Nokia N770 Linux Tablet

The year was 2005. The dotcom days were over, and even though the fear of Windows NT taking over the world was fading, Linux was still considered a “hacker” OS – something not to be taken seriously. Of course, the cool kids all knew that Linux was going to take over the world. Right? Right?

In May 2005, Nokia announced the N770 tablet. A full on tablet computer, with bluetooth, wireless, audio tools, all running Linux in a handheld configuration. While not the first portable handheld Linux device (my Sharp Zaurus SL5500 is an earlier example), the N770 grabbed my attention as something truly exciting. I wanted one in the worst way.

Nokia N770 Linux Tablet with Power Supply

Alas, the reviews of the N770 were not kind. It was slow. It had very limited memory and storage. The battery life wasn’t so hot. I still wanted one, but couldn’t bring myself to fork over the couple hundred bucks to make it happen. Not 2 years later Apple released the iPhone, and the world of handheld computing was forever changed.

On the inside, the specs are interesting, but not particularly staggering:

  • CPU: 252 MHz Texas Instruments OMAP 1710
  • Memory: 64meg RAM
  • Storage: 128meg Flash, but supports RS-MMC cards
  • Display: 800×480 4″ LCD Color capacitive touch
  • Connectivity: 802.11g wifi and bluetooth
  • Introduced: May 25, 2005

I’ve always wanted to tinker with the N770, and at the last VCF-East (where I picked up my copy of Wizardry), a nice fellow gave me one that he wasn’t using. I was ecstatic. The device is much as I had read – small, lightweight, in a neat little aluminum shell it can slide out of. However, there was no power supply, so I couldn’t turn it on. Nokia devices in this generation (including the phones) used a very very small barrel connector for power. I didn’t have one of these. A quick ebay search and I found a power supply, and ordered it.

Two weeks later I had my power supply, and plugged in the N770… and… nothing really happened. After a few minutes, the Nokia logo would flash, then flash again, then flash again. My N770 was busted.

FINE, sez me. I had the fever, and nothing was going to stop me. eBay again! This time I waited a few days and ended up purchasing another N770 for $40 delivered. Take that!

THIS one arrived with a power supply, and in fairly decent shape (no stylus though – the first one I got did have one). I plugged it in, powered it up , and yay! It worked!

Impressions

Okay, yeah. It’s slow. Connecting to wifi can take 2-3 minutes (!), and if you get the password wrong, you have to go through the process again.

Nokia N770 Linux Tablet

The interface is… confusing. I understand it’s Maemo, which is a GUI on top of the linux core, and has been updated and modified a lot since then but there’s a lot of guesswork involved between the navigation buttons, the touchscreen controls, and the buttons on the top of the unit. It really feels like they didn’t quite know what to do with a tablet. Is it all touchscreen stuff? Or are there buttons and light keys, with the touchscreen stuff being tacked on as a ‘cool’ factor?

Nonetheless, its’ a cute little toy to play with, and I love having a working one as part of my collection.

Dave Shevett

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A wandering geek. Toys, shiny things, pursuits and distractions.

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