Idle Hands and My Mobilepro

NEC MobilePro 900c (stock)Not too long ago I decided I was unhappy with my laptop when it comes to writing. It isn’t a bad laptop — a lightweight, compact, fairly recent Sony Vaio — but there are things about it I don’t like. Like a hot lap, for one. Waiting for it to start up, for two. And though it has a good battery life for a laptop — something like 4-5 hours on average — it positively paled in comparison with an old piece of equipment I have sitting around: a Hewlett-Packard Jornada 680 H/PC.

For those unfamiliar, an H/PC is a “Handheld” PC. I put that in scarequotes since my Jornada and other gizmos like it are hardly PalmPilots. My Jornada had a smallish but still touch-typable keyboard, a touchpad mouse, and ran Windows CE (HPC Pro). If never got hot. Because it has no hard drive (all its software is in RAM or ROM), it was instant-on, instant-off. No waiting for bootup or shutdown. And while HP advertised 10-hour battery life, I very often topped that. Problem was, my HP was 1998 technology. And even it was a tad big sometimes.

Enter my new electronic writing instrument, an H/PC that puts my HP to shame: an NEC MobilePro 900c. Bought on Amazon for $150 (I paid a bit more for one that had an extended-life battery), this thing is everything I wanted: touch-type keyboard, compact, long-life, more up-to-date software, instant on…

In fact, the only thing I didn’t like was that, since I bought it used, my MobilePro had a few scuffs and scratches. It didn’t look as nice I would like.

Now, Mary Robinette Kowal recently customized her laptop using stickers, creating a brilliant typewriter look for her machine. It’s fantastic, but I haven’t the patience for it. Plus, the design of the MobilePro is less sticker-friendly. What to do?

Paint. Lots of paint.

First things first, I had to disassemble my beloved little computer. Now, I’m not the kind of fellow to get too anxious about this sort of thing — which is strange, since I certainly am the kind of fellow who dove right in with a screwdriver, not really bothering to take notes — but seeing my MobilePro in pieces did freak me out a bit. Of course, nothing to do for it but to carry on.
Priming. If I had to do it over again, I would have done more sanding before I primed. Now that I’m done I’ve found a couple small spots where the paint didn’t stick as well as I would like — I’m pretty rough with my equipment, so I want durability. I was just too impatient to sand for hours.
After priming: paint. Lots of it. For the top and bottom, I used a metallic red. For the inside of the clamshell, I used gunmetal. Then I coated and coated with clear-coat. Here you can see the end results: some great looking pieces of plastic and a whole lot of computer innards, which I’m preparing to put back together.
And here it is, sitting on my floor. I’m glad to say that the rebuild went smoothly: no lost (or extra) parts, and it worked the first time I hit the power.
All in all, I was able to take an already fairly unique little machine and make it truly my own. Go MobilePro!


  1. Very pretty! I like the shiny red. I thought about paint initially, but lacked the balls to take my computer apart.

  2. Not sure if it’s presence of balls or lack of brains to do such a thing — but thanks!

  3. Nice work sir!

    If it will stand still long enough chances are I’ll stick some paint on it; although I’ve been known to paint moving things as well. In the past couple of years Krylon has come out with a plastics spray paint. I have found it makes a nice little primer and really there is no sanding in any stage of painting. It is a bit pricey but time is money so to save some time sanding I use that instead. Every other spray paint sticks to it well. It is also great for covering up that woodenel stuff on cheap shelving. So if you ever paint another device you might look into it. Oh and as for durable…the paint has held up to much abuse.

  4. David W. Goldman

    What, no flame decals?

  5. Ooooh, pretty…

    This this baby have a usb port? If not, how do you transfer info to/from a computer?

  6. Thanks, Sara!

    Yes, it does have a USB port; I use that and the wireless to transfer files. I think the USB is 1.0; it’s worked with everything I’ve attached so far, but I can provide no guarantees that it would work on a cutting-edge USB 2.0 piece of equipment.

  7. I apologize for commenting on an entry over a year after you wrote it. I was curious as to whether you had any trouble opening the plastic shell of the NEC mobilepro or not. I’ve been trying to open mine up to make some modifications, but it doesn’t feel like it wants to give. I’d hate to rip it open only to discover there was a trick to doing it correctly. Thanks.

  8. No problem on the tardiness, Mike. I don’t recall having any problems opening it up. There are some tear-down instructions on the web, which appear to be gone now. A cached version from Google can be found at this link. About the only thing I remember worrying about was the ribbon connectors, which are a little tight as you’re pulling the pieces apart. Be very careful with all.

  9. Thanks for the information that you are providing for free, this is what some techie will charge money for, i think i will contact you in case i have any prob. Thanks a lot

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