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.

Old Dog, Old Tricks

wp-2While I am not sure I understand the appeal, I am a sucker for old technology. There’s just something about old 8 and 16 bit computers I have a hard time walking away from, or getting rid of. I still have a couple of old 8 bit Atari computers in storage, as well as an old Tandy Model 100. So when I saw this old Tandy portable word processor at the Salvation Army for $8.99, I knew I’d be taking it home. Yes, I needed it like I need another hole in my head, but that’s never stopped me before, and it certainly wasn’t going to stop me that night either. I left the store with $9 less in my bank account and a big smile on my face.

For those of you who remember the old Model 100s, the WP-2 will look very familiar. It has the same look and feel as its predecessor, but doesn’t have the programmability of the 100. It does, however, have connections that allow it to print directly to a printer, or connect an external disk drive. Like the 100, the WP- 2 can also communicate with a PC through a null modem cable.

Of course, its not as easy as all that. The WP-2 is designed to communicate through its RS-232 port, a feature not included on a lot of modern PCs, including my laptop. It also needs a DOS based comm program running on the PC, which doesn’t like 64 bit operating systems like Windows 10. Still, it should work in theory. It’s just a question of how many hoops I have to jump through.

Today is February 27th, 2017, and I am writing this on the sweet feeling keyboard of my WP-2. As of today, the machine is operational. I just replaced the dead CR2430 battery that allows me to save files for later, and I have also acquired a RS-232 to USB cable. Form here on out, its up to me. My challenge is to get this file out of the WP-2 and up to my blog as soon as possible. The clock is ticking, and the challenge is accepted. Let’s see what I can do.

DAY 1: Doesn’t anyone have a null modem cable anymore?

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The WP-2’s window to the world: the RS-232 port.

As I said earlier, I have a trusty USB to RS232 cable ready to roll. Unfortunately, it isn’t a null modem cable, so it will not do what I need it to do. No problem, I’ll just go down to Radio Shack and pick one up, right? Yeah, not so much. While the Radio Shack of a few years ago would’ve had a truck load of them, that’s not the case today. When I asked the one lonely employee at the last RS in Des Moines if he had one, he gave me that deer in the headlights look that showed he had no clue what I was talking about. I somewhat politely thanked him, cased the joint looking for one, and then split.

Fortunately, I remembered Mid-State Distribution, a local place that specializes in electronic parts and components. Sure enough they had one, but it was male t o male, whereas I need a female to female. No problem though, I grabbed a couple of female to female adapters and I was on my way. Once I got back to the office though, I realized that one of the adapters is 15 pin, and not a 9.

Rats.

So off to Amazon I went, and ordered a couple of cables. One is a USB to db9 null modem cable (I double checked this time), and one is an old school, female to female db9 null modem cable. Thanks to prime shipping, they should be here in a couple of days.

Now all I have to do is wait.

March 1: Let the Frustration… Begin!

For those of you not old enough to remember com ports, let me clue you in on something: they suck. No, not like Windows Vista suck, but they still suck in their own way. They can be finicky beasts, and are as silent as a sphinx when it come s to giving you a clue as to what the problem could be. This proved to be a problem once the Big Brown Truck (BBT) arrived today with a couple of flavors of null modem cables.

There are several ways to get the data out of the WP-2 and onto a PC, but I have chosen to focus on two of them. The first is to use a program called WP2DOC, which makes the WP-2 think its saving the data to an external drive rather than a PC. This is pretty cool, but the program isn’t compatible with 64 bit operating systems like Windows 10. That means you’ll need to run it in a DOS emulator like DosBox, which will also require some com port mapping. At this point, that’s an additional level of complexity that I don’t need, so that’s on the back burner.

The other method is to use a good old fashioned terminal program to receive the data. There’s lots of free ones out there, and I initially settled on one called Termite. It’s pretty straightforward, simple to use, and easy to configure. Hey , what’s not to like, right? With my new null modem cable connected, I fired up Termite, pointed it to com1 at 300 baud and started the upload.

Nothing.

I tried the DB9 to USB with the port set to com5. Still no luck. The modem light s in Termite could see that something was on the other end of the cable, but I w as still not getting any data. A check of the owner’s manual for the WP-2 said t hat I should try converting the file to ascii, but that didn’t work either. What gives?

And then Success!

RealTerm doing its thing.
RealTerm doing its thing.

Finally, I resorted to the last refuge of all scoundrels: another Google search. This time, I found a forum post on vcfed.org about extracting data from the Tandy portables, including the WP-2, where he happened to mention a terminal program called RealTerm. While one terminal program should be the same as another (or so I thought), I decided to give it a shot, and quickly downloaded it from SourceForge. I immediately started receiving data as soon as I set com1 to 300 baud. Garbled data mind you, but still data nonetheless. After a little futzing with the settings (I think the port needed to be closed and reopened before the baud settings took effect), I was receiving the text I’d written on the terminal screen.

Success!

Undaunted, I doubled down with the DB9 to USB cable. Switching the port setting to com 5 and 300 baud, I was again rewarded with clear text from the WP-2 on my terminal screen. A quick cut and paste and a little formatting here and there (ok, make that a LOT of formatting. I’ve got some carriage return issues to figure out) and I have a blog post to share with the world. So two days and a few cables later, I am in business. The 28 year old word processor has found new life, and I have succeeded in my little project with minimal teeth gnashing and a few streams of obscenities.

Not bad.

Breathing New Life Into Some Old Design Acoustics

IMG_20161226_160904606As you probably know by now, I spend a fair amount of time checking out the various thrift stores in Des Moines and Ames. While I will bring home just about anything that interests me, last summer’s Nakamichi find has sent me on a quest to put together the best system I can for under $100.

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Normally I’d peel the price tag off, but in this case, I think I’ll leave them on.

Late last August, I stopped in at a nearby Goodwill and discovered a pretty good selection of stereo stuff someone had gotten rid of, including a pair of Design Acoustics PS-10 speakers. These little cubes are a three way design, with a 10″ woofer firing out of the bottom of the cabinet, which is elevated on a pedestal about an inch and a half from the base. The speakers themselves were in decent shape, but the foam surrounds on the woofers had rotted away many moons ago. Still, for a price tag of $6.99 for the pair, how could I go wrong? I quickly grabbed a cart, loaded them and a JVC cassette deck up, and off we went.

After procrastinating and putting it off for a couple of months, I finally hauled these speakers down to my brother’s place, where we performed the minor surgery. Not only did Bro have the tools and the space needed for the repairs, he’s also done this before, which gives him a leg up on me.

Here’s what we found after removing the woofers from the bottom of the cabinet:

IMG_20161226_141312164(2)

Yeah, those foams are toast! Getting those black seals off wasn’t so easy though. After breaking one Xacto knife and still getting nowhere, I tried prying it off with a screwdriver, which wend much smoother. Soon, after a little bit of elbow grease, we had the edge down to bare metal.

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Before clean up
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After clean up
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The speaker cabinet mid surgery.

Next, we centered the foams, and glued them to the cone, making sure the seal was consistent the entire way around the diameter. A second set of hands is a big help with this, as it allows one person to hold the cone while the other applies pressure to the new foam. Once the glue set up, we went ahead and did the same to the outer edge of the foam and applied it to the metal ring of the speaker. This was a pain in the tuckus, as the glue really didn’t want to stick to the metal, so we re-applied the black plastic ring  and set them upside down on the floor of the garage. This kept a steady pressure on the glue while it cured, and seemed to work fairly well. We only had one spot that needed a little extra glue afterwards. And no, I don’t know why I didn’t get a picture of these two stages either.

After the glue had set and we checked our seals one last time, we re-applied the black ring and put it all back together again, ending up with these:IMG_20161226_152816675

As you can see, we left the original dust covers in tact. Replacing them would be for nothing but aesthetics, and since these woofers are buried in the bottom of the speaker, that wasn’t a concern. besides, new dust covers didn’t come with the foam kit, so there was that as well.

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Bass? What bass?

So was all of this work worth the effort? Absolutely! I listened to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band from the Mono Box last night, and was very impressed with their sound.  That enjoyment carried over to the Beach Boys Pet Sounds, where I could hear that wonderful third dimension that is so elusive in many recordings. No, they don’t have a lot of bass, but considering the dimensions of the cabinet, that’s no surprise either. What bass their is though sounds very pleasant, and should improve as the foams break themselves in. For my ears, I don’t feel like I am missing anything. Overall, these are a definite upgrade over the Mordaunt Short Pageant 2 speakers I had been running, and those weren’t bad sounding speakers either.

After adding up the original cost of the speakers and the price of the new surrounds, I have about $38 wrapped up in these, and they are well worth the price. Not only are they a fine improvement to the < $100 system they’re connected to, I’d say they’re worth the $150 they seem to command these days.

Score!

The Beach Boys Smile

 

smileSmile isn’t an album, it’s an obsession.

It started out innocent enough, when my bootleg connection’s email of recent acquisitions included a CD of the unreleased Beach Boys album Smile. Being a huge Pet Sounds fan, and somewhat aware of the stories surrounding the Smile record, I decided to pick it up and see what it was all about.

Initially, I didn’t really get it. Sure there were certainly some interesting tracks on there, but it certainly was no Pet Sounds. What’s up with Mrs. O’Leary’s Cow, anyways? Why is he singing about Vegetables? What IS this mess? It got a few spins before getting retired to the shelves as a curiosity, and I went back to whatever else was in heavy rotation at the time.

Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. This weird little album had planted some sort of seed in my subconscious, and it was starting to bear copious amounts of fruit. The haunting tones of Surf’s Up, and its tip of the hat to the band’s past while plowing into unknown musical territory swirled around in my head like the ultimate unshakable ear worm. No, Smile was no Pet Sounds, but it was something nonetheless, something much harder to wrap one’s head around. The disc went back into the player, and immediately into heavy rotation.

As I listened, read, and discovered more about this album, I came to realize that there was no definitive Smile album, but more like a collection of studio sessions compiled into some sembalance of order. The original prototype album sleeves made by Capitol showed no track order, so bootleggers were left to their own devices to come up with a listing that made sense. most of these boots, including the one I had, started with Prayer, followed by Heroes and Villains, and ended with Surf’s Up. Whether or not this is what Brian intended was anyone’s guess (until 2004 at least), but it seemed to make sense.

I also came to realize that most of the material I had purchased had already been released on the Beach Boys box set (which included about 70% of a “complete” smile record), outtakes from the Smiley Smile CD, and several other bootlegs, most notably the GEMA (the Japanese release that spawned a new interest in the Smile material in the late 80s), Vigotone, Unsurpassed Masters, and Sea of Tunes (SoT) releases. Of course, I HAD to have those boots, and began scouring several torrent sites (anyone remember SharingTheGroove?). I never did find the SoT release, but I did manage to track down the Vigotone version, complete with the outtake of Brian looking for more hash brownies.

Around this time,  I also discovered the world of fan compilations, including  Mok’s amazingly well done take on the Smile record. He’d taken fragments of songs from multiple releases, and corrected them for timing and pitch differences in ProTools to create a truly remarkable work of art in its own right. Of course it wasn’t historically accurate, but it worked, and it worked well. Anne Wallace came out with her own fan mix around this time as well, but I will be darned if I ever remember acquiring it. That is an error I am doing my best to correct.

While I was busy acquiring every Smile release I could get my hands on, someone else decided to join the remix party. In 2004, Brian Wilson released his own re-recording of Smile, complete with a tracking order that no one was expecting. Not only was Surf’s Up in the middle of the album, he ended up closing it with a lyrically very different version of Good Vibrations! This inspired many to go back to their old bootlegs and create the ‘new’ album from the old tapes. PurpleChick (who’s deluxe editions of the Beatles albums are must owns for any hardcore Beatle fan) gets the gold star in this category, with her seamless mending of snippets and fragments from 1967 into the new 2004 order.

Of course, you could say Brian trumped everyone with the eventual release of the Smile sessions in 2011, a sprawling five CD set consisting of the complete album in the 2004 running order and a slew out session outtakes. He conquered his personal demons, delivered his 1967 masterpiece 45 years later, and we all lived happily ever after.

But this isn’t a mere record anymore, its an obsession. And while I am happy for Brian, and I love his take on the sessions, I see them as just that: his take. Its a take from someone who was obviously much closer to the project than any of the rest of us, but I’m not sure I’d call it definitive. Like the Dylan fanatics who heard the original New York version of Blood on the Tracks and found it superior to the official Columbia release, I cannot un-hear what I’ve heard. Whether it’s Mok’s take on Heroes and Villains, or the intense seven minute version of Surf’s Up on my original Smile bootleg, there’s a lot of room for second guessing.

Fifteen years after this album first hit my CD player, I think it still has more to reveal. In my search for the Anne Wallace version of Smile, I have re-acquired both the Mok and PurpleChick releases, and discovered another version called the “Kal Mix”, which promises 24 bit audio. I haven’t managed to track it down just yet, but the hunt continues.

The obsession continues.

Same Old Song

IMG_20161019_110858316When we are younger, we spend a lot of our time thinking about how our lives will turn out when we grow up. We daydream about what kind of job we’ll have, what kind of car we will drive, and where we will live. Now that we are older, and the last ash of all those burned dreams has been carried up into the sky by the dumpster fire of life, we find ourselves trying to re-live our youth. Of course that’s not an option, so we do the next best thing by spending our money on eBay buying things that remind us of those days. Whether it be baseball cards, Star Wars toys, or Barbie dolls, we aren’t just buying the object, we are trying to buy a part of our past. A past that, in retrospect, doesn’t seem as awful now as it did then.

Back in high school, music wasn’t an important part of my life, it was my life. Every new album, or song they played on the college radio station I could barely pick up was like a lifeline to a sad, lonely kid who never fit in anywhere. Bands like REM, X, and, of course, the Replacements somehow or another allowed me to keep my shit somewhat together. None of it would’ve been possible if it wasn’t for a late Christmas gift I got when I was 13.

Back then, I wanted nothing more than a boom box for Christmas. My brother, being a voice of reason, convinced me, and more importantly, my mom, that I didn’t want a boom box, I wanted a stereo. And, under his guidance, we went to the stereo store (they used to have them back then you know) and came home with a real live component system from Sharp, complete with a cassette deck, turntable, and most importantly, a receiver.

While the turntable may have sucked (the platter was warped, and would grind against the base with every turn) and the speakers were blown within two months, I still enjoyed the hell out of that thing, especially the SA-250 receiver. It was through that piece of gear that I discovered college radio, and a world of music I never even knew existed. Do you know how mind blowing something like the Tom Tom Club is to a kid who’s never heard anything more exotic than the local Top 40 station? It was pretty mind blowing to me at least, and that was just the beginning. My friend Mark, the only other person I knew who liked the same bands I did, would bring over albums he’d bought from bands like Guadalcanal Diary and 10,000 Maniacs, which would immediately be taped and added to my growing tape collection.

Later, when I went off to college myself, that receiver came along as well. Paired up with some Infinity RS 1000 speakers, it provided the soundtrack to countless studying sessions, a couple of stereo fights, and a lot of alcohol soaked, late night explorations of the Velvet Underground before finally being retired my senior year in favor of a Pioneer SX-6. the Pioneer had more watts per channel, and a digital readout too! oooh la la! If I remember correctly, I gave the old Sharp to a friend of mine for a wedding present, but I don’t think he kept it very long. Something about it not having a hookup for a TV or something, but who knows? All I know is that I always regretted letting that one go. I may not have needed it anymore, but I sure missed it.

Last week, towards the end of the workday at Job #1 and before the start of Job #2, I found myself looking at old stereo receivers on eBay, and looked up the Sharp SA-250. Sure enough, there were a couple available, and pretty cheap too. A couple of clicks, and several trips to the PayPal website later, I have once again acquired a Sharp SA-250 receiver and a couple of smaller Infinity speakers. No one seemed to have any RS 1000s for sale though, so I upgraded to their big brother, the 2000.

In all honest, I wasn’t expecting a lot from this receiver. My inexperienced, less than critical ears have been replaced by a much wiser, more judgemental pair. These are the same pair that can hear the bright, shrill sound of the Pioneer that replaced it all those years ago, and have developed a somewhat critical sense of what sounds good and what does not. To my surprise, this old dog actually sounds OK. Sure I’ve heard better, but for what it is and what I have wrapped up in it, I can’t complain. My guess is it will sound even better as the new foam surrounds on the RS 2000s.

Of course I didn’t need any of this. Yes, I probably could’ve put this money to better use. Yes, there is a good possibility i am trying to fill some void with material possessions.

No, I don’t care.

At this point, I’ll take my chances with fleeting happiness. I’ve spent too many recent nights watching the glowing embers of my own dumpster fire disappear in the wind. Now I will at least have something to listen to as the last of the coals turn to ash.

 

The Ultimate Thrift Store Find?

IMG_20160729_214010592It’s kind of remarkable how much home electronics change in such a short period of time. Devices go from being in high demand to thrift store relics seemingly overnight.  Items that we once gladly spent princely sums of money on now sell for pennies on the dollar, if they sell at all. Take a trip to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army and you’re sure to find VCRs, DVD players, and obsolete iPod docks by the dozen, and all for a cost of little to nothing.

Cassette decks are also a good example of this. What used to be an important part of everyone’s home stereo system is now a technological dinosaur, relegated to the thrift store shelf, hoping to be rescued by middle aged guys like me who may still have a use for them. Even good quality, three head units can be found for a couple of bucks, not to mention a million old audio cassettes to play on them. Still, even with all of this in mind, I never expected to find one of the holy grails of old school analog audio waiting for me at the Salvation Army.

For those who are old enough to remember, the name Nakamichi is synonymous with the best cassette decks ever made. Their Dragon deck was a marvel of 80s engineering, and is still considered by some to be the best cassette deck ever produced. What set the Dragon apart from its contemporaries was its auto-reverse mechanism. When you came to the end of your cassette tape, the Dragon would not only automatically reverse the direction and play the other side, it would also adjust the playback head to maintain the correct angle, and give you the best fidelity possible. While this sounds simple, it was quite the engineering feat.

IMG_20160730_165401567The RX-505, which came a long a little later, solved the problem a little differently. Rather than reversing the direction of the tape, the 505 would actually flip the tape over for you. This eliminated the need for a moving playback head all together, and allowed for the same quality of audio playback at a much lower price. keep in mind that the phrase ‘lower price’ is a relative thing. The Dragon deck retailed for around $4000, while the RX-505 could be picked up for a paltry $1500. Even today, when the cassette tape is as obsolete as the bi-plane and the steel wheeled roller skate, these decks will set you back about a grand on eBay.

Needless to say, I never expected to find a Nakamichi RX-505 at the Salvation Army, let alone one in mint condition, complete with manual, sales brochure, a cut out review from Audiophile Magazine, and a tape head demagnetizer. Hell, the thing even had the original green Nakamichi dust cloth still in its cellophane wrapper! their asking price:

$10.

Folks, I may be a lot of things, but dumb enough to pass up a deck like this for $10 is not one of them. After doing a quick test to make sure it powered up, I grabbed that sucker and high tailed it out of that store before they came to their senses.

That was a couple of months ago, and the deck has performed flawlessly since then. It’s been a lot of fun rediscovering my thirty year old cassettes (which still play just fine, by the way), and trying to remember what I was thinking when I put together some of those god awful mixed tapes. I haven’t tried to record anything with it yet, but I just bought a case of blank cassettes still sealed in their original cellophane wrappers for $2 (thank you, Goodwill!), so I’d guess it will be happening. Who knows, maybe my friends will be getting mixed tapes for Christmas?

The technology may be dead, but the dinosaur lives on.

Cruel Summer

It has been my experience that there is no such thing as planning for the future. Sure you can make them, but you better have a plan B and C ready to go, and you better build those with an escape hatch or two in case they start to take on water. Whenever I haven’t done this, and remained focused on my bullet proof, can’t lose Plan A is when I’ve gotten myself in trouble. It doesn’t matter how simple, clever, or well thought out it may be, Plan A really stands for ‘plan to cover your ass’.

Of course, I didn’t follow my own advice. Apparently I needed a refresher course on what happens to the best laid plans of mice and men, or the consequences of counting your chickens before they hatch, and they have been pretty hard lessons indeed.  Without going into details, let’s just say I have attained a hereto unknown realm of broke-ness that will from here on be referred to as “The Tim.”

So what does one do when they screw up like this? Well, after I shook off the feeling of impending doom, and the realization that my life was in a tailspin, I crawled out of my fetal position and did the only thing I could, and that was deal with the situation. I started floating applications for a second job, which has landed me a 20 hour a week position at the sporting goods counter of my friendly local WalMart. It’s not much, but it will allow me to pay off my incurred debt in a much more timely fashion. As an added bonus, they’re paying me more than target offered, AND I’ll be selling guns and ammunition, which always makes me smile. I wonder if I can convince them to carry ARs?

When I re-launched fervor.net, I figured I’d write a few product reviews here and there, and comment about whatever I felt like writing about at a given time. There might be the occasional interruption from time to time when grad school got heavy, but I’d bounce back when I could with some amusing story or unlikely adventure. Well, I’ve certainly gotten my unlikely adventure, and truth be told? I’m kind of looking forward to this.

I’m planning on it.

First Impressions of the HyperChiller

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The HyperChiller, ready to deliver Iced Caffeine to my bloodstream.

I don’t know about you, but my Facebook ads are very hit or miss. Sometimes they try to sell me women’s handbags (miss), or toy trains with a Pittsburgh Steelers logo on them (MISS! MISS!!), but then they’ll come through with a product that is actually interesting to me, like the HyperChiller. This little plastic canister promises to make iced coffee quickly, and without diluting it with a bunch of melted ice cubes. It also promises to work with most of the single brew coffee machines out there, like the one we have in my office. Being the unrepentant iced coffee addict that I am, I decided to take the plunge, and pick two up from their website, which were delivered yesterday.

hc cutThe Way the HyperChiller works is pretty ingenious. The exterior black plastic container houses three separate compartments, two of which you fill with water and freeze. The third container is nestled in between these two frozen sections, and is where you pour your coffee. This puts your coffee in contact with a lot of frozen surface area, dropping the temperature by up to 130 degrees in just a minute or two. Of course, this means you will have to fill the two sections with water and freeze them before hand, but a real caffeine addict is always thinking about their next fix, so this shouldn’t be an issue. Soon after they were delivered yesterday, I set one up with water, and put it in the freezer to get it ready for this morning.

WHY U NO FIT??
WHY U NO FIT??

Anxious to put my new gizmo to the test, I took my new HyperChiller out of the freezer and went to put it under the Keurig dispenser. Wouldn’t you know it, when they say “most coffee dispensers”, they meant all of them but ours. This means that I’ll still be making coffee in a cup and then pouring it in, which is certainly doable, it’s just messier. Coffee cups are not designed for pouring, and the lid of the HyperChiller is designed for a slow, steady trickle, not a deluge. Still, I managed to get most of that sweet, caffeinated goodness into the chiller with minimal spillage.

The instructions call for you to gently swirl the coffee every once in a while to aid in the chilling process. And by gently, they definitely mean GENTLY. I filled the chiller with 10 ounces of coffee, which is designed to hold 12.5, so it wasn’t full by any stretch. Even so, I still managed to spill some even though I wasn’t overly aggressive in my swirling. Again, not a big deal, but we all know that every drop of coffee is as precious as the tears of baby Jesus Each one lost is another tiny cut in the fabric of  our soul. So please, folks. If you buy one of these, be gentle.

After the longest couple of minutes of my life, it was finally time to pour myself a nice cup of iced coffee. Using the incredibly scientific temperature measuring devices at my disposal (namely my finger), I can tell you that the coffee felt, well, cold. Not freezing cold, but definitely cold. I suppose it would’ve been colder if I left it in the chiller a while longer, but I’d waited long enough, thank you. I did notice that a little water leaked out of the container while I was getting the last drops of coffee out of the chiller, but I don’t know if that’s a design flaw or operator error on my part, as it is possible I didn’t tighten down the lid.

In the past, I have been making iced coffee here at the office by simply pouring a cup of hot coffee into a steel tumbler full of ice. It works, but it definitely loses something in translation. The HyperChiller gave me a stronger coffee flavor, and a lot less melted ice. In other words, SUCCESS! I am now able to make it through the rest of my morning with a nice iced coffee buzz, and may even be able to get a second round out of it before I have to let it freeze up again.

the HyperChiller is available from their website for about $30, which is kind of steep for what you get, but its a bargain compared to Starbucks. The chiller also seems to be a pretty quality built unit too. Aside from the leakage while pouring (which could’ve been my fault anyway. Time will tell.), the Chiller seems like its built to last, using BPA free plastic and stainless steel. It’s also designed so your hot coffee spends most of its time in contact with stainless steel surfaces, minimizing contact with the plastic. That’s a nice touch. The threads of the screw in containers and lids seem solid as well, which is also nice. Besides, most importantly, its a magical device that delivers me undiluted iced coffee. How can you put a price on that?

Now, if you will excuse me, I think it’s time to see about having that second cup.

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