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The PalmPilots That Never Were

timothy posted more than 4 years ago | from the cuneiform-input-never-caught-on dept.

Handhelds 56

harrymcc writes "Among the things that HP is getting in its $1.2 billion takeover of Palm are hundreds of patents for mobile technologies. Many are reflected in Palm's iconic products. But they also include odd keyboard designs, peculiar ideas like a stylus tip that converts into a joystick, and pre-Treo hybrids of phone and PDA that just didn't work. I rounded up some fascinating examples." It's worth clicking through the obnoxious slide-show format to see them.

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slow news day, uh? (0, Troll)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 4 years ago | (#32055320)

Why don't you suck your facebook "friends" dicks, for a change?

Oh yeah. (5, Insightful)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32055372)

I had a PalmPilot M100 in high school...that thing was AWESOME. Super useful for keeping track of homework, keeping study session schedules...I also used it to take notes, since my handwriting was atrocious but the weird Palm recognition alphabet was so easy to do quickly.

I miss having a need for one...I always felt like such a cool fucker whipping that thing out.

That's what she said.

Re:Oh yeah. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32055382)

That's what she...fuck!

Re:Oh yeah. (3, Insightful)

Abreu (173023) | more than 4 years ago | (#32055656)

Yeah, I also felt awesome when I was the only guy in my office to have a PDA...

Why did Palm drop the ball? I mean, there was a moment when they had total market dominance, but instead of creating a new, better OS to cover their opportunity areas (like an actual filesystem for PalmOS, or a decent media player), they just rested in their laurels and allowed themselves to drop into obscurity...

I'm still kinda sad HTC/Google didn't buy them, they could have used Palm's patent portfolio to countersue Apple, or at least get a cross-licensing deal

Re:Oh yeah. (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 4 years ago | (#32055718)

Why did Palm drop the ball? I mean, there was a moment when they had total market dominance, but instead of creating a new, better OS to cover their opportunity areas (like an actual filesystem for PalmOS, or a decent media player), they just rested in their laurels and allowed themselves to drop into obscurity...

You answered your own market dominance = no competitors. That went on for long enough so that by the time they realized they did have competitors, they were already behind the curve :(

Re:Oh yeah. (1)

GlassHeart (579618) | more than 4 years ago | (#32059214)

Why did Palm drop the ball?

Palm got stuck. When the time came for color screens and faster processors, they were both unable to help developers easily port apps forward, and unable to deliver a "clean break" new OS that was sufficiently better than the old one. One shining example of this is that on some Sony Clies that have color screens at double the resolution, the OS UI itself was pixel-doubled, while some apps (that display photos, for instance) were specially written to take advantage, precisely the opposite of what you want to have happen.

It's instructive to look at how Apple went from MacOS 9 to MacOS X, providing Classic as a bridge for (most) older apps, while the benefits of MacOS X was plainly obvious. Apple then hopped again from PowerPC to Intel CPUs, and provided Rosetta for (most of) the stragglers. The PowerPC G4 was the best chip Apple could find for its laptops, and it was lagging behind Intel products horribly, so the benefits of the switch was also obvious.

This is not an easy problem. Many otherwise successful software products have failed to cross major boundaries. Older folks might remember a number of successful or even dominant MS-DOS applications that died switching to Windows.

Re:Oh yeah. (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#32059578)

It takes a steady hand to lead a company through reinventing their product line. Jobs, as you point out, did it twice. I don't think Palm had people with attention span to pull it off.

I looked at the first few examples in TFA and they all violate KISS (keep it simple, stupid). My 1MB palm pilot (from 1997?) had a simpler UI than the cheap organisers of the day. The sliding keyboard of the Pre made it more complex IMHO.

Re:Oh yeah. (1)

Deliveranc3 (629997) | more than 4 years ago | (#32065010)

Agree on the whole feeling awesome thing, for me the biggest thing was how quickly I could pull out a book on public transit.

Yea palm totally dropped the ball, the Palm V operating system was one of the best the world has ever seen, it incorporated file associations and it's "all programs stay running in RAM" feature was really amazing. Probbably a pain to do any development that relied on large data structures but in any case it was brilliantly done.

I'm sure the developers rebelled against the kind of memory footprint they needed to maintain to keep all their programs running in 16 megs of ram, on the other hand I can't figure out how most modern software is SO DAMN HUGE!

It would certainly be nice to have everything running in memory all the time again, so responsive.

Re:Oh yeah. (1)

RPoet (20693) | more than 4 years ago | (#32055680)

Ah! I had an M100 as well. It was great for its time. I later got a Tungsten, which was even better. Have both of them around here somewhere.

Re:Oh yeah. (5, Insightful)

soupforare (542403) | more than 4 years ago | (#32055966)

Graffiti 1 is, imo, still the best quick way to get text into a portable device. I'd take even G2 but no one will license the damn thing. With all the MIDs and Windows tablets getting cheaper and cheaper, I wish someone would port it. I'm sick of on-screen keyboards.

Re:Oh yeah. (1)

pydev (1683904) | more than 4 years ago | (#32056204)

Unistrokes is even faster and simpler than either G1 or G2. Unfortunately, we're stuck with lousy on-screen keyboards courtesy of Apple and all the Apple imitators.

Re:Oh yeah. (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 4 years ago | (#32059714)

i can type 40 or 50 wpm on a "lousy" on screen keyboard and a pocket, foldable bluetooth keyboard is even faster.

screw graffiti. keyboards are where it's at for mobile text input

Re:Oh yeah. (2, Informative)

stokessd (89903) | more than 4 years ago | (#32058016)

I'm a huge fan of Graffiti 1, I used to sit in meetings taking notes without looking at the palmpilot, you can't do that with any on-screen keyboard. Graffiti 2 was crap. That said, I'm way faster with my on screen keyboard than I ever was with graffiti, I do consider it a step up in usability although I have to look at the device to use it.

I like how the article is spread over as many pages as palm had models, maximizing ad viewing. After the first page of non-information I bailed like a good slashdot reader.


Re:Oh yeah. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32058268)

yes graffiti was great.

isn't that where palm got started? writing graffiti for the newton?

i think that's always lost when it comes to discussions about the ip palm holds: apple still owns all the newton ip, and will likely drag them out of the vault that it got banished to. lots of prior art just waiting to get dusted off.

Re:Oh yeah. (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060940)

The Newton had handwriting recognition, not Graffiti.

Re:Oh yeah. (1)

otuz (85014) | more than 4 years ago | (#32063778)

Palm's Graffiti was cross-platform, available on several PDA platforms. It was pretty popular on the Newton, because the speed and reliability of Newton's standard handwriting recognizion sucked. Graffiti was such a successful product that Palm later had the resources to build Palm Pilots as "K.I.S.S." PDA's.

Re:Oh yeah. (1)

adolf (21054) | more than 4 years ago | (#32069804)

My history is obviously vague, but: The first Palm Pilot was a US Robotics product.

"Palm," as an independant entity, didn't exist until some years later (not until after 3com absorbed USR, and then spun off Palm).

So: Assuming you're correct (and I don't remember enough to assume otherwise), was this cross-platform Graffiti an independent creation of a startup, or just another product of US Robotics?

Re:Oh yeah. (1)

5pp000 (873881) | more than 4 years ago | (#32065054)

Graffiti 1 is, imo, still the best quick way to get text into a portable device.

Then you must never have tried Fitaly [] . This is a tap-optimized soft keyboard. I used it on a Tungsten T|3 for several years; it's easily more than twice as fast as Graffiti.

While the layout could perhaps be improved further (another layout called Opti II is probably better), the concept is sound. It does take a little practice to get fast, but so what?

The big problem, IMO, is that the market has decided it doesn't like styli. I don't understand why; fingers are much too large for accurate tapping. Oh well.

Re:Oh yeah. (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 4 years ago | (#32057428)

I had a Treo 180 and then a 650, palm's PDAs were just clearly better than the competition back then. You could tell that a lot of thought and testing went into them - the UI was streamlined and optimized for everyday use, still quicker to navigate than any modern PDA I've used (having no eye candy whatsoever helps I guess). They were pretty well-built too - they'd survive more abuse than most cell phones of the day.

The 650 was the first PDA that became my primary computer, I used it to take notes, browse websites, edit office documents, read PDFs, play Doom, play vids and music, you name it. Now I have an N900 that does things I could only dream of doing on the 650, but I don't use the computer-ish functions anywhere near as much as when I was in university :(

Palm m100? That's nuthin (1)

PCM2 (4486) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060122)

Jeez, a Palm m100? Those came out around the time I'd given up on Palm. You're apparently pretty young, though, so you're forgiven.

Still, even TFA seems pretty lacking in genuine geek cred. Lots of gushing about vapor patents filed in 2001, "long before Palm made phones." Well you know what? In 2001 I had one of these, [] and if you didn't mind carrying around a brick it wasn't a bad device at all. It was just a Palm III PDA melded to a phone, so you got the benefits of the address book and calendar. This was long before mobile data, but there was a mobile browser available for Palms, and I was able to use that when I coupled the phone with a Ricochet modem. []

Beat that, anyone?

Palm? (3, Funny)

KuRa_Scvls (932317) | more than 4 years ago | (#32055376)

When are they releasing FacePalm?

Re:Palm? (2, Funny)

game kid (805301) | more than 4 years ago | (#32055430)

In an attempt to keep the Personal Systems Group viable, HP will bundle it with its new HeadDesk.

The total cost will be bruising. :(

Re:Palm? (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#32060764)

When are they releasing FacePalm?

They're waiting for a super secret product called PalmPlant to be ready. Then they'll bundle FacePalm and PalmPlant as FacePlant.

#8 (1)

AnonymousClown (1788472) | more than 4 years ago | (#32055408)

Moveable Display Device for Three-Dimensional Image Creation

"Help us Obi Wan Kenobi, your'e our only hope!"

Am I the only one who thought of that when I saw #8?

Re:#8 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32055510)

Fuck you asshole

Re:#8 (1)

RackinFrackin (152232) | more than 4 years ago | (#32055528)

Nope. It was my first thought as well.

Also - an x86 operating system... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32055438)

... Didn't Palm buy the rights to BeOS a few years back...

HP could compete with Microsoft and Apple head-on, they now own an extremely efficient, multi-core, embeddable operating system...

Re:Also - an x86 operating system... (0, Flamebait)

Abreu (173023) | more than 4 years ago | (#32055666)

Nope, sorry... its extremely unlikely that BeOS will ever return

The fanboys can keep on dreaming, though...

Re:Also - an x86 operating system... (1)

hedon_elite (559044) | more than 4 years ago | (#32055852)

So I'm a fanboy if I would like to have a powerful, advanced OS, written for multimedia on the desktop, on my desktop, but i'm not a fanboy if I use an open source server OS and massage it into a desktop OS? Gotcha.

Re:Also - an x86 operating system... (1)

Anonymous Monkey (795756) | more than 4 years ago | (#32055926)

No, a fan boy uses an iP...No, a fan boy runs linu...No a fan boy only uses Trio or Pal...Oh I give up.

I hope not (1)

Evil_Ether (1200695) | more than 4 years ago | (#32055480)

Am I the only one who likes number 1? And what is patentable about the wall mount??

Folding keyboard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32055572)

I have a folding keyboard with palm cradle sitting right here, almost exactly like that sketch, from palmOne. It's actually really useful for when I need to type a lot (say, IMing). I still use my Palm TX all the time at school. It looks like this little guy is going to outlive its makers.

Did these exist? (1)

ThoughtMonster (1602047) | more than 4 years ago | (#32055610)

Are these patents of real inventions (as in, products at least made but not released) or just patents of product ideas? Some [] of these are extremely unlikely to have existed (did they have foldable displays back in 2001?), though I could be wrong.

Re:Did these exist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32056778)

Number 11 (fold out keyboard) existed and I had one and it was beautiful and convenient.

Palm M105 + Keyboard in a same backpack for note taking = great

I love I keyboard like that for todays devices

Bummer - no Chord-writer (1)

ashenkin (410082) | more than 4 years ago | (#32055814)

Bummer - I was always hoping a chord-writer was in the works, but no sign of it from the posted diagrams.

#11 was real! (2, Informative)

Rozine (1345911) | more than 4 years ago | (#32055880)

I still own my foldable keyboard, although I got it wet and haven't gotten around to trying to fix it yet. It was awesome! I keep on wishing I had one for my current Palm TX...

Not worth it (1)

Udo Schmitz (738216) | more than 4 years ago | (#32055912)

"It's worth clicking through the obnoxious slide-show format to see them."

No, it's not. I want my 5 minutes back.

Avoid slideshow pain: Firefox + autopager is great (2, Informative)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 4 years ago | (#32055962)

It's worth clicking through the obnoxious slide-show format to see them.

It's worth installing autopager instead. If there's no existing preset for your site, (quite rare), you can roll your own, then contribute to the community. Takes a lot of the pain out of those damn 'click to see the next page full of ads' sites. []

Okay, clicking through tfa (2, Interesting)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#32056138) [] looks like a Handspring Visor module. [] looks like a ouija board.

the former is more interesting... I wonder how much of the tech unique to the Visor (i.e. the expansion system) was actually developed at Palm. Surely it was imagined there, but that's not the same thing

where technology goes to die (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32056266)

Palm is totally dead at this point. The HP buy cements it. HP is where good technology goes to die off.

Re:where technology goes to die (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#32058298)

Like Proliant, MSA, EVA, etc? HP turned the Compaq products into some of the best selling products in the market and became the #1 computer manufacturer.

Re:where technology goes to die (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32058480)

Nah, more like PA RISC and Alpha...

I miss Palms. (2, Insightful)

safetyinnumbers (1770570) | more than 4 years ago | (#32056350)

<big rant>

I used Palms for years and I'm sad that no modern smartphones or other gadgets can really replace them.

Even the old ones were pretty fast (they ran programs directly in-place, so you didn't have to wait for them to load from flash into RAM, I believe).

And so reliable (as long as you weren't running a crashy app on it). By that I mean the time between needing reset was MONTHS, not days like some smart phones.

But I moved to a Treo, and the newer OS had become unreliable (jt tried to keep old and new data files in sync causing both apps and PC-syncs to lock up).

I'm a big fan of my iPod touch, but my old 33Mhz Clie was much faster to use, but in response speed and reliability. For instance, to set a reminder, I'd press a hard-button set to launch diddlebug ( , scribble a note on screen (it was a "sticky-note" app, so I could just write directly on the screen), tap the alarm button and choose a time with two taps, from a UI full of buttons for hours and 5-minute intervals.

I could do that practically before you can even load up the iPod's clock app, let alone typing in the text and spinning the nice-looking but inconvenient time-spinners.

Oh, and I doubt that you can port diddlebug to the iPod Touch, due to lack of an alarm API, and you'd still have to wait for it to load to use it.

(While writing this, my iPod alarm went off, coincidentally reminding me that I get no choice about how to snooze alarms, either.)

Re:I miss Palms. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32060104)

Really? No choice for how to snooze alarms?!

Now there's a point I never would have thought of counting, but if Apple is stupid enough to disregard it as so many other people remember it (I know for sure my Droid has some options on that)... God, I'm finding more and more why I don't like the iPod, iPhone, or the iPad... And what was all the Apple fanboys had to say about the Droid and Nexus One? No Multitouch? Solved. Sorry.

keyboard (1)

nathan.fulton (1160807) | more than 4 years ago | (#32056388)

"Segmented Keyboard for Portable Computer System" here []

This one was. I had one for a few years. If you don't want to carry around a laptop, but want to have a full keyboard, the sj-series keyboards were great.

m100 (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 4 years ago | (#32056522)

I bought an m100 (2MB, 16MHz, 160x160 greyscale display) on implulse for £50 when I bought my first mobile phone back in 2000.

The m100 was fun and surprisingly useful. It had a web browser that worked pretty well. I used to be able to sit in the pub with it and browse using the modem in the mobile phone over the IR link at a whopping 9600bps.

What was really cool, though, was the SDK which you could download along with all the documentation for free from Palm and use on whatever system you liked (Linux in my case) and develop whatever you liked for it. There was a pretty good emulator as well that you could test on. I spent a couple of hours one Saturday afternoon writing a little analogue clock program for it using the 16-bit floating-point. I had to write the trig. functions myself because the OS and SDK didn't have any.

Later I bought a Tungsten T3 which had a 400MHz ARM processor and a 480x320 16-bit colour display. The SDK was available for that but the cross-platform emulator went away. There was only a flaky "simulator" that only ran under Windows. I tried to get it running under Wine, but no banana. At that point, I gave up.

I've got a Tungsten E2 as well. They all still work and I used the E2 as an MP3 player and notepad. I broke the card slot on the T3.

I have a wireless card for the Tungsten ones and they have web browsers, but they're really flaky. Not reliable enough to use. No more sitting in the pub browsing my CVS on sourceforge...

Can someone clear this up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#32057048)

Please tell me that patenting something doesn't just involve drawing a cool picture of it....

You actually have to make it work in rl?

Re:Can someone clear this up? (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#32058352)

Nope, you haven't needed a physical exemplar of your invention in a LONG time (like 100 years).

Not in the US, but in Europe you have to (1)

Otis_INF (130595) | more than 4 years ago | (#32062318)

At least in some European countries: if you file a patent of an idea it's thrown out without being looked at, you have to file a patent of an application of the idea.

To me these 'patents' are nothing more than results of brainstorms which were then patented in case someone else created the idea in real life.

I miss my Palm Pilots (1)

Pascal Sartoretti (454385) | more than 4 years ago | (#32058568)

As much as I appreciate my iPhone, my Palm Pilot from 10 years ago was a better PDA. You know, Apple, something like a week view in the agenda ? I am ready to trade the GPS against this...

Re:I miss my Palm Pilots (1)

FlightlessParrot (1217192) | more than 4 years ago | (#32059044)

Yes, and hand-writing recognition. I'm afraid we have to blame Gary Trudeau for the absence of that feature from the iPhone. Also, something like a proper Today page would be a real improvement. Actual multi-tasking I can do without, but Graffiti works and I want to be able to see at first glance what I've got to do today.

Re:I miss my Palm Pilots (1)

gottabeme (590848) | more than 4 years ago | (#32083284)

I use LockInfo (jailbroken, of course), and it gives a nice "today page" overview. I use Toodledo for to-do items, and have it linked to my Google Calendar account, which syncs to my iPhone through the Exchange support. All of this adds up to the LockInfo calendar plugin displaying both calendar events and to-do items due on that day in the same list. LockInfo displays when the phone is still locked, and can even hide the unlock slider for more display space (the slider still works even though it's invisible). With the email plugin and push mail through Gmail/Exchange, I can read, mark as read, and archive recent Gmail without even unlocking the iPhone.

Naturally, none of this is possible without jailbreaking, thanks to Apple. Why Apple hasn't already implemented such functionality on their own is beyond me. But I think that when the time comes to replace my iPhone, I'll be looking toward Android.

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