Now, I would not be surprised if you hadn't heard of this one as it was an early device in a niche that produced much more advanced models before the niche itself died off. That's not to say it was bad, per se, just that the march of technology and public reaction to it meant that this model didn't have the staying power as originally intended.
|Closed, in good condition|
|Open, the keyboard is clean and well defined|
This was supposed to offer a desktop style experience in the palm of your hand, and in true Microsoft style, form dictated function meaning that the usability of the device is vastly impaired by the operating system choices. The relatively slow processor and greyscale screen mean that you get to see plenty of the egg-timer icon and even then, the image is washed out and ghosts horribly, meaning you'll need to use the backlight continuously just to see what you are doing.
|It lives, but a smidge dark...|
|Let there be (back)light!|
|Stylus to bottom left, CF slot on the left, battery compartment, PC Card on the right, battery back-up in the middle|
The screen is touch enabled but, with its age, it's a resistive one, not capacitive. Basically, that means you need to use the included style as your fingers won't do. Using this really does prove that screen, and in particular, touchscreen tech has moved on a hell of a lot in the past twenty years.
|Once more, into the Darkness...|
|Lighting it up like it's 1997!|
Software wise, the 360LX comes with the default Pocket PC set up, so pocket versions of the MS Office apps and various utilities. There is also Internet Explorer but as the only connection option available is infra-red and I do not have an Ethernet PC Card, I am unable to demo this.
So what use is it in 2017?
Well, it has Word and the Compact Flash slot, so a quick trip to Amazon gained me a 1GB CF card (the maximum the 360LX can handle is 2GB which was a sizable piece of storage back then) and I was in business. Files on the card are recognised on a modern day Win 10 machine (remembering to save as .txt or .rtf format first) and copying them over was quick and easy. This means the 360LX can act as a back up portable device if I am looking for something smaller than the AlphaSmart. This is good thing.
|Word, with backlight.|
|Word without backlight.|
Another positive: the batteries - the machine takes two AA batteries for about 10 hours of use (7 if you have the backlight on) but that still worked out as about a week of semi-regular usage. Ok, the cost of buying batteries might be an issue but means that the device can still be used today. Later models (labelled the Jornada range) offered traditional style keyboards and colour displays but swapped the AA's for built in rechargeable cells which might not be in the best condition today and will cost more to replace. That is something that people have become used to now, non-replaceable batteries, meaning once the cell has gone, you either replace it or, given the time you have had the machine, replace it with a newer model even though, battery life aside, there was nothing else wrong with your machine. A fine example of built in obsolescence.
This will make a fine back up device and one that will easily fit in a rucksack or satchel (the AlphaSmart is a tad too large for my day-to-day bag). The device format itself died off as laptops became smaller and cheaper, there was just no need to carry something like the 360LX/Jornada range when a much more capable and versatile laptop would do the same but, nonetheless, I have always liked the idea of a handheld device that you can type on.
If I was after something like this with a more modern spin, then it would either one of the GPD handheld PC's here (which are fully fledged Windows PC's with severe constraints on battery life and keyboards, plus there is the cost issue!!!) or the Gemini PDA (Indiegogo link here and company website here) which although looking good, is crowd funded and not yet live hardware until next year and there is a cost issue with that device as well).
Having said all of that, it is true that there is still some use in older technology if you are prepared to put a bit of thought into it and I can't see any reason apart from complete failure that either the 360LX or the AlphaSmart 3000 cannot be used for a good few years yet.