My son, Kevin, has been storing our old mobile gadgets for years. As a longtime tech journalist specializing in mobile computing, I always got the latest and greatest. Kevin benefited from this plethora of devices as well, and he always got them when I moved on to Shiny New Thing.
Cleaning out his garage, he found a huge stash of classic devices.
The oldest and best -- in my opinion, the best mobile computer ever made -- is my 1993 HP OmniBook 300, a super innovative PC created by the calculator division of HP.
One of the many innovations of this device is that you could remove the rechargeable battery, and instead use 4 AA batteries. So that's what we did. It booted right up, and works exactly like it did in the 90s.
The laptop is indestructible. It's powered by an Intel 386SXLV CPU.
The display is a nine-inch monochrome VGA display with 16 shades of gray.
It weighs 2.9 pounds.
Almost every aspect of this laptop is totally unique and innovative. For starters, it's got only 2 MB of RAM. That's interesting, because it's operating system -- Windows 3.1 -- required 4.
The reason is that the operating system, both Windows 3.1 and MS-DOS 5.0 -- and a smattering of Microsoft applications like Word 2.0, Excel 4.0, etc., were both stored and executed in ROM, so they didn't use any of the available RAM, which was reserved for documents.
The ROM-installed applications are launched with the function keys at the top of the keyboard.
And it has a feature that most laptops don't really quite have even today: Instant on. Just push the blue On/Off button, and the screen lights up in the same state as when shut off before in less than half a second.
It predates consumer WiFi by about four years, so it doesn't support WiFi. You moved documents on and off using a PCMCIA card, which is an old storage medium about the size of a short stack of credit cards. It's got two PCMCIA cards.
It's also got a 9-pin serial port and a parallel printer port. And an IR port! Wow.
The mouse pops out of the side when you press a button. It's a "popsicle stick" format, so it's not the movement of mouse that registers movement, but the movement of the flat plastic that connects the mouse.
The other feature is general indestructibility. The keyboard is indestructible, and still works perfectly. The screen, the solid state storage -- all of it built like a tank, which is why it still boots right up.
I paid $2,375 for it in 1993. Worth every penny.
Interestingly, it's a great computer for one very simple reason: Security. Without any WiFi radios or Bluetooth radios, it's a guaranteed air-gapped device. And with the OS and major applications in ROM, it's unaffectable by malware.
It's the perfect device for traveling to Black Hat or Defcon (or Russia or China).