Jurassic Tech:Todd O’s Vadem Clio Circa 1999

Before even Windows Tablet PC-based tablets in 2001, there was the uniquely convertible Vadem Clio. Check it out compared to an Apple iPad.

HONOLULU: Before the Apple iPad (2010), the Asus Transformer (2011) and even Microsoft’s Windows XP Tablet PC Edition OS (2001), there was my Vadem Clio. Uniquely twistable into a variety of configurations, this was an Instant On Windows CE era handheld with mobile MS Office, Internet Explorer and handwriting recognition built-in. I bought it new in 1999.

The Vadem Clio carried a retail price of $999. It was based on Windows CE Handheld PC Pro. Windows CE provided the underlying engine for earlier smaller handheld PCs  — as well as the Pocket PCs, Windows Mobile devices,and the current generation of Windows Phone 7.5 Mango devices.

Here’s what was really unique about it: its unique  articulated arm design that let the device transform itself among several configurations. You could make it clamshell notebook with a full QWERTY keyboard, a keyboard-less tablet  and a few arrangements in between.  It was cool. So I placed the battery in my Vadem Clio and powered it up today to take it for a spin again.

The Vadem Clio shipped with a number of apps, so it was fully functional right out of the box. Microsoft Office mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and even Access (database) was bundled in. Other apps included the Internet Explorer web browser, Pocket Outlook (with email, calendar, contacts) and such utilities such as a calculator, the ability to ink write on screen, draw, even fax.

Above, notice the arm design that lets the Clio swing its display 180 degrees into a number of different positions.

The Clio could flip its display to cover its physical keyboard and be used in a slate mode, too. Check out its stylus anchored at the bottom of the display, above.

The unit powered on after a decade or more of retirement. Its ink notebook app is shown in the snapshot above. This 15-year-old tech sure was prescient — these look very much like the notetaking apps available for today’s Apple iPad.

Like 2012 iPad note taking apps, the 1999 Clio also let you take notes in the form of text, ink writing and even graphical hand drawn objects.

When closed, the Clio, with its 10-inch display, looks very much like recent generation netbooks.

The Clio had 16MB of internal storage. Seems tiny, today. It did have, for additional storage, a a PCMCIA (or PC Card slot) available on one side of the unit. Adapters were available to use CompactFlash cards for additional storage. The slot also worked with other PC Card hardware such as Ethernet network adapters.

The other side of the Clio provided an infrared transceiver for short-range wireless communication, an RJ-11 phone jack for the built-in modem and a proprietary port for syncing with a desktop PC.

A speaker and access to the battery compartment is on the bottom of the device.

You can see the battery cover and the battery itself removed from the Clio in the photo above.

The Clio’s Travel Dock adapter could connect to any desktop PC’s RS-232 serial port for syncing files and other data like calendar data and contacts.

Like other Windows CE devices of that generation, Microsoft ActiveSync provided the mechanism for connectivity with the Clio.

The two photos above gives you an idea of the Clio’s size relative to an Apple iPad 2.

The Vadem Clio and other netbook-sized or smaller Handheld PC Pro devices based on Windows CE continued to be introduce into the market for a few more years before disappearing. Microsoft and its hardware partners introduced us to the Tablet PC and Ultramobile PC in the years to come. But we would not see a popular form factor similar to the Handheld PC Pro devices until the summer of 2008 when netbooks running Windows XP started appearing. Today it is all about tablets, of course.

I hope this tour of the 1999 Vadem Clio gives you and inkling of how hardware designs from that period influenced the hardware we see and buy today.


  • I found a Clio User manual this weekend when I was cleaning up my study. I had forgot about it since the days I had a loaner and was trying to push it for the healthcare market when I had a company providing healthcare management software. Then I searched the web to see if there are people talking about Clio while tablets have become so hot since iPad was launched, I saw this wonderful blog. It is kind of sad to see a good technology could not go further not because of their own design but because all other factors are not at the same level of developed and adoption. I am glad you posted this and I hope Clio people would see this blog and get a boost on how much they have accomplished. It was and still a cool device – even one of the despondence said he wants one!

    • Ann: Glad you found the article interesting. If you would like to hear more background about the Microsoft Handheld PC Pro (of which the Vadem Clio was one), be sure to listen to the podcast I recorded with the project’s former manager, Keith Amodt. You can find it here on aNewDomain at: http://bit.ly/w2WtJq

  • Hi Todd, a nostalgic tour of a product that was the culmination of a lot of hard work by small, talented and dedicated team of innovators. I was the lead mechanical engineer for Clio and am still wowed by how much we did with such limited resources. It was a wild ride while it lasted. 

    • Nice work Richard! I bought mine in 2001, or so… I loved it! It was then I saw the beginning of the future of really usable mobile devices. So much common sense built into it. I still have it, and am prepping it for my step son to learn from. I miss the old days…. Once again… Excellent work!!!

    • I think that the Clio was a great unit. I still have mine. I found it downstairs in the basement. Plugged it in and fired it up. Works fine. If I could figure out how to connect to the wireless network at home, that would be impressive. Great great unit. It is a such a sturdy and dependable unit.

      • It can be done. I just dragged my old Clio up from retirement too play with it, as I recently did with my old sharp wizard. I still have to dig up the eq I used, but I can remember pretty well. You need a compact flash based wireless card, one that has wince divers. I had a never, dcf something.

        You have to get the drivers on which odd the hardest thing. Us activesync, but not the newest one. Then you can use wireless four the sync to which is miles faster then the serial version.

        Oh yes.. Since the c.f. Slot is buried so deep you need a cf to pcmcia card adapter. Put it in the side and you’re good to go.

  • Richard’s biceps probably gained an inch from testing the swing arms reliability ;)