Old Dog, New Tricks: WP-2 to Android

When Tandy released the WP-2 in 1989, I doubt if they thought it would still be in use nearly 30 years down the road. Even backthen, the future of portable computing looked like it wouldbelong to the notebook, which was just starting to debut on themarket. The WP-2 and its model 100 predecessors looked old, andquaint in comparison. 

Fortunately no one ever told this to the folks over at Club 100, an active user group for all things model 100, including theWP-2. Not only have they made complete machines available forinterested buyers, they’ve also made a wide range of hardwarehacks and software available as well. If you’re a Model100/102/200/WP-2 user looking to expand their internal storagecapacity, start here. 

One of the more interesting programs I stumbled across on theirwebsite is a utility called mComm, a program that allows you totransfer files from your 30+ year old Tandy computer to thecurrent state of the art mobile computing device: the AndroidOS. All you need is a null modem to USB cable or adapter and aUSB to go adapter and you’ll be able to transfer files to andfrom your android device to the Tandy on the other end. 

Of course, they had me at hello. Getting the old WP-2 to talk to Android wouldn’t only be cool, the extra storage and moderncommunications abilities of the Android OS would make the Tandya lot more useful. Not, ‘I’m throwing away my laptop!’ useful,but still pretty cool. I quickly downloaded and installed themcomm.apk program to my tablet and fired it up for the firsttime. 

The mcomm program interface

As you can see from the screen shot of the app, there’s not alot going on here. You have two file transfer options to choosefrom, modem and TPDD, and an icon that indicates whether you’recommunicating via the null modem cable or a bluetooth modem.Yes, that’s right, I said bluetooth. In theory, you can transmit files wirelessly via a bluetooth modem and this program, but Ihaven’t tried that just yet as I don’t have a USB bluetoothmodem around here. For now, I am focusing all my efforts ongetting it to work through the cable. Wireless can wait for awhile. 

Since I am more familiar with the telcom functions of the WP-2,I started off in modem mode and tried to send the file that way. As soon as I hit send on the WP-2, the lights on my cablestarted to flicker, and everything looked like it was working.Success! The only problem was the file never came across thewire. I tried again, and still no success. It looks like thefile is uploading to the tablet, but there’s no file on theother end. 

Weird. 

OK, let’s try this again using the TPDD mode, which basicallymakes the tablet emulate an external disk drive. Yes, they madebattery powered mini disk drives for these things, and a lot ofclever people have used that protocol to do some very coolthings. The people at Club 100 even made what they call a NADSBox, which saves your data to a memory card. In theory, thissame protocol would now turn my tablet into one of these diskdrives, and my files would be saved. I activated the TPDD modein the program, hit F1-C to copy the highlighted file, andwatched the lights come to life as the data made its way fromthe WP-2 to my Nvidia Shield tablet.

Success!

After some futzing around on the tablet side (Android has noidea what to do with a .do file), I managed to pull up thetransferred file in a text editor. Thirty year old technology,meet your great grandchild. 

Its pretty amazing to me that a hardcore group of users can keep a technology platform alive for this long, but that’s what Club100 has managed to do. Yes, there will still need to be someformatting done to this post to add the images and the like, but its meant as more of a demonstration that it can be done at all. And thanks to some dedicated users, tinkerers, and programmers, it can.

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