My history with pocket computers

Sunday, August 30, 2009 5:58 pm By BigLig , In ,

I thought it might be an opportune moment, as my latest toy gets it’s first charge, to recount my history with that strange, now forgotten, genre of electronic device, the PDA.

The first PDA I spent any time with was a borrowed Palm III. A work colleague had one - having just came to us from 3COM, who owned Palm at the time - so I borrowed it for a week to see if I liked it. Alas for my wallet, I loved it, and pretty soon I had bought my own.

That must have been about 20 years ago... Strangely enough, it wasn't my first mobile device. While I was still at school, my incredibly cool parents had bough me a Casio fx-702p. It had 2K of RAM, a single line display, and ran BASIC programs. I've still got it in a drawer somewhere.

Over time I rapidly progressed thru a series of devices. The Psion 5mx was an astounding machine, still the best keyboard in a mobile device, but just too darn big - I needed something that would fit in a shirt pocket.

The best was probably the Palm m500, my last monochrome device until, not long ago, I bought a Sony eBook reader. When I read my first book on the Sony, I suddenly realized why I had stopped reading eBooks at the same time as I stopped using the m500 - color screens were never as pleasant on the eyes as they were with a non-backlit mono screen. Tempted as Amazon no doubt are to make a color Kindle, they should bear this fact in mind.

It was the Sony Ericsson P900 that made me realize the PDA was doomed to be replaced by the smartphone. The P900 had enormous flaws, but I could take (awful!) photos, and post them to flickr (slowly and expensively!) all with a single device. And it made phone calls too.

My last true PDA was a Dell Axim X50. Like every Windows Mobile, it made me nostalgic for the days when Windows Mobiles had crappy hardware, because now they have great hardware, you realize how truly crappy the software is.

And then it was an endless series of Blackberries for mobile data, and an endless series of iPods for media playback. As soon as the iPhone came out, I knew I would end up with one. My brief time with the P900 had made me realize that carrying two devices about was only worth doing if you couldn’t get one device that did everything you needed.

Following Stephen Fry’s advice (as all geeks should), I exerted all my will power and waited until the third iteration, and in a couple of hours it will be charged enough for me to turn it on for the first time.

Someone tried to make a Palm III emulator for iPhone a while back, but it never came to anything. It ran at 450% of normal speed, you see, so it wasn’t the same.