Thursday, April 29, 2010


Portable Computing Installment: Palm Pilot

Today's announcement that Palm has agreed to be acquired by HP reminds me that it's been a while since I've done an installment of my history with portable computing. On the subject of being acquired, it's probably worth remembering that Palm has had a few owners over time, including U.S. Robotics and 3COM. Of course, HP had recently acquired 3COM, providing another one of those Silicon Valley paths crossing things. Also need to stop a moment and reminisce about U.S. Robotics, who was possibly best known at the the time for its modems. With high-speed internet access past 50% for U.S. households, there are generations of children who will not have experienced the hiss and boing-boing of dial ups. I remember the thrill of making my first modem connection. I need a moment.

I decided to join the Palm Pilot cult, and it was kind of like that, in 1997. I'd asked a co-worker at the time about his. I think I asked about how rugged it was. With the tech religious fervor that we've all come to expect, he threw his across the floor, with the battery case cover popping off and batteries flying out and landing under a desk. He put the batteries back in and it started right up.

The demo was good enough for me. There was so much to like, but the desktop synchronization was an example of how things should be designed. Dock it in its cradle, press one button, done.

I held on to that Palm for so long that I'd sometimes pull it out and have people variously wonder what it was or laugh at me for being so retro. Let's see. It provided me with a calendar, contacts, and notes. Anything else I need? Nope.

Later on, I replaced the Pilot with a Tungsten E2, but that was mainly for the nicer display. I still use it today along with a Blackberry. It does what I need.

I've written here about my first smartphone purchase. I really liked the Treo, and it made the most sense given that I already was a Palm person. But I finally went Blackberry to connect to Exchange at work. There were ways to connect the Treo, but the IT policy was Blackberry and it looked like they took measures to prevent non-Blackberry connections. You have to wonder how much that Blackberry lock in to Exchange hurt Palm.

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