.gif Image of the HHC-4 (106K, original
picture courtesy David Vohs)
Monochrome .jpg Image of the HHC-4 (38K, original picture courtesy David Vohs -- identical image)
aka Hand-Held Computer
Introduced January 1983
Hardware 192x8? (24 columns x 1 row) LCD display; 4K RAM (max 16K); 20K ROM; 64-key Chiclet keyboard with numeric keypad, 6502 processor.
Graphics and Sound Text only. Graphics characters? A vapourware expander peripheral allowed connection to a monitor with unknown capabilities.
Eventual Fate Scrapped prototype.
Ha! I beat Jim Brain's Canonical List to this little number. >:-) Thanks to David Vohs for reporting this unit.
The HHC-4 bears more than a passing resemblance to the Radio Shack Pocket Computer series (PC-1, -2, -4, -5, -6), especially with the thermal printer and cassette-peripheral interface it is pictured with, but they are no relation; the Radio Shack pocket computers are actually themselves clones of the Sharp and Casio series of pocket computers, which are wholly based on custom ICs and have not a single MOS/CSG chip in them. The HHC-4 is definitely unrelated to the Commodore LCD.
The peripheral interface also had an RS-232 port in it, allowing it to be connected to the Usual Suspects(tm); another module connected the HHC-4 to a TV or composite monitor with unknown display capabilities and resolution. The HHC-4 was supposed to have an MSRP of US$199; the price of the RS-232 peripheral interface is unknown.
One wonders what happened to the HHC-1, 2 and 3, but there are still historical links evocative of the HHC-4. One possible relative is the suspiciously similar Quasar HHC with many similar components and features, right down to the CPU and acronym, but it is merely uncommon as opposed to outright non-existent. (I myself own a Panasonic HHC, which is equivalent and functionally identical to the Quasar units. There is a previous Quasar HHC that predates even these, which uses a vacuum display and is a totally dissimilar architecture.) The HHC series was originally developed by French-American technology concern Friends Amis around 1981, who wanted to devise a small portable computer system around the 6502 for mobile productivity applications. In its envisioned form, it would use 'ROM capsules' (ROM chips in a special carrier) as cartridge-like modules for various applications; many HHCs, including mine, were created for the insurance industry and came with a rate computation system burned into one of these 'capsules' pre-installed. After Friends Amis successfully designed the HHC series, Panasonic's parent company, Matsushita, which manufactures both Quasar and Panasonic brands, bought them out and added the HHC series to their product line. The HHC family was a modest success, selling over 70,000 units in its lifetime.
In addition to the name, the capabilities of the Panasonic and Quasar HHC series are suspiciously similar to the HHC-4 as well. Like the HHC-4, the HHC series could take a surprisingly agile if diminutive printer, external screen access (the HHC series supported 32x16 character graphics and 64x48 "bitmap" with 8 colours), and external RS-232 serial. Furthermore, as the HHC series came out around 1981, this squares well with Commodore announcing their own HHC derivative in 1983. Where the picture is less clear is the internal components and the unit construction. The keyboards are dissimilar; there is some question over the LCD screen size (the HHC series have 26 characters in the LCD) and Woodrow's unit uses a CMOS Rockwell 6502 core which Commodore would doubtlessly have eschewed.
One other and much stronger candidate for the family tree comes in the form of the Toshiba Pasopia Mini IHC-8000, spotted by Scott Jones. This device emerged in 1983, a contemporary of the HHC, although it is not known which one came first. The IHC-8000 features a 24x1 character LCD, similar expansion options including a 12K RAM pack (thus 16K total, just like the HHC-4), an external tape connector, an external thermal printer, an external video option with unknown capabilities and an unbelievably similar form factor, with logo and keys in the same place as on the HHC-4 prototype. Looks aren't everything, however; there is no known RS-232 attachment like the HHC-4 (and the Quasar HHC), and other than being 8-bit, no one knows if its custom CPU is truly a 6502 architecture.