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Pioneering HiNote survives overseas

The original ultrathin, ultrasmall notebook PC line crafted by Digital Equipment lives on overseas, though it is being phased out in the U.S.

The original ultrathin, ultrasmall notebook PC line pioneered by Digital Equipment will live on overseas, though it is being phased out in the U.S.

Though Compaq Computer notebook executives said in January that the Armada 6500, the last of Digital Equipment's seminal HiNote models, will be phased out, this only applies to the U.S. market, according to Compaq.

"Other countries are continuing to sell the Armada 6500, particularly countries in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa," a Compaq spokesperson said.

Other geographical regions are upgrading the 6500 with either the new 333-MHz or 366-MHz Pentium II chips or both, Compaq said.

In the U.S., however, the world's leading PC maker believes the portable doesn't have a place in its already-crowded notebook lineup. Ironically, this was considered one of the best notebook designs ever and one of the technological gems that Compaq inherited from Digital Equipment when it purchased the company.

Back in 1995, Digital introduced its four-pound HiNote Ultra, a considerable feat since materials technology wasn't quite as far along and components also tended to weigh more. The startlingly slim design won many industry accolades, just as the Toshiba Portege 7000, Sony Vaio 500, and the Mitsubishi Pedion do today.

The HiNote evolved into the Ultra II and more recently the Ultra 2000. The latter design was inherited by Compaq when it purchased Digital last year.

Compaq left the design intact but renamed it the Armada 6500. Though wider and a bit heavier than the original HiNote--it was made to accommodate a large 14-inch screen, a CD-ROM drive bay, and faster Pentium II chips--today it is still a unique design.

Compaq will continue to make the Armada 6500 until March or April in the U.S. The Armada, with a 300-MHz Pentium II processor, a 14.1-inch active-matrix LCD screen, 6.4GB hard drive, 64MB of memory, and a CD-ROM drive is currently priced at $3,800 at resellers such as Computer Discount Warehouse and NECX.

But Compaq has not given up on the ultrathin design. It recently introduced the 1900 series Presario notebook. The highly compact Presario is 1.2 inches thick and offers a 366-MHz Pentium II, 13.3-inch screen, and 10GB hard drive. Prices start at $2,499.