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Panasonic HHC RL-H1400

Date of introduction:  September 1980 (Japan)
 January 1981 (US)
Display technology:  LCD dot matrix
New price:  $500.00 (MSRP 1981) Display size:  26 characters
Size:  3.7" x 8.9" x 1.25"
 95 x 227 x 32 mm3
   
Weight:  20.7 ounces, 588 grams Serial No:  4IBKE 28940
Batteries:  5*AA NiCd Date of manufacture:  mth 09 year 1984
AC-Adapter:   Origin of manufacture:  Japan
Precision:  12 Integrated circuits:  CPU: R6502P
 ASIC: SED6920X
 ROM: 2*uPD2364C-SL001, SH001
 RAM:  2*HM6116L
 DISPLAY: 4*E3890
Memories:  4kB RAM, 16kB ROM    
Program steps:   Courtesy of:  Joerg Woerner

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd., outside of Japan better known under their brand Panasonic, developed already in 1979 together with the Franco-American company Friends Amis one of the World's first Hand-Held Computers and named it accordingly HHC. The product targeted directly the stronghold of the legendary TI-59 with its innovative Solid State Software ModulesTM, storing customer-specific software applications with up to 5,000 program steps in small, user-accessible module.

The innovative HHC went five steps ahead and added to the original concept of the TI-59:

Alphanumeric display with 26 characters instead of 7-segment display with 10 digits
High-level language support including BASIC and Forth instead of keystroke programmability
Three ports for plug-in ROM (Read-only Memory) modules for user applications or programming language support
Memory backup while the systems is powered off, up to 80 hours operating time on a battery charge
Many more peripherals than just a printer, e.g. RS-232 Interface, TV Interface, Modem etc

Product Management at Texas Instruments was obviously pretty impressed when Matsushita introduced the HHC in Japan in September 1980, about three months after Sharp's PC-1211. These two early contenders in the then new Pocket/Hand-held Computer arena and Casio's FX-702P, introduced in 1981, influenced not only TI's Advanced Language Computer (ALC) project but finally led to the cancelation of the TI Programmable 88, also known as the successor of the TI-59.

The HHC Hand-held Computer was available in seven versions, mainly differing in the size of its RAM (Random-access Memory) to store user data and user programs and the regions of the market:

Panasonic RL-H1000, 2k Bytes RAM (1k user), expandable to 4k Bytes RAM, markets outside of Japan, MSRP $250
Panasonic RL-H1400, 4k Bytes RAM (3k user), markets outside of Japan, MSRP $500
Panasonic RL-H1800, 8k Bytes RAM (7k user), markets outside of Japan, MSRP $750
Quasar HK-2500TE, 2k Bytes RAM (1k user), Japan only
Quasar HK-2600TE, 4k Bytes RAM (3k user), Japan only
Quasar HK-2608TE, 8k Bytes RAM (7k user), Japan only
Olympia OL-H004, 4k Bytes RAM (3k user), some European markets only

While Texas Instruments offered for their TI-59 Pocket Programmable Calculator with the PC-100C only a huge, mains powered printer cradle, developed Matsushita for the HHC System a huge variety of peripherals:

Product Description MSRP (1981)
RL-P1002 Color Plotter, 4 colors, 114 mm plain paper, up to 80 characters per line  
RL-P1003 Mini Printer, thermal paper, up to 15 characters per line  
RL-P1004
RL-P1004A
Mini Printer and Cassette Interface (Option A), 77 mm thermal paper, up to 40 characters per line  
RL-P2001 Video Interface, 16*32 characters or 64*128 pixels, eight colors, two-page memory  
RL-P3001 RS-232 Interface, up to 9,600 Baud  
RL-P4001 Acoustic Modem, up to 300 Baud  
RL-P6001 I/O Adapter, allows to connect up to five peripherals to HHC bus connectors (and a sixth one with a cable)  
RL-P9001 4k Bytes RAM Module, back-up battery  
RL-P9002 8k Bytes RAM Module, back-up battery  

Dismantling the featured Panasonic RL-H1400 Hand-held Computer manufactured in September 1984 by Matsushita in Japan reveals a rather complex design using two printed circuits boards (PCBs) centered around a classical "von Neumann" computer architecture and powered by an internal rechargeable battery. The Main-PCB is centered around an 8-bit Microprocessor R6502P manufactured by Rockwell and various other Integrated Circuits (ICs):

R6502P: 8-bit microprocessor manufactured by Rockwell in an NMOS process and using a 40-pin DIP (Dual In-line Package) encapsulation
SED6920X: ASIC for housekeeping, clock and I/O functions. Manufactured by Suwa Seikosha in Japan and using a 60-pin QFP (Quad Flat Pack) package
2*uPD2364C: 8k Bytes ROM manufactured by NEC in an NMOS process with customer code SL001 and SL001, using a 24-pin DIP (Dual In-line Package) encapsulation
2*HM6116L: 2k Bytes RAM manufactured by Hitachi in a CMOS process and using a 24-pin DIP (Dual In-line Package) encapsulation

The second PCB sports the keyboard and the dot-matrix LC-Display with 159*8 pixels with their drivers:

4*E3890: 40-channel segment drivers manufactured by Suwa Seikosha in Japan and using a 60-pin QFP package

Please compare the internal design of the Panasonic HHC with the Sharp PC-1211 using two 4-bit microcontrollers instead an 8-bit CPU system resulting in a much lower complexity and don't miss the flagship Hewlett Packard HP-75C introduced in September 1982.

 

If you have additions to the above article please email: joerg@datamath.org.

Joerg Woerner, December 31, 2020. No reprints without written permission.