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Using handheld computers in ecological field work

Dean Pentcheff dean at tbone.biol.sc.edu
Wed Apr 9 17:30:48 EST 1997


Ingar Pareliussen <ajuga at nvg.ntnu.no> writes:
> I wonder if there was anyone that had used Psion 3c, USR pilot or
> similar computers in ecological field work. 
> This summer I am going to perform a plant abundance mesurements and 
> need a reliable palmtop that can run a simple spreadsheet program,
> (one colomn with latin name and 18 columns behind for ecological data 
> and about 100 sutch entries pr. day), easy to use, low power consumption
> and weather hardy.

I recently (4 months ago) set up an HP200LX (1 Mb memory) for use by
people collection bird abundance observations from shipboard in
Antarctica.  I was very impressed with it.

It's a little DOS machine, with a built-in copy of Lotus 1-2-3.
There's a layer of HP graphical software which can be disabled, saving
memory.  You can repartition the 1 Mb of memory between program RAM
and RAM disk as appropriate for your use.  

The unit is small and quite rugged.  It has a small but usable
keyboard (not for touch-typing, but fine for data entry, particularly
if you set up useful one-key spreadsheet macros).  It runs off two AA
batteries for several weeks.

Communications are over a serial port (signals are standard RS232, but
the cable connector is weird - buy HP's "Connectivity Kit", or build
your own cable and use standard old DOS serial communications
packages).  It's also got a PCMCIA (PC Card) slot that can use memory
cards.  

All in all, quite a useful little beastie.  I recommend it -
particularly since it's now a model or two behind the most recent
releases, you can probably buy two or three used ones and have spares
(which is a MUST for field work).  

-Dean
-- 
N. Dean Pentcheff   <pentcheff at acm.org>   WWW: http://tbone.biol.sc.edu/~dean/
Biological Sciences, Univ. of South Carolina, Columbia SC 29208 (803-777-3936)
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