for what it called the Soldier's Computer.

GCN: Celebrating 25 years
The Oct. 26, 1992, issue of GCN reported that the command had signed a $500,000 contract under which Texas Microsystems would develop the computer according to the command's specifications. One requirement: that it must fit in a soldier's cargo pocket or field jacket pocket. A little less than two years later, Texas Micro delivered the first prototype.

The computer, which Texas Micro had named the Grunt, wasn't the first personal digital assistant to hit the market, but it did seem to move the ball forward.

At 6 inches by 7 inches and just less than 2 inches in width, it required a pretty large pocket. And its 3.5-pound weight was over the command's original specifications of no more than 2 pounds, although developers expected future versions to weigh less.

But the unit had an Intel 486 SX processor with a low-power chipset and could run as long as eight hours on rechargeable batteries.

It had a 260M hard drive, as much as 32M of RAM and a 6-inch-diagonal VGA monochrome LCD, viewable in bright sunlight.

It ran the Microsoft Windows 3.11 operating system with pen extensions and had a variety of ports, including those for video and a Global Positioning System card.

The Grunt also was ruggedized, able to withstand a four-foot drop, and protect against sand or water.

A couple of years later, Texas Micro redesigned the Grunt for commercial use ' such as by utility companies ' renaming it the Hardbody. And although it hadn't gotten much smaller, you would have plenty of room in your pocket if you bought one ' it cost $4,000.


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