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Pentop

Using the full power of your Tablet PC's pen while in laptop mode

Note: This is just one of my crazy ideas and doesn't actually exist. But rest assured, it would be really cool if it did!

Also have a look at Dumky's great suggestion for a very cheap and effective alternative to the Pentop (albeit less Batman-like) which only requires an elastic band

I love my Tablet PC, but the fact is that I'm a programmer, and as such will doubtfully ever give up my keyboard and write code using a pen. So I pop my tablet into "laptop" mode (with the screen facing the right way) and I code away. But now when I want to drag some text around or what-have-you, I have three choices: use my touchpad (which is fine for occasionally pressing buttons, but try dragging an icon or block of text across the screen and it's more art than science), or I could plug in my mouse and use that, which means moving my hand over to the mouse doing something and then moving it back, or I could reach over, pick up my pen, write on the screen and put it back, that’s twice the amount of work as using the mouse! This to me is way too long to perform some simple operation like move some code around. The fact is that I want to use my keyboard for entering text, and my pen for doing what would normally be done on a mouse (because the pen based interface is quite nice to use if it weren’t for the lack of a keyboard or third arm). However, hope is not lost! I have found a way that while you are into laptop mode, you can use the Tablet's pen in a manner that is faster AND easier than the mouse or touch pad. I present to you the Pentop!

Consider the diagram below. This is what you look like as your working on any laptop:


Now consider what you look like when you’re using the pen while still in laptop mode:


Looking at it this way, the answer became so clear to me: a pen holder attached to your arm which shoots out when you need to use it (Batman style). Consider the diagram below and read to see how the system would work:


1. This is you as your normally typing on your keyboard.
2. You raise your hand so that it’s perpendicular to your arm (or some angle close to that).
3. This raising of your wrist releases a switch and the pen shoots out to meet your hand from its resting position on your arm, and you easily take hold of it.
4. You then write with the pen as you normally would.
5. Now bend your hand down and this pulls a string which retracts the pen back onto your arm.
6. You continue typing.


As you can see, you can go from typing on the keyboard to using your pen in I’d say ¼ to ½ of a second! Now that’s what I’m talking about! You see when you use your pen while in laptop mode, your wrist is bent up anyway to write on the screen, this acts as the perfect trigger for when to fire the pen. Then the simple movement of bending your wrist the other way puts it away again (again maybe a ½ second here) nicely, neatly and quickly.

The device would be mounted to your forearm, and could be easily built using a couple strings, wires and a few runners. It would have to hold the pen a fair bit above your arm, and would be loosely connected by a few cords when you were writing to prevent limiting your range too much. If you were cheap you could even used a fixed-in-place one (without any moving parts), but it wouldn’t have that cool Batman feel to it.

The way I see it, although I love that the pen is there, I honestly don’t use it that much! Which is sad, because I think it’s a really great tool. If I had this arm device, I think I’d use the pen a lot more as it would be a major improvement in almost every regard compared to the mouse, and wouldn’t loose any of the amazing power of the keyboard. The one last thought to mention here is that this would be a really cool gismo to show to your techy friends. I mean it looks like something a spy would use, it brings back memories of wrist based gun-holders in movies, and it uses the Tablet. Can you get cooler than that?

So if anyone out there is interested in building such a thing, feel free to contact me as I I’d love to help with it’s design which I have pretty much planned out (not that it’s very complex). Not to mention that I’d just love to have one of these things for myself. Or if you just liked the idea, give me a yell and we’ll try to get together a little tablet lobby.

- Lewey - lewey@leweyg.com

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