CFOG's PIP, March 1989, Volume 8 No. 1, Whole No. 69, page 8

Laptopping with Geneva

by Benjamin H. Cohen

Gerald Pine, our CP/M Disk Librarian, started it. His employer decided to dump four Epson Genevas and offered them to employees. Gerald acquired three of them and Mike Andrews and I would up with two since Gerald couldn't balance all three on his lap at one time! I passed my Geneva on to Hal Taylor, and picked up another one. What with one thing and another they each have a "multi" unit and I have the 120K RAM disk unit. I'll explain that in a moment.

The Geneva (or PX-8) weighs in, naked, at about 4 pounds, has an 8 line by 80 column LCD screen, a keyboard that's about 96% of full size, 64K RAM, CP/M 2.2, two slots into which you can stick ROMs with software (Drives B: and C:), and a tape cassette drive. It comes bundled with four ROMs containing a group of utility programs, Portable WordStar, Portable Calc and Scheduler, and MBASIC. You can add a 300 baud modem, a 120 K RAM disk, or a "multi" unit consisting of 64 K of RAM disk, a 300 baud modem, and a third ROM socket (Drive I:). These add-on units are all in the shape of a wedge and attach to the bottom of the Geneva adding about two pounds to its weight. There's no disk drive and no parallel port, but there are serial communications and printer ports.

The Geneva's built-in rechargeable battery pack allows you to work for 10 to 20 hours, the propaganda says. In practice the amount of time depends greatly on the state of your battery, your charging practice, whether you use the tape drive or a disk drive, and whether you use the machine continuously or intermittently. My experience has been toward the lower limit of the 10-20 hour period, but the charger unit is lightweight so it's easy enough to carry around if you're travelling.

If you don't have a multi unit or 120K RAM disk added you can configure up to 24K of the 64K nominal RAM as a RAM disk. With WordStar that means you can edit a file up to about 8 K bytes. If you stick VDE into a ROM and turn off the making of BAK files you can edit larger files.

The utility ROM includes PIP, STAT, SUBMIT, XSUB, TERM (a simple communications program), CONFIG (to configure the system), and FILINK (a one-file-at-a-time file transfer program). There are FILINK compatible public domain programs for CP/M and MS-DOS computers (Osborne and Kaypro specific versions are readily availabe). Files can easily be transferred to and from the Geneva with FILINK or a communications program. MEX is also available.

There are a number of Geneva specific programs available. CFOG's Antelope Freeway Remote Access System [(312) 764-5162] has a separate directory for Geneva programs, and there are a lot there. Even more can be found at the PX-DOCK [(313) 538-6968], which is more or less dedicated to support of the Geneva.

The small storage available on the Geneva has generated the creation of a different breed of utility program, called the "DO" program. DO utilities consist of a single program containing several utility programs. When you execute the program you either add command line paramaters to indicate which program you want executed or select your choice from a menu. I've seen as many as seven utility functions crammed into one "DO" utility.

The reason for creation of DO utilities is simple: CP/M requires allocation of units of (in the Geneva's case) 1 K bytes for files. If a program is 128 bytes long, there are 896 bytes of unused space in the 1 K allocated for that program. Many small utility programs have relatively large amounts of unused space allocated. Combining them into a single program with jump commands to execute the desired module recovers a large portion of the otherwise wasted space.

I got the Geneva because I often find myself in meetings interviewing clients or witnesses, attending continuing legal education lectures, at the library doing legal research, or otherwise putting my pencil to pad taking notes. I can type faster than I can write, and my printed notes tend to be more legible and comprehensive than my scribbled ones. I've been taking notes on my office computer during telephone conversations for years, and have found it very effective.

While the Geneva's LCD screen is rather slow, it's not a big issue during note-taking because I'm almost always adding text at the end of a file and not even looking at the display -- I'm looking at the person across the table. When I'm done I send the file 'upstream' to my Osborne or Kaypro where it can be cleaned up and printed. At only six pounds the Geneva is easy enough to put into a briefcase (I bought a separate case from Kaypro that was designed for the Kaypro 2000 but neatly fits the Geneva, it was just $19.00) and carry around.

I've decided to have a couple of ROMs made for my Geneva, so that I can have my choice of programs and get them out of my 120K RAM disk. There's plenty of room there now, but it would be better to get the programs out of there and leave room for the text files I'll be creating. Here's my tentative list:


ZDE is the soon to be released successor to VDE. I've selected it mostly because Portable WordStar doesn't have anywhere near as many features as ZDE and requires much more free space in which to edit files because it makes temporary and backup files.

DISK is a 6K NewSweep work-a-like. Actually, it's older than NewSweep. It doesn't have all the features of NewSweep, but it has most of them. DISK's help screen is six lines by 80 columns and it has a separate help screen for mass transfers. These work very nicely on the Geneva's 8 line display.

ZDR is a horizontally alphabetized "super" directory program that also displays the voltage of the battery. BAT gives a battery voltage reading that's more precise, without the directory listing. It's a 'frill', but there's space for it

CLS is a clear screen utility. Again, it's a frill for which there is space, but on the other hand a ^Z doesn't clear the Geneva's screen.

CONFIG is the Geneva's configuration program and a must.

CRUNCH and UNCRunch are choices that will allow me to save some space on the RAM disk when it gets crowded. These save more than 65% in compressing typical text files, so it's nice to have them. If there was some good reason to do so I could eliminate these and substitute NewSweep for DISK since NewSweep has a squeeze / unsqueeze function and takes up only 12K versus 20K for the DISK / CRUNCH / UNCRunch combination. As I said, these are tentative choices.

UNERAse is, well, absolutely essential.

SUBMIT isn't all that important on the Geneva, but it somehow seemed to be a good idea.

FILINK is a compact way of moving files between systems. I'd consider MEX for batch transfers, but since I seldom travel, so serious communications software isn't important.

I have about 11K bytes available. I haven't chosen any of the available DO utilities simply because I found that I had enough room in two 32K ROMs to fit the programs I think I really need and because many of the combinations include utility functions that I don't want or need.

I haven't finalized my choices yet, and I'd be interested in hearing what other Geneva users do with their machines and what choices they have for programs to store in their RAM disks or on ROMs.

DAK Industries [1-800-425-0800] has offered NEW Genevas for quite some time. They sell it, if I recall correctly, with a multi-unit or a 120K RAM disk (but won't sell either separately) for about about $400. You should be able to get a used one with a multi-unit or a 120K RAM disk for about $200, when you find one. The PX-Dock occasionally has offers of Genevas for sale.