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June 6, 2012 2:19 PM   Subscribe

The death of Palm. Palm once defined the PDA market and created the first smarphones. And then it all fell apart. The Verge has a post-mortem on the last days of the once-proud Palm. The former head of webOS developer relations responds.
posted by bitmage (68 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was cleaning out my closet a few months back and I stumbled onto my Sony Clie. I held it up next to my iPhone. I couldn't stop laughing.
posted by Fizz at 2:23 PM on June 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


.
posted by the_very_hungry_caterpillar at 2:26 PM on June 6, 2012


[.]
posted by CynicalKnight at 2:27 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I had many Palm devices back in the day. This somehow relates to why I don’t even have a smart phone today, or want one. I got over the whole thing a long time ago.
posted by bongo_x at 2:29 PM on June 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


I absolutely loved my Treo 650 for years. It was fantastic! Then I got an iPhone and wondered what I ever saw in the Treo.

Sorry, Palm, I've found someone better.

That is not an anti-masturbation statement.
posted by LordSludge at 2:30 PM on June 6, 2012 [7 favorites]


I love the Verge piece, but I think in the interest of telling the story of the almost-successful Hail Mary pass that was WebOS it downplays how much Palm(One/Source) was already circling the drain during the Treo days. The writing was legible on the wall a lot earlier than this article describes, if not from decision to split the company, then definitely by the time the hardware side was selling Windows models right alongside the aging PalmOS while the software side floundered about while spending years telling tall tales about its "Cobalt"/PalmOS 6 vaporware.
posted by RogerB at 2:33 PM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


I had a Palm Vx (among others). Until the iPhone 4, I think it was my favorite design for mobile device.

That said, I don't miss replacing stylii.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:34 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The only device I've ever bought at full retail price and then had major post-purchase sticker shock was a Palm IIIe (IIIxe, maybe?). It was something like $250 at a Fry's. The very next day the new/cheaper m100s and such came out and they were under $100 before taxes. I backed up this mistake by buying one of those nifty little folding keyboards for $100.

Not long after that people were just giving me old Palm hardware left and right. At one point I had something like 10 of them from a the very cool high res Sony Clie, a VII, a V and a bunch of 3s and even the weird Palm 3C (color). I even had one of the original Palm I IBM-branded thinkpads.

The original PalmOS was an amazing thing, like a Mac Classic in your pocket. I loved the OS, and there was so much great software available.

But the hardware was as brittle as glass. I can't count the number of times I spent hours and hours carefully loading one up with cool software and utilities like maps and star charts and games and such only to accidentally drop the thing and have it blow to pieces. Sure, it snapped back together like legos and usually took a beating as long as you didn't shatter the display or get it wet.

But you also ran the risk of wiping the memory completely if the batteries got knocked out for long enough before you could put it back together.

Due to this fragility they always seemed to fail right when I wanted the information or tools on it the most. It was crazy how unreliable they were when used in the real world.

But the OS was great. Well, discounting Palm Desktop and the lame slow syncing it was pretty great. Palm Desktop was total ass, really.
posted by loquacious at 2:35 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


The second link is quite a good personal recollection of Palm with opinions on several related topics. Everyone please take a look at it.
posted by michaelh at 2:38 PM on June 6, 2012


There was an IP calculator app on my Palm III that I used extensively during my CCNA days. I never have found a replacement as good for my iPhone. I paid for it and everything. Also ran the Infocom Z machine on it, as well as a couple of simple Go-like games and ebooks. That little gadget saved my mind during a particularly long and dull contract I had to work.
posted by jquinby at 2:41 PM on June 6, 2012


> But you also ran the risk of wiping the memory completely if the batteries got knocked out for long enough before you could put it back together.

THIS! Man, I hated that oh-shit-the-batteries-fell-out-and-all-my-ones-are-now-zeros BS.
posted by mosk at 2:44 PM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


We were, for a brief time, the #2 tablet in the US.

Which I suspect coincides with when they were, for a brief time, selling $150 TouchPads.
posted by delfin at 2:55 PM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


He mentions later that this was pre-fire sale.
posted by dumbland at 2:56 PM on June 6, 2012


Post-army, I had pretty much given up on a writing career and I was languishing as a school secretary/part-time database twiddler when a friend of mine connected me with the editor of a Linux website.

"So, what could you tell me how to do?"

"I could tell you how to make your Palm Pilot sync with Linux."

"O.k. How's $300? And can you tell me by next Monday?"

A few months later I quit my job to write full time, and I was running the site within the year, so I've got a soft spot in my heart for Palm.
posted by mph at 2:59 PM on June 6, 2012 [5 favorites]


That said, I don't miss replacing stylii.

The era when I had a Palm also happened to be the era when our wore fake nails on a regular basis. It turns out that plastic nails work pretty well as a stylus.
posted by Karmakaze at 3:01 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Depends on the metric being used -- #2 in cumulative sales? #2 in sales that week, that month, worldwide, specific retailers, in Sandusky, Ohio? He doesn't specify.

I wouldn't have minded picking up a firesale TouchPad myself, but I missed the window in which they were still on retail shelves by a day or two.
posted by delfin at 3:02 PM on June 6, 2012


I was cleaning out my closet a few months back and I stumbled onto my Sony Clie. I held it up next to my iPhone. I couldn't stop laughing.


I suppose the unstated punchline is the part where you are now paying a monthly fee to use a prettier PDA that probably makes you less productive?
posted by srboisvert at 3:08 PM on June 6, 2012 [2 favorites]


God, I loved the Treo. Started with a 600p, and kept my 755p until I switched jobs a few years back. Switching to A Blackberry Torch was a big step down.
posted by KGMoney at 3:08 PM on June 6, 2012


I'm far from being an Apple kool-aid drinker, but I've had electronic organizers and later smart phones from the Sharp electronic organizers on up, and the dirty little secret is that really no one came up with a device that was user-friendly and reliable enough for the masses until the iPhone (followed relatively quickly by the Android). Before that, everyone who had an electronic organizer or later a smart phone was a major nerd, road warrior, or both.

I think Palm may have come the closest, and I had a Palm or two that I loved. My first Windows mobile device was okay for its day (if you didn't mind futzing with ActiveStink and juggling with various software mash-ups to get your data going back and forth). But each Windows mobile device I owned actually got WORSE, and everything prior to the iPhone required a major time commitment and tolerance for frustration to keep it working, so it's no surprise to see the older stuff falling by the wayside. The iPhone/Android generation was just a game-changer. They (and RIM) got complacent, and they got whacked. Game over.
posted by randomkeystrike at 3:08 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


My Palm Z22 was AWESOME, and still is awesome even compared to my iPod - it was half the weight, and had 5 times the battery life and did everything I wanted it to do really well. My iPod does more and I like it, but that doesn't reflect badly on an earlier (and much cheaper) device.
posted by jb at 3:09 PM on June 6, 2012


I absolutely loved my Treo 650 for years. It was fantastic! Then I got an iPhone and wondered what I ever saw in the Treo.

I recently had occasion to use my Treo 650 again (for about 2 weeks).
While it is obviously bulkier and the novelty of a stylus wore off after about 5 minutes, there are still some things it does better than my much more modern phone even today.

(not the least of which is a physical sound on/off switch that shuts everything up. Instantly)
posted by madajb at 3:13 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I still have my Palm Z22 and I still use it as my only PDA. It's the only one I've ever owned. I'm not interested in EVER owning a smart phone.
posted by Galadhwen at 3:15 PM on June 6, 2012


It's interesting that they don't discuss third-party apps. I know that was one of the reasons I finally jumped ship.

I recently retired my Pre through the Smoked by Windows Phone Challenge. One of the requirements for the trade-in was for your phone to be activated, so I did a swap the night before and got myself reacquainted with the UI.

A few minutes of usage quickly reminded me why I had stood by Palm for so long. webOS was (and still is) an incredibly elegant mobile OS that had a groundswell of community support. They built replacements for whatever apps it lacked. They hacked together missing features.

Together, it made for the best experience I've had on a phone to date. It was flawed at launch, but still more feature complete than the competition—recall that the iPhone didn't get copy and paste, wallpapers, etc. until the Pre was released. Multitasking was fantastic—something Android is just barely catching up with this today (with ICS).

I guess I just have a soft spot for underdogs, but Palm deserved better. They were far behind in hardware (and scrambling to modernize software), but they knew what made for a great interface. They "got" it.
posted by pinsomniac at 3:19 PM on June 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


My first smartphone only a few short years back was the Pre. Jesus, for about the first six months after it came out (and after I'd gotten it) I loved that little thing - the absolutely perfect ergonomic size (fit in the pockets of even my most slim-fitting pants), the little hardware keyboard, and especially PalmOS. Unfortunately, they never took off and before long their app store was a depressing, deserted wasteland. I even went through the hassle of rooting the thing to allow installation of third-party apps, but the Allure of Android became too great. I still use the Sticher radio app over wifi every once in a while when I'm working in the yard and don't want to risk destroying my newest phone. I haven't looked at their app store in well over a year for fear of launching into a depressed state too deep to return from.
posted by item at 3:29 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


When I was younger, I acquired my dad's old Palm Pilot Personal (when i think of "vintage," I think of that. I'm sure it was cutting edge stuff for dad, though). I can't say I loved that thing, but I felt pretty cool going to church with my scriptures on that (ugh I'm such a nerd). Like if I were a grown up or something like that.

When I was in junior high, I got a Tapwave Zodiac...not made by Palm, but with a modified version of Palm OS 5...man, I loved that thing. But then, one day, I dropped it and the screen cracked...I still used it (or at least, the half of the screen that still had working pixels.)

And then Tapwave shut down.

when I got my Palm Pre, I didn't listen to the naysayers who said that Palm would shut down. I thought webOS was one of the coolest things ever (even now that I have a phone with Android ICS, I still think that webOS had cooler ideas, and even Matias Duarte hasn't been able to implement things like card multitasking as fluidly to Android -- but I have to admit that I enjoy being on a platform that actually has support).

What I liked about my Zodiac and about the Palm Pre was the the sense of camaraderie among the userbase, and especially the spirit of homebrew development that Zodiac and Palm encouraged (although I'm not a developer myself). Checking some the Android dev scene (through things like custom ROMs), it seems like people are in competition with each other.

Unfortunately, as time passed, I began to suspect that I was supporting another dying platform.
posted by subversiveasset at 3:33 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Toxic bosses kill everything. Jerks.

And what's with Meg Whitman?
posted by stormpooper at 3:40 PM on June 6, 2012


I still miss the PIM functions of the old palm OS. iOS and Android are all much more of a hassle to set up dates and contact info and such, a lot like the old WinCE software where you always had to jump through a bunch of hoops to put in a simple agenda item.

Plus fucking iTunes sync is sooooooooooooooooooooooo SLOW. Granted it's shifting a lot more info back and forth, but nothing was as great as the straightforward palm cradle.
posted by Chekhovian at 3:44 PM on June 6, 2012


Also: Palm Synergy. Miles ahead of everyone else.
posted by pinsomniac at 3:59 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do miss the graffiti interface. The iphone virtual keyboard just isn't the same. Also liked the smaller form factor of the Palm Vx (though that Treo 650 was kind of a brick).
posted by lon_star at 4:24 PM on June 6, 2012


Our Handspring Visor is still sitting in my desk drawer at work, though I think my recent computer is the first one that I actually stopped installing the synchronization software. Oh, the writing in Graffiti that I used to do, sometimes while talking to other people. Good times.

This was a fascinating read, but I didn't see a mention of the Last Man Standing business card. Truly one of technology's saddest artifacts.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 4:33 PM on June 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


And what's with Meg Whitman?

Looking for the next Skype, I guess.
posted by Trurl at 4:46 PM on June 6, 2012


I also had a series of Palms. My first was a US Robotics Pilot 5000 (before they got spun off as Palm), a dark-grey plastic box with a blocky LCD screen which, in 1997, was the future. It looked like an executive GameBoy, but after mastering a simple system of strokes, one could take it out of one's pocket and write on it reasonably quickly, later transferring what one had written to a computer.

From then I went on to a Handspring handset, then a Palm Tungsten T3, then a Tungsten T5 (bought cheaply from a coworker who had a stack of surplus ones), and finally a Treo 650 phone. Eventually, I made the leap to the iPhone. The PDA functionality of the Palm always seemed a bit better than the iPhone's, at least until third-party apps with DropBox sync started appearing, and sometimes I still miss the Palm's calendar (which, not counting eye candy, is superior to Apple's).

On the Tungsten, there was also a fairly nifty music app named Bhajis Loops; it was apparently written by a French teenager, and functioned a bit like a tracker, only with piano-roll screens and the ability to record sounds through the built-in microphone, edit the waveforms on the screen, loop them, and run them through envelopes and filters. I'm still not aware of there being anything like it for iOS (the music toys there generally are of the “buy some sampled sounds and use them to make bangin' club techno” variety). I ended up playing with this app whilst commuting to/from work, sampling environmental sounds and combining them with the built-in instrument samples to make tracks; one of which is here.
posted by acb at 5:05 PM on June 6, 2012 [4 favorites]


nthing the "I'm glad I got that useless nonsense out of my system before it cost me $100/month or whatever for a 'data plan'".
posted by DU at 5:28 PM on June 6, 2012


I'm so annoyed there's no Bhaji's Loops equivalent for iPhone/Android. I mean here we have these comparatively hugely powerful devices, and yet the coolest thing we can do with them is I don't know, stream Netflix.
posted by en forme de poire at 5:34 PM on June 6, 2012


This weekend I bought a Tungsten E2 for 50 cents at a yard sale, just for the heck of it, maybe I'll put Linux on it. I bought a Handspring Visor back in the day and use it quite a lot. Heck, I still do crossword puzzles in Graffiti. I never really loved my BlackBerry. My cheap Android phone syncs with my Google Calendar over the network, which is cool, but I'm with the others who found the Palm devices to be very good in their niche. For better or worse, my feeble attempts at Palm OS programming finally turned me against C forever.
posted by wintermind at 5:41 PM on June 6, 2012


*used it quite a lot. I still have the Visor somewhere, and another odd Palm or two that people were clearing out of their desks. Anyway.
posted by wintermind at 5:41 PM on June 6, 2012


I wonder whether Bhajis Loops (and its library of cheap and cheerful instrument one-hits, in the tradition of Amiga tracker samples) wouldn't be impossible today because of greater attention paid to copyright laws. After all, someone could make a claim that they own the sample that the 22kHz bass-guitar twang or sampled Linn Drum kick is a derived work of, and now that apps are no longer under the radar, there are huge incentives to hunt down and sue violators. Hence assembling such a package would involve licensing a sound library, and put one in the middle-man business.
posted by acb at 5:50 PM on June 6, 2012


My personal cell is a webOS device (the "unreleased" AT&T version of the Pre3), and I must say, webOS is a wonderful mobile OS that never got its fair due. It's a damn shame - for those of us who don't trust Google (and thus have no interest in Android), and don't want an iPhone, webOS provides a fully functional alternative.

Probably my favorite feature of the Pre3 and webOS is that rooting is quasi-supported, and you gain root ("enable developer mode") by way of the Konami Code - in the search app you type "upupdowndownleftrightrightbastart" and the previously-hidden Developer Mode app is unhidden - open it, flip a toggle, and install whatever software you like.

The webOS homebrew community is still sporadically active, and I have (naive) hopes that open webOS will bring about a resurgence in activity.
posted by namewithoutwords at 6:02 PM on June 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I've owned and mostly loved several Palm devices, from the Palm 3C, which had a beautiful color screen for its time, to the Tapwave Zodiac I accidentally dropped into a toilet (leaned over to flush and had it slip from my loose shirt pocket!) to my final Palm device, the TX. I knew when I bought the TX that Palm was a bit rickety, but it wasn't until my nephew showed me his Ipod Touch at the family Christmas get-together a few years ago that I realized just how badly Apple had blown past them.

Count me as someone who misses the stylus, though. I really liked the ability to just jot a note down on the screen. (I've been eyeballing the Samsung Galaxy Note pretty hard. Pondering and weighing my wallet.)
posted by John Smallberries at 6:03 PM on June 6, 2012


The death of Whip. Buggy Whips once defined the quadripedal locomotion instigation market and created the Carriage Trade. And then it all fell apart.
posted by charlie don't surf at 6:24 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


Man, this brings back some memories for me. My first Palm was the Palm III, which I learned to install a IIIx screen in. I also had the Vx, the m515, Kyocera 7135, and the Treo 650. I was a total Palm OS junkie, even owning the Landware and Think Outside keyboards. I learned how to install hacks, and then install them in flash, so they did not take up any of my precious memory. I absolutely loved the Palm OS, until I got a Treo, and the phone started rebooting during calls.

Palm reminds me of Blackberry, in that they sort of sat on one design (Treo) and then kind of failed to innovate, as the Blackberry OS seems to still be stuck in a few years ago.

Anyway, I loved the Palm OS. just thinking about reminds me of good times in my life.

RIP.
posted by 4ster at 6:44 PM on June 6, 2012


I suppose the unstated punchline is the part where you are now paying a monthly fee to use a prettier PDA that probably makes you less productive?
posted by srboisvert


The punch line is your comment.

If someone wants to waste time on an iPhone, they can certainly do it better than they could have on a Sony Clie (or similar older device). But if you truly want to be productive on an iPhone, you can pretty much find a way in every facet of your life.

To claim that you can be more productive on a Sony Clie is absurd to the point of being comical. Progress is great. The water is fine. You don't have to be scared of it.
posted by justgary at 7:03 PM on June 6, 2012 [3 favorites]


I started with a Palm IIIx, then a V (with a cell modem snapped to the back!), Kyocera 6035 and 7135, then on to the Treo.

I was waiting with bated breath when Palm started hinting at a big announcement, their 'most exciting product in years'.

And they released...the Foleo

This was not a good sign.

Rumors of the Pre cheered me up, and I was standing in line on release day. I still think it has the best thought-out mobile OS. But that wasn't enough, and I eventually defected to Android.

It's a shame to see so much effort, thought, and design all undone by bad management. It's even sadder that HP is now where good ideas go to die, instead of the tech leader they once were.
posted by bitmage at 7:11 PM on June 6, 2012


I wonder whether Bhajis Loops (and its library of cheap and cheerful instrument one-hits, in the tradition of Amiga tracker samples) wouldn't be impossible today because of greater attention paid to copyright laws.

No. People still do this and things like it all day, every day, and there are countless one man operations putting out sample libraries. It’s easier than ever.
posted by bongo_x at 7:12 PM on June 6, 2012


My first was a US Robotics Pilot 5000 (before they got spun off as Palm)

Same here, i have it around somewhere. over the years, i owned a bunch of palm devices, including a Handspring Visorphone with the Cingular wireless phone adapter. for a long time i used a treo 650 and loved it. my last treo was a Sprint treo 680 that died 31 days after taking posession of it... Sprint disavowed support for it, and Palm (eventually) took 2 months to repair/replace it. on the day Sprint store told me to pound sand, i walked over to the Apple store and bought the iPhone, which had just been released. the rest is history, which i suppose i share with lots of other iPhone fans.

the Palm story is so convoluted... 3Com (remember them? no? bob metcalf's company. you know, the guy who invented ethernet?) bought US Robotics and the Palm spinoff was one of those big deals during the dot.com boom. 3Com's stock ran way up in the time before the spinoff, as did palm's after the spinoff. crazy times. and of course, there's the whole Handspring drama and eventual re-aquisition by Palm...
posted by joeblough at 7:42 PM on June 6, 2012


I loved my Palm Vx, used it solidly for over 5 years. It's still going strong (or would be if it was dug out of a box somewhere and charged up). It just fit perfectly in my hand and I groked graffiti in a matter of minutes. RIP Palm.
posted by arcticseal at 8:13 PM on June 6, 2012


I convinced my dot com employer in 1999 that we should check out the Palm platform in 1999 or 2000. They got me a sweet Palm VIIx which had a fold-out antenna and Edge wireless. It was the hotness and I could pull up web pages (in a sort of Lynx-like text view?) with only a 1.5 - 2 second latency between clicking on a link and the beginning of the page being fetched.

It was a good little device. Perfect pocket size, viewable in sunlight, and capable of many hours of Dope Wars while riding BART.
posted by zippy at 8:52 PM on June 6, 2012


Still using a Palm Pre. I passed up free iPhones from my then-employer to wait for the Pre. I was not disappointed. That was 3 years ago. Last month, I had my carrier replace my Palm Pre. It fits beautifully in my hand; has tactile texting; a very good limited-use camera; video with minimal but sufficient editing; good audio; fits cleanly in my shirt or pants pocket without bulging; has a sufficient number of apps for a light app user; costs FAR less on the Sprint network than an iPhone on any network; can be serviced by my carrier instead of having to go to an Apple store; is covered by carrier insurance instead of expensive Apple Care insurance; multitasks flawlessly; and so on. When this one breaks, I will probably get another one, unless soem innovator comes along to give me everything that I mentioned above, with a tactile text experience (screen texting sucks.
posted by Vibrissae at 9:09 PM on June 6, 2012


I've owned a PalmPilot, a Palm III, and a Palm Vx. They were great devices for their time. I picked up a TouchPad during the $99 fire sale. It was a steaming pile of turd compared to the iPad... So sad...
posted by gyc at 9:19 PM on June 6, 2012


My father's employer used to issue Palm Treos. It was a piece of junk, but mostly due to all the proprietary company software loaded on to it. The touch screen went to hell pretty quickly and my less-than-tech-savvy father near about jabbed holes through the screen in his be-stylused frustration.

I expect I'd be a lot more productive with a Palm than I am with my iPhone.
posted by shooze at 9:22 PM on June 6, 2012


I had a bunch of palms from the Palm Professional Pro to a Tungsten (but my favorites were the m505 and m515.) There's not a day I use my Android smartphone that I don't wish it had a resistive touchscreen and FitalyStamp and I had my nice fat Dr. Grip stylus and got what I wanted the first time upwards of 99% of the time.

But there's been progress, and now we just make blogs about how hilariously innacurate our input is. Ha. Ha.
posted by Zed at 10:50 PM on June 6, 2012


Fantastic writeup. The Pre and webOS really were the bleeding edge. They did so much but in so little time and before the hardware technology caught up, the results were about 75% mindblowingly amazing and 25% mindnumbingly frustrating. With a stronger and slightly earlier start, they probably could have weathered the initial teething problems with the hardware and software. But that didn't happen.
posted by zsazsa at 11:12 PM on June 6, 2012


Palm Vx, night mode, with eReader in scrolling mode: the best mobile reading device anyone has ever - possibly will ever - make.

Full color is nice and all but a brightly illuminated screen means that even "black" at the lowest possible dimness is actually a light source, at least on every Treo or iPhone I have ever used, which is more than a single model of each. And I assume there is SOME good reason that neither Kindle nor iBooks nor the late lamented Stanza don't have an auto-scroll function. In fact, I assume that reason is to to annoy me personally, which seems to be a core corporate function of both Amazon and Apple.

I will also note that Treos, among other things, implemented both timed and (via some nerdery) geographic brightness and volume settings via multiple third party applications hi-rez, true stereo (in one model) 24-bit audio recording. Last time I checked ( and it was a while back) the iPhone's dual mics remain off limits for recording apps and the best you can do with a pocket recorder is mono. On a handset with two mics.

So. Annoying.
posted by mwhybark at 11:37 PM on June 6, 2012 [1 favorite]


whoops, I accidentally a word:

applications and hi-rez

... and in hindsight, I forgot to pick one of hi-rez or 24-bit.
posted by mwhybark at 11:41 PM on June 6, 2012


Oh man, I loved my Palm Pre (I have heard terrible stories about bugged devices, but never had any problems myself, despite my heavy use of homebrew apps and patches - I always suspected the cause of these errors others had to be mostly caused by the individual users...). Yes, at the end the battery life was a joke (even with a new battery), and the performance was less then stellar, but the overall performance still made this a beloved device.

And still, as a proud and happy owner of a Samsung SGS II I still miss quite an number of features I really got used to (just type, real multitasking, the overall interface, clever gestures, ...).

Well, rest in peace, little Pre...
posted by SAnderka at 12:29 AM on June 7, 2012


My first PDA was a Visor, and I thought it was the best thing. Especially the cartridges. A friend of my parents, a nurse, got one because of the cartridges with medical reference books and a search engine for them was amazing to have in a pocket in a hospital.

I had an idea at one point for (and this proves my gaming nerdness) the carts for the Visor with an searchable RPG game database, a character sheet and a die roller. The idea of a bunch of D&D players with their visors able to settle game arguments with a couple of clicks... yeah.

I still miss it; it just stopped working over a period of time, and finally I put it aside. Later I did get an iPhone.

and the first things I looked for, after the basics? The Pathfinder application, and a die roller.
posted by mephron at 3:37 AM on June 7, 2012


My parents bought me a Handspring Visor when I started high school. I had the PowerOne graphing calculator cartridge instead of a TI-83. This taught me the lesson that sometimes it's important to stick with the industry standard even if it's not the best. Lo and behold, the manufacturer is making graphing calculator apps for the iPhone today.

The coolest part was using the IR port to "beam" software to other kids with palm pilots. That felt like the future. I spent a lot of time using the paint program during classes.
posted by scose at 6:39 AM on June 7, 2012


The coolest part was using the IR port to "beam" software to other kids with palm pilots. That felt like the future. I spent a lot of time using the paint program during classes.

No, the coolest part was using the IR port to play pong with other kids. That felt like the future.

I wonder if I uninstalled 90% of the apps and turned of the wifi and cell connection, would my iPhone would be as good a productivity tool as that Palm was? Somehow I doubt it.
posted by samhyland at 10:04 AM on June 7, 2012


nthing the "I'm glad I got that useless nonsense out of my system before it cost me $100/month or whatever for a 'data plan'".

Given that most of the palm devices didn't have wireless data, and the ones did did had horrifically slow and limited data (I had, and wrote an app for, Palm VII, so this isn't just from reading specs), that's kind of a silly statement. You can do everything palm did, and better, on a modern device with no data plan. While still being able to use wifi when it's available.

I had a V, a VII, and a 650p, and loved them all. Until the first time I used an iPhone (which I thought was a terrible idea that would never work out, especially the keyboard, so it's not like I was a pre-configured fan).

I thank Palm for opening the door, but progress never stopped.
posted by flaterik at 10:27 AM on June 7, 2012


My phone right now is a Palm Pixi, and I love it -- so much so that when I had to replace it (for the on/off switch physically breaking) , I insisted on another one. I don't really plan on using my carrier's "free phone upgrade" until this this dies and not a single replacement is to be found.

I've also enjoyed a number of other Palm devices, and like a MeFite or two upthread, I've also inherited a considerable number, including the color model my lovely wife got after seeing my black-and-white version.
posted by Gelatin at 11:08 AM on June 7, 2012


The coolest part was using the IR port to "beam" software to other kids with palm pilots. That felt like the future. I spent a lot of time using the paint program during classes.

No, the coolest part was using the IR port to play pong with other kids. That felt like the future.


No, the coolest part was beaming money t each other via the IR port and the PayPal app. Now *that* felt like the future.

Need to split a check? There's no need to make the poor waiter keep track who had what and run multiple credit cards. One person can simply pay the entire bill and everyone else can beam money to the payer. It's quite sad I haven't been able to find anything quite like that 10+ years later.
posted by gyc at 11:13 AM on June 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


Probably my favorite feature of the Pre3 and webOS is that rooting is quasi-supported, and you gain root ("enable developer mode") by way of the Konami Code - in the search app you type "upupdowndownleftrightrightbastart" and the previously-hidden Developer Mode app is unhidden - open it, flip a toggle, and install whatever software you like.

Great googly moogly, it works! (leftrightleftright, though, of course.) My day is made.
posted by Gelatin at 11:21 AM on June 7, 2012


Kindle nor iBooks nor the late lamented Stanza don't have an auto-scroll function

There's a good reason for Kindle e-ink readers to not have auto-scroll: it's a current hardware limitation of e-ink that it's pretty terrible at dynamic updates. That's no excuse for e-reading software running elsewhere, of course. Maybe they don't want to call attention to its absence on the Kindle e-ink devices. Or maybe they're just trying to vex you.

(Personally, I never warmed to the Palm or any LCD device for reading, and didn't start reading much in the way of e-books until I got a Nook.)
posted by Zed at 11:37 AM on June 7, 2012


I won't bother reiterating my Palm history here as I've already told it more than once on the blue; suffice it to say that I was grateful for this article, both for explaining what was previously inexplicable (Palm's pissing away of a market that it had previously owned thoroughly) and for making me feel better about switching to iOS, WebOS devotees' testimony here notwithstanding. Of especial interest/amusement was the account of the Pre's intro; I was almost exactly six months into a two-year AT&T contract with my iPhone 3G, having switched from a Treo that was no longer able to sync, and if Palm had had that event the day before I got my iPhone, I might have held out another six months for the Pre.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:47 PM on June 7, 2012


I recently found my Handspring Visor in the garage, plus the Eyemodule. Even way back then, I knew what digital cameras were for.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:28 PM on June 7, 2012


Or maybe they're just trying to vex you

I KNEW IT
posted by mwhybark at 5:53 PM on June 7, 2012


My first PDA was a da Vinci, which cost $100 and I couldn't persuade anyone to buy me a Palm for Christmas. Later I got a Palm and it was glorious and I used it constantly.

I am very sad at the death of Palm. Thought I'd be with that company forever.

I am just glad that Apple still makes a PDA that isn't iPhone (for now, anyway) since I didn't want AT&T. That is definitely an upgrade and it's also glorious...but would it exist without Palm first? Doubt it.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:29 PM on June 7, 2012


I suppose the unstated punchline is the part where you are now paying a monthly fee to use a prettier PDA that probably makes you less productive?

I do indeed pay a monthly fee so that I have everything in one place: phone, text, data, camera, apps, etc.

Carrying a thousand little devices when I can carry ONE instead is a laughing matter: my laughing at you.

Just a little while ago one had to carry the following items:
- cell phone
- pager
- digital camera
- PDA
- laptop
- book

Today it is possible to just have the following:
- smart phone
- e-reader
- tablet / laptop

It's nice being able to have everything in one place.
posted by Fizz at 5:24 AM on June 8, 2012


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