History is repeating itself. Nowadays, Apple’s M1/M2 ARM processors are considered a great achievement. But not so many people remember that at the end of the 1990s, Windows CE was able to run on ARM, MIPS, and SH3 microprocessors. This Windows version was made by Microsoft for portable and low-power devices; it has been on the market for more than 10 years.
What can we learn from Windows CE today? In this article, I will test the HP Jornada 680, made in 1998 and running Windows CE 2.11:
I will review the hardware and software of this device, and at the end of this post, I will also show how to make a “Hello World” program for Windows CE using Embedded Visual Studio.
Before we begin, a usual reminder. I have no sponsors and all the hardware for my articles I buy on my own. First, because it’s fun to test a real device, and second, because only using a real thing can give a feeling of how it works, whether it’s comfortable or not, how good and responsible the keyboard is, and so on. All specs can be found online, but they still cannot replace the experience of using real hardware. Creating a story like this is not just copy-pasting the specs, but doing research, ordering missing parts on eBay, finding and testing software, writing the code… It may take more than a month to finish the article like that, but this is, in my opinion, how a good-quality technical review should be made. If you like this idea and want to see more stories like this, feel free to support this writing on Patreon.
And now, let’s get started.
Every user knows about Windows today; there are about 1.4 billion active devices running Windows. But even among IT professionals, lots of people never heard about Windows CE. What was it actually? Well, let’s start from the beginning. A typical laptop in 1996, like the IBM ThinkPad 365, had a 10" screen with an 800x600 resolution, a 120 MHz Pentium processor, 8 MB of RAM, a 1 GB hard disk drive, and a 2.8 Ah NiMH battery, providing 2 hours of work: