I was reflecting this morning what a marvel of engineering the Surface Pro 3 is. I’ve never owned anything like it. Light, fast, powerful. Versatile and comfortable to hold. Expandable.

sp3 

And then I got to thinking about the various “portables” I’ve owned, especially the early ones. I’ve always been a laptop person, although the definition of ‘portable’ has certainly changed over the years. And I started thinking about the hardware I’ve owned. And decided to post a short walk through those ancient devices I’ve owned over the years.

My first portable was a Tandy 1400FD, circa 1989

 

1400fd

This was a beast that weighed about 14 lbs as I recall. Equipped with a whopping 768K of RAM, it had a switchable clock speed of 4.77/8.16 MHz and an 8026/7 Intel 8 MHz processor.

The MS DOS operating system and applications ran off dual 720K floppy drives. In addition to MS-DOS 3.20, it ran a text based under interface called Deskmate with built in applications for drawing and word processing. The screen was a backlit LCD that reminded me of an Etch-a-Sketch toy. Hard on the eyes, so I printed out everything on a dot matrix printer.

 

Just two years later, circa 1991, I purchased a 6.7 lb. slightly more powerful Tandy 2810 laptop (it even had a 20 meg hard drive). With 16 shades of grey, 1 meg of RAM, MS-DOS 5.0 and an 80C286 processor, I ran Windows 3.0 in “Standard” mode. This was the first computer I seriously traveled with as it had a 2400 bps modem and in addition to local hobbyist BBSing, I’d added Prodigy, Genie, and CompuServe to my lifestyle.

 

2810.1 2810.2

Just six months later, I sold the 2810 to an online friend and purchased an AST Premium Exec 386/25SX.

 

ast

This technological wonder ran Windows 3.1 in Enhanced mode, and included 4 Megs of RAM and a 20 meg hard drive. Video was significantly improved at 256 shades of grey and with a 386 SX25 processor, it was the fastest machine I’d ever seen. This was the last portable I owned that required a separate, add-on mouse and I jumped on the ballpoint mouse (predecessor of the built in trackball) bandwagon.

 

1993-1995

I quickly graduated to my first color laptop, a passive matrix Compaq Contura 425c (a 486/25sx).

contura

 

From there, I moved on to an Ambra (offered by IBM as a separate non-IBM/ThinkPad brand) 486/DX4 100. I couldn’t believe how fast and colorful my mobile computing world was getting. Both included built-in trackball mouse support. Although each was initially purchased with Windows 3.1 or Windows 3.11, I upgraded to Windows 95. While neither originally came equipped with a CD ROM drive, I purchased one separately, a 2X pcmcia external drive. This was the bleeding edge. I thought I was all set for years to come.

1996-1997

Next came a store brand Pentium 120 laptop pre-installed with Windows 95. This machine died, the store (actually a small chain) had gone out of business, and I was about to enter what I considered to be the age of modern laptops.

1998-1999

I had always considered the IBM ThinkPad the ultimate portable machine (and a very expensive luxury) and one day while visiting a CompUSA store I caved, and bought a consumer 385XD Pentium II 266 MHz ThinkPad with 64 megs of RAM and a 4 GIG hard drive.

385xd

I loved the track point style mouse.  Later that year, I injured my back and suddenly needed a very light weight machine and purchased a ThinkPad 570 Pentium II 366 MHz machine, equipped with 128 megs RAM, a 5.1 GIG hard drive and it weighed under 4.5 lbs.

 

 570

At the time, I thought it was the ultimate “thin and light” laptop. But it was really the clever “slice” dock that enabled IBM to slim down and lighten up the 570. And I was definitely hooked on ThinkPad’s. Rock solid, and with the best keyboard to be found anywhere.

1999-2000

While beta testing Windows 2000, I treated myself to a ThinkPad 600X, a 500 MHz Pentium machine with 128 megs of RAM, 12 GIG hard drive and 4 megs video RAM (and my first DVD drive). I added a full docking station, full size monitor, and all the trimmings. This was a perfect Windows 2000 machine, and it was a good Windows XP Professional one as well.

2001

I bought an IBM ThinkPad T22. It boasted an Intel Speed Step processor, 384 megs of 100 MHz PC RAM, 8 megs of video RAM, a 20 gig hard drive and a 8x DVD. I added a long list of add-on peripherals, including 802.11b, firewire, and SCSI pcmcia cards, web cams, USB scanner, printer and a docking station. Again, I thought I was on top of the world, over the bleeding edge, set for years to come.

 

2003, 2005

Upgraded to new ThinkPad “T” models. These were incremental upgrades. Stronger, faster, better. thinkpad

2007

In 2007. by some strange alignment of the planets, I hooked up with some folks at HP who sent me a TX1000 tablet to play around with.

tx1000

This had limited touch capabilities (by today’s standards) and was a laptop convertible. You’d twist the thing around to a tablet like configuration. It was pretty awkward, but it was my first hands on experience with a tablet like laptop. The experience got incrementally better a little less than a year later.

 

2008

HP followed up the TX1000 with a TX2000 and sent one along for me to try out. It cane fitted out with:

Turion 64 X2 TL66 (2.3 GHz 512+512 L2 Cache)

4 GB DDR2 System Memory

Fingerprint Reader + Webcam + Microphone

Wireless a/b/g/n (draft) + Bluetooth

250 GB SATA 5400 RPM hard drive

LightScribe 8x DVD+/-RW Double Layer

Wireless Remote Control (for Windows Media Center and Quick Play)

6 cell & 8 cell Lithium-Ion batteries

Tablet Pen Digitizer and Cord

12.1” (1280 x800) WXGA Nvidia Go6150 powered graphics (shared memory)

2 sets earbuds

 

tx2000

 

 

 

In 2011 I bought a MacBook Air (mostly to run Windows).  It was, at the time, the thinnest, lightest “ultrabook” available.Enough said.

 

2013

I was first in line at the nearest Microsoft Store to Purchase the original Surface Pro.

 

2014

Which brings us to today. I love my Surface Pro 3. It’s been quite the journey. Can’t wait to see what’s next!

 

I’ve been sending folks to http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=38826 to grab all the drivers and firmware for their Surface Pro 3 (but all other Pro SKU’s were there too).

Suddenly, folks in the Community Forums http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/surface/forum/surfpro3-surfupdate/surface-pro-3-drivers-link-website-down/c9338aaf-ecb4-48d4-923b-7e8c0dcc2daa?msgId=21c2cf86-9c67-44e0-b2a0-4b6ef5615c98 are reporting that the link has gone missing – for all countries.

You can see what the page looked like via Google’s cache at http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:oZEV6eFNXdEJ:www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx%3Fid%3D38826+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us 

surfacedownload

But the downloads themselves appear to have been pulled as well.

 

Dear Microsoft,

You documented how to take a Panorama on Page 84 of the  Surface Pro 3 User Guide (PDF). You provide instructions on the feature, but the feature isn’t available.

userguide

Your customers have been asking since launch http://answers.microsoft.com/en-us/surface/forum/surfpro3-surfusingpro/no-panorama-option-in-camera-app/8b161c54-eb22-4cdf-9191-36a317da3d38 and no answers have appeared.

Compare what is available using the Camera App on every other Surface (on the right) with what is available with the Surface Pro 3 (left).

compare

I spent $10 to get http://apps.microsoft.com/windows/en-us/app/youcam-mobile/15058a8d-8408-4bdd-a43f-9ca0353ec32a which provides the functionality that your documentation states should be available free of charge. How about a $10 credit in the Windows Store to offset this?

youcam

Can’t you find a way to work with the folks that own the Microsoft Camera App and deliver on the experience you document? Please?

 

One of my complaints about the Surface Pro 3 is that the fixed focus camera is totally unsuitable and unusable for capturing documents. You can’t get close enough and keep your documents in focus. All you get is a blurry mess.

I’ve tried using a macro lens designed for a smartphone with bad results. There have been some posts in Microsoft Communities about this, and lots of unhappy customers. Here’s a solution.

Your Surface Pro 3 needs glasses (or more correctly, a monocle).

I started with $17 rimless reading glasses +2.50 strength from WalMart.

start

Some snapping, twisting and bending to get to:

monocle

I hope to refine the above a little, but it was quick and dirty. I then put glasses on the Surface Pro 3 rear camera:

 

glasses on sp3

And took my first picture of a document. This is NOT retouched. Click or tap to open the image below full size.

 

output

Wonder if anyone will be inspired by this to Kickstarter a real accessory. Microsoft, you should make an accessory and provide it free of charge to your SP3 customers. You owe them at least that.

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