Kaypro 2000; an MS-Dos portable with pizzazz. (evaluation) Joe Desposito.
Looking as if it had just stepped out of a Calvin Klein collection, the Kaypro 2000 is the latest lap-top portable bearing the MS-DOS standard. Though Kaypro has sacrificed style for price in the past, the 2000 offers both. It is designed with the executive in mind, but is also affordably priced. Cost of the 2000 is $1995, which includes a hefty software bundle.
The Kaypro 2000 comes standard with a 25-line by 80-character liquid crystal display, one 3.5" disk drive, 256K RAM, and a serial port. Also standard is the MS-DOS operating system, a software bundle from MicroPro, the mite communications package, and various Kaypro utilities.
The stylish 2000 has a dark grey brushed aluminum case with beveled edges and a rubber strip running around the perimeter. A handle is built right into the rubber molding at the back of the unit. When you open the 2000, the entire top lifts up to reveal the display, and the computer turns on automatically.
The keyboard sits in the front half of the case and can be removed. In the back half sits a 3.5" slimline disk drive. When you want to insert a disk, you release a lever at the top of the drive, and the drive pops up at angle. Once the disk is inserted, you push the drive back down. (If you hate dentists, you might be intimidated by the whirring sound of the dsik drive, which sometimes sounds like a low-power dentist's drill.) Each disk stores 720K. To the left of the drive is a compartment for storing two disks.
On the left side of the case is the RS-232 port, which uses the standard IBM male DB-25 connector. Underneath the case are two RJ-11 telephone jacks for an optional built-in modem, and a 100-pin connector expansion port.
Inside the Kaypro 2000
To maintain compatibility with the IBM PC, the Kaypro 2000 uses an 8088 CPU and a PC type system architecture. For example, the UART used for the serial port is the 8250--the one used on the IBM PC--rather than the CMOS version used on the Data General One. The 256K RAM can be expanded internally to 768K. Other features are a built-in real time clock and an 8087 socket.
The system uses battery power, but can also use an outboard AC adapter. Charging time for the battery is 24 hours, which powers the unit for four hours. This takes into account standard disk usage. However, if you rarely access the disk, battery power will last a lot longer. The battery charges whenever the AC adapter is plugged in, and it cannot be overcharged. There is no automatic shutoff feature.
When you open the case to see the display, two angles can be set for viewing. in both positions, I found the display to be readable but dark with normal overhead lighting. However, when i set a florescent table lamp over the screen, viewing was perfect, without any glare. There is no contrast control knob; instead you press CTRL-ALT and F1 or F2.
Although the display accommodates 25 lines by 80 characters, it does so in a space just 2.75" high (9" wide), so the characters look cramped. But the font uses two rows of dots to form letters, so characters are very readable. Lowercase letters like g and j do not really have true descenders, though they do drop below the line a bit.
In graphics mode the screen has a resolution of 640 by 200 pixels. In terms of compatibility with IBM PC software, the display functions like a PC with an IBM color card and monochrome monitor.
Unlike any of the other lap-top portables, the Kaypro 2000 has a detachable keyboard. This means you can remove the keyboard and maneuver the case to adjust the display to just the right viewing angle.
The keyboard has 77 full-travel keys, including 10 function keys along the top row. Though a separate numeric keypad is missing, it can be invoked by pressing the NUM LOCK key and using a color-coded keypad that is overlaid on the standard keys. The feel of the keyboard is excellent, though placement of the keys varies somewhat from the IBM PC format.
One of the most powerful features of the Kaypro 2000 is its expandability. There are two ways to expand the system. One is with a disk adapter, and the other is with an expansion base unit.
If you want to add a 3.5" or 5.25" drive (or both) to the 2000, you will need the disk adapter ($150). The extra drive will cost $295. The disk adapter also contains a parallel port and can hold one short IBM PC compatible card (an RGB card could be installed so that a color monitor could be used at your desk).
The other option is a base unit that sells for $795 and includes two standard card slots, two half height slots for floppy or hard drives, a parallel port, and serial port.
Software and Documentation
The software included with the 2000 is really a bundle. There are the MicroPro products: WordStar, Mailmerge, CalcStar, InfoStar, and StarBurst. Then there is Mite, a communications package from Mycroft Labs. And for programmers there is GWBasic. All of these run under the MS-DOS operating system. Additionally, Kaypro provides utilities. For example, K-Copy allows you to copy files easily with a one-drive system.
Although this software selection provides most of the typical software a user might want, we are talking about an MS-DOS computer here, and MicroPro is certainly not king of the MS-DOS world.
It is natural to think that a potential 2000 user will already have purchased his favorite software (for his stand-alone machine) or that a first time user will be more likely to use software that has been established in his company.
So why the software bundle for this machine? I suspect that potential users will be more interested in tapping into their PC base of software than in using the bundled products.
Documentation for the software is plentiful, but it is not specifically geared to the 2000 user. Manuals from MicroPro, Microsoft, and Mycroft are generally excellent. The manual for the 2000 itslef is less than 50 pages. It covers the basics of the machine and gives some brief technical data.
The Kaypro 2000 is intended to be almost 100% IBM PC compatible, though this assertion was difficult to test since we didn't receive a 5.25" drive. Manufacturers are not producing their software in two formats yet (in one package), and until they do, the 3.5" media will present compatibility problems.
Comments and Conclusions
I used the Kaypro 2000 with WordStar and it ran fast and without problems. I also downloaded a utility program from CompuServe using Mite. But WordStar is not my word processor of choice. I couldn't use my normal one because it is on a 5.25" disk. Although there are ways of transferring programs through serial ports, this process is sometimes a hassle. I would much prefer to have the 5.25" drive available.
Another problem with the 2000 is the single drive. When you are used to a two drive system, simple procedures like copying files become a burden. Also, some PC software products expect a two drive system.
I thought the machine performed excellently--in fact it seemed to respond much faster than a typical IBM PC. The drive was reliable and the screen legibility was acceptable.
If I were to purchase this machine I would certainly spend the extra money on the disk adapter and a 5.25" drive. This configuration would dispense with any software problems and allow the 2000 free rein to function as the powerful machine it is.
Products: Kaypro 2000 (Portable computer)