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Don't Write Them Off: A Palm Retrospective

Unknown Lamer posted about a year ago | from the good-old-days dept.

Portables 102

An anonymous reader writes "OSNews' managing editor Thom Holwerda has posted a lavish five-part retrospective on Palm, covering its history, user interface, internal technology, and competition. Holwerda first pays tribute to the pioneers of automatic handwriting recognition, including two remarkable stylus tablets (connected to mainframe computers) produced by RAND Corporation during the 1960s. The action picks up a couple decades later as Jeff Hawkins implements a handwriting recognition engine for his employer, the makers of the high end GRiD compass (MS-DOS) laptop. Hawkins dreamed of developing handwriting recognition for a device small enough to be carried around in one's pocket and cheap enough to be sold to a mass market. Along the way he had an epiphany: instead of trying to recognize the user's natural handwriting, why not create a simple alphabet that could be recognized reliably by the software? When Bill Gates entered the game, Hawkins had another big idea: why not compete against the Microsofts of the world by having fewer features, instead of more?" The handwriting recognition part is chock full of screenshots and video demos of early recognition systems, too.

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102 comments

Still Carry a Palm (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43146905)

I still keep my appointments on a Palm Zire. The simplicity is hard to beat, and I mastered the stylus alphabet many years ago. It's a little thick in my pocket, and many people have asked me about my special cellphone.

Re:Still Carry a Palm (4, Interesting)

Nemosoft Unv. (16776) | about a year ago | (#43147055)

Amen to that. I've got a M515; unfortunately, its replacement battery is starting to die off too, so I'm afraid this time it really is the end. An 'uptime' of a week still beats any smartphone these days :P

Re:Still Carry a Palm (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43147229)

Every think that might have something to do with the fact that there's no radio antenna rather than some superior design? Faggot.

Re:Still Carry a Palm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43147299)

Never mind he's got to be doing something extra special (read: retarded) if other mobiles he's trying crash every week.

God, these extra nerdy slashbots really live in a strange world.

Re:Still Carry a Palm (2)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#43147747)

It's not a question of crashing - it's a question of battery life. The Palms had pretty impressive battery life. Actually a lot of old tech did - I still use my TI-85 calculator on a regular basis and replace the 4 non-rechargable AAA batteries every three or four years. Sure it's due to the lack of radio, slow processor, and monochrome reflective LCD screen, but it's still really convenient to just never think about batteries.

Re:Still Carry a Palm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43148305)

Again, NO RADIO.

Re:Still Carry a Palm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43148487)

Are you dense?

Re:Still Carry a Palm (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43149147)

Are you a moron who can't read? Because he never said anything about it having all the same functionality as a smartphone - he simply said that he likes that its uptime exceeds that of any smartphone today - which it does. If it does what he needs it to, then the missing functionality is, for his purposes, a feature, because it allows improvements in the functionality that actually matters to him - that is, the uptime.

To put it another way - you're arguing against something that no one has actually said.

Re:Still Carry a Palm (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about a year ago | (#43150409)

Not just the radio. An older Nokia phone will easily last 2 weeks in standby mode too. It's the large, backlit, colour screen and the CPU / GPU that drain the battery life in a modern phone far faster than pinging a network tower periodically to let it know you're still active.

Re:Still Carry a Palm (1)

shellbeach (610559) | about a year ago | (#43150673)

Not just the radio. An older Nokia phone will easily last 2 weeks in standby mode too. It's the large, backlit, colour screen and the CPU / GPU that drain the battery life in a modern phone far faster than pinging a network tower periodically to let it know you're still active.

No Nokia phone that I owned ever did that! I was lucky to get three days of standby, and never bargained for more than two ...

Seriously, the radio (inc. wifi if on) is by far the heaviest drain on a smartphone. Try putting yours in airplane mode and just use it as a PDA -- I bet you'll be impressed.

Re:Still Carry a Palm (1)

jgrahn (181062) | about a year ago | (#43153693)

Not just the radio. An older Nokia phone will easily last 2 weeks in standby mode too. It's the large, backlit, colour screen and the CPU / GPU that drain the battery life in a modern phone far faster than pinging a network tower periodically to let it know you're still active.

My Sony-Ericsson T610 lasts two weeks too, on its original 2003 battery -- and it *does* have a backlit (if smallish by today's standards) colour screen. I don't use it for IP traffic though.

Re:Still Carry a Palm (2)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#43149325)

The only problem was if you let the battery go really flat, you lost all your data. Storing persistent data in battery backed RAM is a risky.strategy.

Re:Still Carry a Palm (2)

rwa2 (4391) | about a year ago | (#43155941)

On the other hand, the official Palm desktop sync app (as well as jPilot on Linux) could back up your entire PDA and restore the whole damn thing to the exact state you left off. I've yet to see an Android or iOS thing that can do that, which is quite annoying.

Re:Still Carry a Palm (2)

KatchooNJ (173554) | about a year ago | (#43149673)

Ditto! My m515 is also not holding much of a charge any longer. Still love that little thing, even if it is pretty old-school, at this point. ;-) I love how the OS was very "zen" and elegant.

Re:Still Carry a Palm (2)

Obfuscant (592200) | about a year ago | (#43151425)

Amen to that. I've got a M515; unfortunately, its replacement battery is starting to die off too, so I'm afraid this time it really is the end.

Why not replace [officemax.com] it [staples.com] again [renewelectronics.com]? These are just three of the places I found with a simple "m515 replacement battery" query to google. I did mine a few years ago and it wasn't hard.

Re:Still Carry a Palm (2)

wwphx (225607) | about a year ago | (#43159807)

I turned my back on Palm because they turned their back on their users and started making crap products. I started back in the 90's with a III then went to a Vx. I actually wore them out. The breaking point was going to a Tx, absolute piece of garbage that couldn't maintain screen/pen registration and crashed far too often. Replaced that with whatever their $99 cheapo color Zire was, and that was adequate until it, too, lost screen registration. After a misadventure with a Dell/WinCE handheld, I heard the iPod Touch had apps and I became a happy man again. I now use a iPhone 4S, my first and only smart phone and it's been an excellent PDA, I might go to a 5 in November.

There are things that I don't like about Apple's core apps that Palm did infinitely better, and I've given up trying to find suitable replacements. Specifically, the calendar is not as easy to use, especially in the limitations on scheduling recurring appointments and not having a snooze for alerts, and the notes app doesn't allow me to easily organize by category. Yes, you can do as good of recurrence customization in the OS-X calendar app, but I shouldn't have to use two apps and let them sync. And Calendar's interface for entering appointments is pretty hideous.

Maybe I'll look in to writing my own iOS apps, I've got some time right now.

Re:Still Carry a Palm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43152525)

You can get a replacement battery on ebay. I still use a m515 which I bought used for $15. It is superb in comparison to the 1/2 assed modern wannabe devices.

Defender of virginity! (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43147267)

Are you thia guy?

http://cdn.memegenerator.net/instances/400x/27638947.jpg

Seriously. You talk about simplicity but you're carrying an extra device in your pocket. Are the calendars on modern smartphones (which are deadnut simple) too hard for you?

Well, anyway, just cling lovingly to an old piece of plastic. Enjoy your virginity.

Re:Still Carry a Palm (1)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | about a year ago | (#43147535)

I don't carry one around, but I keep a TRG Pro [geek.com] in my computer closet. My kids actually started playing with it a week or two ago - they think it's pretty cool, even if it's grayscale and all. And two AAA batteries power the thing for a month, easy.

I stuck with Palm all the way through a Treo 650, but after that it was time to move on.

Re:Still Carry a Palm (1)

rwa2 (4391) | about a year ago | (#43155969)

Word. I held on to my Palm T|X tethered to a "dumbphone" for quite a long time into the iOS + Android era. Still looking for Android apps that are as good as Plucker , HandyShopper (I could even abuse it to track my monthly budget!) , and Progect.

Also still have a red Visor Edge with the big bulky GSM add-on module banging around somewhere, but the antenna's broke :P

Re:Still Carry a Palm (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43148069)

I use my palm on a daily basis. For jacking off, that is!

any chance i can borrow it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43151959)

i'm in need

Re:any chance i can borrow it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43153601)

no problem. Meet me in the end stall, 2nd floor men's room.

Re:Still Carry a Palm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43156359)

A PALM and ARDUINO any day of the week. STILL BEATS ANY So called 'smartphone'.

Nice device but never moved with the times (5, Interesting)

ranulf (182665) | about a year ago | (#43146977)

I loved my Palmpilots - I still own two even now, but their real problem from a programmer's perspective was the overly restrictive 64KB model and having to use a database for all storage. That meant everything had to be especially written for the palmpilot and it was difficult to include support in a cross-platform programs. Not impossible, but it felt like it was Palm or everything else at times. As the devices got better and better, the tiny memory restrictions just got more ridiculous.

Also, there was some developer support issues - for instance, I remember at the time when people wanted to create pdb files offline and the official response was "we don't know what the pdb format is because the MS runtime handles that" was just ridiculous. Obviously, it was possible to reverse engineer the format, but a company not having documentation on its one and only file format isn't great.

That said, the API was well thought out and nice to use. Just different to everything else.

Aren't you describing Apple now? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43147371)

I think, a few years from now in hindsight, we'll be saying the same thing about Apple. They're basically the same grid of icons phone they were when Jobs was alive, they've switched to minor incremental upgrades and lawsuits, and it's difficult to imagine they'll come out with anything radical now that SJ is dead and Android is in the hands of hundreds of companies each inventing in different directions.

I mean touch phones with grids of icons are where it was, not where it's going, Palm of course, was a far earlier grid/phone when it merged with Handspring, and went on to inspire many long dead designs:
http://www.mobileburn.com/review.jsp?Page=6&Id=141

Re:Aren't you describing Apple now? (1)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#43147395)

isn't this android as well

I've seen every version from 2.2 up to 4 and it's the same 7 screens with an app tray to hold all your apps

apple's grid reminds me of windows 3.1 of all things. it works. no reason to change it. i've used windows for twenty years and every time there is a new version coming out the dummies on the internet always panned MS for keeping the same GUI. They finally changed it in Window 8 and the same idiots are saying there was no reason to change it.

android's GUI is a fairly close copy of Blackberry

Samsung and it's Notes, Ouya (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43147677)

I disagree, think of Samsung with it's note interface/multiapp interface, or the Ouya and its games, or the endless new TV sticks. I think Android has far outgrown Google and they're not the drivers of Android anymore. The major changes you see are driven by other companies.

I think MS on the other hand has been stuck in that rut for a heck of a long time. Windows 8 is an odd sort of half compromise, they sacked the man behind it (or rather he 'resigned' to spend more time with his blog), I think if he'd have delivered a Windows 8 that looked like a Windows 7, they'd have *promoted* him.

Apple is sort of on the turn, they're heading the Microsoft way, but not yet, afraid to move on, yet not entrenched in their design quite yet. Sort of somewhere between the two (Android Group and Microsoft Group).

You should look at the Handspring Visor phone if you want to see where Blackberry was inspired from.

Re:Nice device but never moved with the times (0)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#43149355)

That meant everything had to be especially written for the palmpilot and it was difficult to include support in a cross-platform programs.

I see that as an advantage. Cross platform apps tend to be poor. They don't tend to match the user expectations for individual platforms.

Re:Nice device but never moved with the times (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#43149995)

"... but their real problem from a programmer's perspective was the overly restrictive 64KB model and having to use a database for all storage."

True. But that didn't stop many people. There were thousands and thousands of apps for the Palm, many of them free.

What killed the Palm is that they threw away all their good, distinctive features when they built the Treo. They tossed the nice large screen in favor of a small screen and a shitty little keyboard; they tossed the default handwriting recognition in favor of that same keyboard. Battery life also went out the window.

That left them competing in the cell phone world with all the other cell phone companies, and the same features they had. To this day I wonder what the hell Palm was thinking. They should have just stuck a phone in an existing Palm, like the Tungsten.

That takes me back (2)

certsoft (442059) | about a year ago | (#43147021)

I wrote a couple of programs using PocketStudio (Pascal based RAD tool) for a Tungsten C. One of them used the IR interface to show status and do configuration on a PIC-based solar power system. The other used WiFi to talk to a model railway signal and turnout control computer.

I miss Palm. (2)

Spit (23158) | about a year ago | (#43147031)

The old mono palm-pilots were fantastic and I still haven't found an app that can hold a candle to the Palm suite. The battery life was phenomenal and it's only recently I've had a backlit e-reader again.

Vale.

Re:I miss Palm. (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year ago | (#43147715)

They were making the best PDA/smartphones until around the time the Treo 650 came out, and then they started to stagnate, and soon after accepted the Microsoft kiss of death.

On the 650 I'd been doing things that the iPhone didn't have for a few years after launch, years before the iPhone came out.

I kept using my 650 for a long time, only replaced it when the Nokia N900 came out. And now the prospects for upgrading are looking even worse, I'll have to see what Jolla comes out with.

Re:I miss Palm. (1)

SpooForBrains (771537) | about a year ago | (#43148593)

I never moved up to the 650 but I had a 600 and I loved that thing. They got it so, so right. Every modern mobile phone manufacturer should be forced to use a Treo 600 for a week and then answer the question: "Is your product as good as this? No? Well back to the bloody drawing board with you."

Re:I miss Palm. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43160595)

I've always wondered why no commercial laptops/netbooks were offered with a mono LCD display. It would be amazingly useful for those who work in direct sunlight and don't care about color to enter work-based report data. Of course, these days, maybe e-Ink would be an option. If you don't care about speed, but want bright light readability and long battery life, it would be nice to have an option that fill this huge gap. The old Palm handhelds provided this functionality, but no mainstream smart-phone is of much use in sun-light.

It's similar to the irritation I have with just about all low-end digital cameras. They all have view-screens and none of them have view-finders, which makes them completely useless outdoors in sunny environments.

What happened to those pre-renders of future palms (4, Interesting)

MrDoh! (71235) | about a year ago | (#43147087)

When I had... Pilot 5000, I remember finding on a palm forum some fantastic renders of 'what if' type devices. Someone had taken a palm pilot and said 'ok, 10 years, what are we likely to get'. Full colour, glass screen, thin, internet access. I so wish I'd saved them somewhere I could find again. It was some impressive designs for the future at the time, but of course in retrospect. I think they hit the nail on the head though, if only they were still about, perhaps some of the 'look and feel' lawsuits going on might have prior art renders.

Re:What happened to those pre-renders of future pa (1)

fyngyrz (762201) | about a year ago | (#43150035)

Palm T|X. I still have mine. Glass screen, wifi, IR, full color, and pretty thin, too.

Misty watercolor memories (5, Insightful)

jtownatpunk.net (245670) | about a year ago | (#43147089)

Palm's handwriting innovation wasn't technological. It was psychological. They managed to convince consumers that it was cool and hip to learn to write in a way that the device could interpret. That made the technical aspect much more manageable.

That's one of the reasons the Newton bombed. Apple tried to build a system that could interpret natural writing but that's an incredibly difficult thing when writing styles are as unique as fingerprints. I didn't even bother waiting to get my hands on a demo unit at the launch because people were walking away complaining that it was impossible to get the Newton to accurately recognize anything written on it. That had been the Really Big Thing Killer Feature and it was underwhelming. So I'm supposed to walk this thing through learning my writing? Ain't nobody got time for that! Somehow, Palm convinced people to learn how to write all over again. I tip my hat to their memory.

Re:Misty watercolor memories (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43147389)

You could argue they are redoing that mistake with Siri: there are people who will never be able to perfectly interact with it like with a human. I myself have trouble sometimes, and there are slang ways of doing future dates (at least in Spanish) which Siri doesn't recognize yet. So if I speak "make an appointment for blah", somtimes it gets it ok and is like magic, sometimes it takes me more time to repeat it, later hate it because not only I have to do it by hand but also wasted time trying to do it through voice.

Re:Misty watercolor memories (5, Insightful)

urdak (457938) | about a year ago | (#43147391)

Palm's handwriting innovation wasn't technological. It was psychological. They managed to convince consumers that it was cool and hip to learn to write in a way that the device could interpret. That made the technical aspect much more manageable.

It wasn't just "cool and hip" to use Palm's new writing style - it was also fast and more reliable - e.g., when writing A just write an upside-down V and don't write the middle line.

I remember a conference I attended in 1999, where for 3 days I sat and wrote notes on my Palm V. Palm's writing technique was very fast, very convenient (the device was very small, and I could write without looking at the screen all the time - which you can't do on today's smartphones) and also - after 3 days of writing, I still had half my battery left!

I wish that Palm would have continued to build devices and operating systems...

Re:Misty watercolor memories (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43147551)

And yet, some of us have so atrocious handwriting that even Palm's Graffiti wasn't recognized with sufficient accuracy. I ended up giving my PalmOS device to my wife, whose handwriting was sufficiently tidy, and going back to paper and pen. So much promise... But it never worked for me.

Re:Misty watercolor memories (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year ago | (#43149039)

And yet, some of us have so atrocious handwriting that even Palm's Graffiti wasn't recognized with sufficient accuracy. I ended up giving my PalmOS device to my wife, whose handwriting was sufficiently tidy, and going back to paper and pen. So much promise... But it never worked for me.

I think it's more than just atrocious handwriting. My handwriting, script or plain, is virtually unreadable to even me. The Palm was much better, as long as I kept drawing the letters large enough. I can Grafitti faster than I can type on a mobile device.

I miss Grafitti.

The other thing I liked about the Palm was how the search function spanned the entire device. Android supports that, but not all other mobile OS's did.

Re:Misty watercolor memories (1)

rwa2 (4391) | about a year ago | (#43156093)

Yes, Grafitti was great... esp. before they "dumbed it down" in v2 on later devices.

There was hardly any "learning" curve... maybe the trickiest part was writing V backwards to distinguish them from U (unfortunately one of the hacks they got rid of in Graffiti 2, which made it much harder for it to recognize Us and Vs properly).

Re:Misty watercolor memories (2)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year ago | (#43149075)

It wasn't just "cool and hip" to use Palm's new writing style - it was also fast and more reliable - e.g., when writing A just write an upside-down V and don't write the middle line.

I remember a conference I attended in 1999, where for 3 days I sat and wrote notes on my Palm V. Palm's writing technique was very fast, very convenient (the device was very small, and I could write without looking at the screen all the time - which you can't do on today's smartphones) and also - after 3 days of writing, I still had half my battery left!

You can still get it on Android [google.com]. Access (which purchased PalmOS) has put Graffiti (1, not the horrendous abomination that was 2) as an input method.

The only downside is the input box is a bit small on the Gnex - if they could make it larger, it would be much better.

From TFA... (1)

Dr. Manhattan (29720) | about a year ago | (#43147697)

Yes, yes, "I liked a machine that comformed to me, not the other way around." But still, as the artcle points out:

Palm understood that instead of "how to get natural handwriting recognition to work", the real problem was "how to input text on a handheld". To solve this problem, you really didn't need natural handwriting recognition at all - a simple, single-stroke alphabet that was easy to learn was a far better solution, since it required far less processing power and RAM, which in turn meant better battery life and smaller devices. Since the recognition system only had to work with a small set of possible variations, it was also a lot faster and more accurate.

Palms could last for a month of heavy usage on two AAA batteries. Compare to today's Li-ion monsters...

Re:Misty watercolor memories (2, Insightful)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year ago | (#43147733)

Are you serious? The image Palm had back in the day was "only used by nerds," and their later devices switched to a thumb keyboard and wouldn't even let you use the Graffiti writing system without modding the OS. Nobody thought having to learn a special writing system was cool. It was the computer nerd equivalent of learning Klingon.

Are you pulling these memories out of your ass?

Re:Misty watercolor memories (1)

squiggleslash (241428) | about a year ago | (#43149807)

No, he's not, you are. I recall very few nerds being interested in Palm Pilots. Salespeople, on the other hand, loved it. In the place I worked at the time one programmer I worked with (in a team of about 15) had one, while every sales person in the office (about four, including the director of our division) had one.

Re:Misty watercolor memories (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154813)

No it didn't. It was used by biz/sales folks a LOT.

I test drove a Lexus and they gave me a Palm Pilot. Lexus dealers don't tend to hand out Klingon dictionaries.

Pioneer of HWR? (4, Interesting)

KrazyDave (2559307) | about a year ago | (#43147105)

I'm no Apple fanboi, but the Newton's (old jokes aside and it was tightened up immediately and in ensuing OS updates) implementation was a miracle to behold back then in '97 or so. Palm had that mess "graffiti" which I always resented because it made me learn to write all over again. I liked a machine that comformed to me, not the other way around.

Re:Pioneer of HWR? (3, Interesting)

MacTO (1161105) | about a year ago | (#43147437)

If you ignore the visual similarities between the devices, such has shape and stylus input, you would find that the Palm and Newton were different devices. The design criteria were different, from an end-user and engineering perspective. This resulted in Palm cutting more corners. That benefited them because they ended up with the more successful product. (Not that it helped Palm in the long run, but that's a different story.)

Graffiti was one of the results of the corner cutting. A lot of us were fine with graffiti, but it is easy to see why it wouldn't have a mass market appeal. But it did get the job done effectively in a palm sized device. That's a lot more than could be said for other devices of the era.

Re:Pioneer of HWR? (0)

faedle (114018) | about a year ago | (#43148039)

The funny thing is the Newton required "conformity" as well, it just was more subtle about it. And you fell for it.

Re:Pioneer of HWR? (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about a year ago | (#43149069)

I'm no Apple fanboi, but the Newton's (old jokes aside and it was tightened up immediately and in ensuing OS updates) implementation was a miracle to behold back then in '97 or so. Palm had that mess "graffiti" which I always resented because it made me learn to write all over again. I liked a machine that comformed to me, not the other way around.

I had the same attitude. Until I learned Grafitti and found it to be easy and productive. Plus, the Palm's battery life beat the Newton 8 ways from Sunday. Whoever thought that a couple of AAA batteries were adequate for the Newton, anyway? I couldn't really use it until I got it a wallet with external battery pack.

Re:Pioneer of HWR? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43151919)

Odd... my Newton (MessagePad 2K) came with a rechargable pack that was very adequate, and the 4-AA cells that were not. A second battery pack and I was good for 3-4 days between recharges.

And I always found Grafitti to be artificial and limiting, after having experienced the joy of Rosetta recognition. Never *once* had "egg freckles."

If there had been a little more convenient file-sharing between Newton and Win XP / lost in Vista and 7, I'd still be using it today. (My 2K still fired up just fine last time I tried to use it.)

Palm: The alternate history of Apple (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43147119)

Decent article, although the conclusion (that Palm should have built a new device based on Cobalt or any of mess coming out of Access) is misguided.

The story of Palm is not too far flung from the story of Apple in the 90's. Architecturally, Palm OS was similar to the classic Mac OS: handle-based memory management, limited multitasking (using event loop tricks), and no memory protection. Both products were simple, elegant, and popular in their heyday.

But eventually, the designs that worked well for old 68000 processors with miniscule amounts of RAM and processing powers started to get creaky. Both Apple and Palm switched chips (PowerPC and ARM, respectively) with emulation layers, which extended the lifespan of the aging OS even longer. Both experimented with licensing the OS to other manufacturers, with poor results for the bottom line.

Apple started writing a "next-gen" version of Mac OS, called Copland. Palm/PalmSource started writing Cobalt. Both attempts were ultimately too complex and mismanaged to actually ship, despite all their "promise". Apple tried to buy BeOS, but Be wanted $200 million. Palm bought Be in its decline for $11 million and change.

Apple finally succeeded in putting classic Mac OS to rest by switching to a modern UNIX-based OS. The lesson is that writing your own OS from scratch is freakin' hard. Palm started fresh with webOS, built on a Linux core. Ultimately, thanks to years of mismanagement and stagnation during the times when the company was making loads of money in the 90's, it was too late for Palm. And then they had to compete with the original Apple: Apple.

On top of that, a number of ex-PalmSource employees had long ago ditched Access and went on to work on what would become Android ... which included using the Binder IPC [wikipedia.org] technology originally developed at Be.

If I understand you right... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43147353)

You're saying the PC industry is like a bunch of inbred retards who only learn lessons the hard way, while defending their virginity at all costs?

Re:If I understand you right... (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about a year ago | (#43147431)

It sounds like a description of geeks:

You're saying the PC industry is like a bunch of inbred retards who only learn lessons the hard way

right up to this bit

while defending their virginity at all costs?

Re:If I understand you right... (1)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#43147711)

it is

try to get a developer to write more code than is absolutely necessary? easier to band aid than build something new

Re:If I understand you right... (1)

fatphil (181876) | about a year ago | (#43148247)

?
Most developers I know will spend an hour writing a script to automate a boring repetitive manual editing job that would only take 20 minutes.

Re:If I understand you right... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43148385)

YAGNI.

Re:Palm: The alternate history of Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43149477)

What killed Palm was lack of support for its older phones/devices from a 64 bit OS...and their inability to write drivers for them. And the lack of an automated translation of old Palm data to the newest Palm devices. Those of us who are/were die-hard Palm users couldn't switch to the newer Palm devices because our devices could no longer synch to our newer computers. (granted, you can still run a Palm on a w7 32 bit device) But the lack of support for its most loyal consumers forced many to abandon Palm entirely, and move to Android. I will shortly, as my Palm Treo 755p is getting rather old, and doesn't work on WiFi.

Palm will be missed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43147213)

I'm clinging on to their memory for dear life with my Pre (admittedly it's the HP Pre 3 but still)... it'll be a real shame when I have to swap over as the now aging OS begins to go senile. Palm had the best organising software I've ever used, the Calendar was perfect, the address book made sense, the Memo pad was actually use-able.

    I would give up all the apps and games in the world to have a Palm OS phone but sadly the internet has moved on and they can't handle it :( I miss the awesome freeware games. Many hours spent downloading and installing homebrew games from Chess to an awesome Star Trek Space Battle game that I'd love to play again.

    Thanks for getting me interested in computing Palm, they and Maxis were really what put me on the path I'm on now and that's not an exaggeration.

Re:Palm will be missed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43152149)

I use my Pre3 every day too. It's a great phone and it's a shame that Leo Apotheker killed webOS just when they were starting to get decent hardware. As far as the author of the original article, his Pre2 must have been borked. The battery life that he mentions is 1/3 to 1/2 of what he should be getting. IMHO, the Pre2 was well made and wasn't slow (in some respects it's faster than the Pre3 for some things...the latter seems to have an unusually high load average all the time where the Pre2 doesn't...odd).

Re:Palm will be missed (1)

Vrekais (1889284) | about a year ago | (#43155045)

The AC above was me neglecting to remember I wasn't logged in at Uni. I had a Pre 2 as well before I dropped it in a bucket of water, I thought the Pre 3 would be better but if I'm completely honest the Pre 2 was a lot more stable in many ways. My Pre 3 has had some odd little errors and issues that I can't seem to fix, I'd have probably swapped to an Android phone by now if any of the manufacturers would be nice enough to release a phone with a physical keyboard here in the UK.

I've still got Palm Zires, Palm IIIs and a Palm Lifedrive knocking about some where, should get them put in display cases or something...

I FIXED IT FOR YOU !! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43147233)

Palm is DEAD and BURIED !! And semblance to any other state is purely in your acid-bent mind !!

Treo- (4, Informative)

gatzke (2977) | about a year ago | (#43147343)

Palm had the first integrated smartphones, the Treo series. Camera, PDA, net connectivity, music and media all in one.

They were far ahead of the first iPhone in terms of features. Stereo bluetooth and copy paste were there way before iPhone implemented them. Palm had stuff iPhone never will have, like hardware keyboard, SD card slot, user-replaceable battery, install any program, multi-day battery, and actual physical buttons.

Too bad the OS was dated...

Re:Treo- (1)

gatzke (2977) | about a year ago | (#43147403)

Some other iPhone limitations (that Treo could do)

-No video recording
-No editing MS Office documents
-No EVDO (iPhone Edge was slow)
-No laptop tethering

But the iPhone was shiny!

Re:Treo- (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year ago | (#43147753)

It also shipped with the ability to download files through the browser, copy & paste, later OSes had some multitasking ability, and best of all, the OS never had any of that curation bullshit. You were free to download, install, compile and run whatever you wanted.

But let's wait for the Apple fanboys to storm in with their historical revisionism...

Re:Treo- (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43149709)

Or wait for the fandroids to fap to their own sullen misplaced sense of superiority.

Re:Treo- (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43147827)

My Samsung SPH-i500 (arguably Sprint's best PalmOS phone... deficient as a palm, but flawless as a phone of its era)
kept my laptop online during Hurricane Wilma, and for 2 days afterwards until I figured out that my DSL was fine, and it was just my modem that didn't like generator power; once I double-converted the power (generator to 12v dc fake cigarette jack, 12v dc to 120vac via cheap inverter, dsl modem plugged into inverter), I was back online. Back then, Sprint didn't care per se if you tethered, as long as you didn't do it "too much"'. The problem carriers have *now* is with cheap mofos who try to tether as their *main* method of getting online, instead of viewing it as a ghetto-fabulous way to limp online in places where better options aren't available.

Re:Treo- (1)

alen (225700) | about a year ago | (#43147693)

did it do any of them well enough to sell more units than the iphone? NO

Re:Treo- (1)

gatzke (2977) | about a year ago | (#43148857)

The point was, it did everything the iPhone did and more.

It had features the iPhone still does not have.

Go back to your shiny little toys and let the men work with their tools.

Re:Treo- (2)

Alan Shutko (5101) | about a year ago | (#43149759)

The original iPhone had two main features that the Treo didn't. It had a better screen (capacitive instead of resistive touch screen, 320x480 instead of 320x320) and it had a far, far better browser. Before the iPhone browser, phone browsers were incompatible exercises in frustration. It also did some functions better than the phones out there. Out of the box it came with GPS built in and integrated Google maps. This was at the time that while you could use GPS on some devices, you needed to get a separate receiver for most phones and connect it directly or wirelessly. Google had released their maps app for some devices, but on many devices it had only limited support for GPS hardware.

It also got a lot of interest because it focused on consumer media rather than business uses. It was a good photo viewer and a good replacement for your iPod, because the smallest device had 4GB of storage. The Treo 755p, for instance, only had 128MB built-in storage and while you could expand it by miniSD, I think those were limited to 512MB or 1GB in 2007. So a lot of folks I knew who had Treos still carted around iPods.

Re:Treo- (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43150359)

I think you are wrong on GPS. The original iPhone did not do GPS I think.

Re:Treo- (1)

sessamoid (165542) | about a year ago | (#43150875)

It also crashed constantly, so frequently that every Treo owner of that generation built muscle memory to perform the following reset:

Flip phone over
Remove battery cover
Lift one side of battery away from its contacts with the phone
Drop battery back down
Replace battery cover
Wait

I performed this maneuver at least 10 times a day, as did most other Treo 600/650 owners I knew.

Re:Treo- (1)

ajlitt (19055) | about a year ago | (#43151177)

It got to the point where I drilled a hole in the back cover of my 650 so I could push the stylus through to the reset button without taking off the cover.

Palm was so cool (2)

ubersoldat2k7 (1557119) | about a year ago | (#43147465)

I passed my whole college time with a PalmPilot and a Palm III and it was great to develop stuff on it and to carry around. I even remember connecting to the Net with the modem dongle which connected to the bottom port to check emails and browse online.

The worst thing about them was that they totally messed up my hand writing.

no nostalgia here (2)

garutnivore (970623) | about a year ago | (#43147553)

I owned two Palm devices. In their heyday these were great devices. In their heyday I would not have wanted any other type of PDA. But I feel no nostalgia whatsoever today for those devices. My old Palm devices don't hold a candle to my Android devices. There is nothing, absolutely not-a-thing, that my Palm devices did that my Android devices do not do better. Handwriting recognition? How about entering note using real-time *voice* recongition.

Re:no nostalgia here (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | about a year ago | (#43147765)

The only nostalgia I feel for them is for the days before curated computing. We were in a golden age of computing and didn't realize it.

Re:no nostalgia here (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#43147815)

Not even the battery life? That's the one thing I miss from old tech. I understand why my new gadgets with their high capacity polymer batteries get only a fraction of the runtime that my old gadgets did on AAAs, but I still miss it. And I do like handwriting recognition - in my experience voice recognition is unavoidably noisy and terribly imprecise - I tend to use just enough domain-specifc terminology to throw standard voice dictionaries for a loop on a regular basis, and across enough domains that a specialty dictionary is no help.

Re:no nostalgia here (2)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#43151607)

Handwriting recognition? How about entering note using real-time *voice* recongition.

Yeah, that won't annoy anyone during a meeting.

Re:no nostalgia here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43154315)

Which is why the next Nexus device will have a lip reading feature.

Dated and Bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43147583)

With all the reasons stated. The appealing reasoning to have had a Palm. You were in control of who got your messages. Doo you remember the news stories where during the bush years, they were complaining of the palm to the emirates. The emirates were using palm to e-mail someone in the states. and the states could read it. Now that is what I call neat. A small system that works, does what is nended.

CEO fail (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43147619)

Palm's technology was incredible & ahead of it's time until it wasn't. The CEO and other C-team needs to keep pulse on the market and focus their organization and how they need to change to be relevant on the future.

For this they were out of tune completely. CEO fail. They were not able to execute on even simple improvements until way too late.

Not that it is uncommon, tons of examples of this exist today. Blackberry anyone? Maybe a Nokia device?

Re:CEO fail (1)

mcrbids (148650) | about a year ago | (#43155567)

Nokia is an interesting example. See, for the longest time, they had a competitive advantage over everybody else: they built the best feature phones. (A feature phone is a nice way to say dumb phone, a not-"smart" phone) Nokia had strong numbers: they had good phones that were reliable and had a good reputation. They were priced well. And while everybody else was spending all their cash on R&D for smart phones, Nokia laughed all the way to the bank producing the same old stuff better than everybody else and making insane profits.

That is, until nobody wanted the "chocolate bar" or "flip" phone anymore. Sometimes your greatest strength is also your worst weakness.

I had a couple (1)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about a year ago | (#43147841)

I had a Zire and also a Zire 31 (faster, color screen) and I remember them fondly.

Say what you want about Graffiti, but it really worked. After a couple of days, I could "Graffiti" just about as quickly as I could print with pen and paper.

Of course, then those assholes at Xerox decided it violated some bullshit patent and we had to put up with that abomination known as Graffiti 2. Fortunately, for some G2 devices (including my Zire 31) there was a hack for getting the original Graffiti working and all was right with the world again. But eventually, that was no longer possible and it pretty much guaranteed I wouldn't bother with Palm again. By then, they were floundering from mismanagement and showing a petty bleak future anyway.

I actually used a Windows Mobile device for a while after that, which lo and behold emulated Graffiti pretty much perfectly!

Now, of course, it's all obsoleted by phones with comparatively advanced touchscreens and input systems, like the Swype keyboard I'm using right now, which I have to admit is fast, easy and usually quite accurate.

But let's give credit where credit is due: Palm initiated this mobile (r?)evolution, and these now technologically ancient devices had capabilities that we still don't have today, like weeks-long battery life, instant-on applications and built-in local synchronization by default (none of this "cloud" bullshit).

If they hadn't been so mismanaged, I'm sure they'd be in Apple's place today (and they'd be a lot less dickish too)

Tungsten T3 (1)

foxalopex (522681) | about a year ago | (#43148017)

I own a Tungsten T3 and I still use it. It was considered probably the best Palm device of the entire generation. It's insanely powerful 400mhz ARM was only recently surpassed by newer Smartphones. I have my address information, password keyring program, car GPS (Tom Tom Nav 6), video player and image viewer functional on it. Best of all no ties to the the Internet so it in theory is extremely difficult to hack into. I'll probably keep using it until it breaks even if I eventually get myself a smartphone.

I used a hacked version of Graffiti (Jot) that allowed for greater functionality. It helped a lot. Palm also allowed for a lot of pirating too. XD

GRiDPad glossed over (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#43148055)

The "Zoomer" is also actually the GRiDPad 2390. Hardware by GRiD, case by Casio, marketing by Radio Shack. It was an absolutely brilliant piece of hardware, it was marketed with no skill whatsoever, and thus it was as the article says a total flop.

It was also the first platform on which they sold the Graffiti handwriting recognition system, which became the basis of handwriting recognition on the Palm Pilot, which makes it doubly important to get right.

Finally, the NEC processor complained about in the article was hilariously easy to use, because it's pin- and instruction-compatible with the intel processors it replaces. Like the GRiDPad 1910 (the one simply referred to as "GRiDPad" in TFA, as if it weren't an entire line of computers reaching from XTs to 386s if not 486s) it is a PC with CGA graphics. It is in fact a direct and compatible descendant of the 1910, with the processor changed out for a lower-power variant, the display with its corded digitizer swapped for a smaller display with a pressure-sensitive digitizer, audio hardware added, and the SRAM slots dropped for a PC card slot. You can loot the OS from the 2390 and load it onto the 1910, changing only the digitizer and graphics drivers.

Re:GRiDPad glossed over (1)

ajlitt (19055) | about a year ago | (#43148477)

The 1910 was pretty nice in its own right. For the time it was fairly small and light and had decent battery life, though no PDA. I had one I got surplus about 15 years ago, and used it with a text viewer and a TSR I wrote to map the hard function keys to arrow and PGUP/PGDN to make it into a primitive ereader.

Re:GRiDPad glossed over (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year ago | (#43148785)

I loaded geoworks from the pc connection kit floppies. [hyperlogos.org] I sure wish I still had images of those. I still have my 1910 running geos with graffiti. I don't actually use it, of course. I would happily unload it on someone. The battery packs need rebuilding, and there's a full-size XT keyboard jack hacked in where the modem used to be. I only had the 2400 bps modem anyway.

I also have a 2390 which should really go with it. It's a little flaky, never detecting full battery voltage. cap failure or somesuch?

Re:GRiDPad glossed over (1)

Hatta (162192) | about a year ago | (#43151643)

Finally, the NEC processor complained about in the article was hilariously easy to use, because it's pin- and instruction-compatible with the intel processors it replaces

Yeah, the NEC V20 is still a popular upgrade for those of us with XT class machines. Just drop it in and enjoy a 30% increase in speed, and compatibility with 286 instructions.

Good little system (1)

hattig (47930) | about a year ago | (#43148497)

I had a Palm IIIc (which I won, thanks ZDNet) which was really quite neat. And it was easy to use, and snappy. And the desktop software was pretty good.

Downsides - Serial connection was slow, low resolution display, lack of central repository for software - although some websites did step up to the mark.

Upsides - http://www.palminfocenter.com/news/560/palm-simcity-in-color/ [palminfocenter.com]

Nice bit of nostalgia, but mostly wrong at the end (2)

c.r.o.c.o (123083) | about a year ago | (#43149265)

I used dozens of Palm OS devices for close to a decade, and I can say the article is well researched but misses the mark on several very important reasons why the platform went downhill. In short, except for the very first generations of Palm OS devices, the hardware and software was never in sync, either one or the other was lacking. At the very end, both were tired and had no place in the market.

The first Palm Pilots were ground breaking devices when they came out. The premise was backing up your data to the PC and having a disposable device to access it in the field. I sat on my Palm Pilot 1000 and cracked its screen. Later that day I picked up a used Palm Pilot 5000, synced it, and was back up and running as if nothing ever happened.

That attitude started to changed when the Palm V came out. It was an iconic design, with high quality materials, extremely thin and beautiful, but it also retailed for around $700 in Canada. And the hardware had issues, like the Up key being pressed by the cover and failing over time, the glued case that made replacing the battery very difficult and expensive. Today Apple fanbois do not seem to mind, but back then this was a big deal.

The Palm V was also the last bit of hardware where Palm was ahead of the game. Every single generation after the Palm V was far behind other offerings on the market, especially the Sony Clie. I had the SJ30, NR70, NR70v, NX70, NX90 and several TH55. Absolutely beautiful devices, with high resolution screens, very long battery lives, but like the Palm V, they were EXPENSIVE. The high end models were retailing in the $700-$1000 range.

And at the end the Palm OS was really showing its age. Connecting to wifi was was slightly less painful than pulling teeth, but it did not matter because displaying a simple website took the better part of a day. Also dealing with strange file formats became tiring. Besides the organizer functions, my main use for all those devices was taking notes and reading books. There was no way to upload a text file to a Palm OS device and display it as an ebook without first converting it to PDB. In 10 years I found exactly ONE utility that could perform that function, and I still have it somewhere on my PC.

Like the author I had the chance to play with a Palm OS device I forgot I had, the Sony Clie TH55. The OS is fast, the applications load almost instantly, and it has a certain beauty in its simplicity. But then you realize it cannot do any of the things we take for granted today, and all you're left with is nostalgia.

Palm sucked. And here is why : (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43149301)

They licensed the hardware and did not maintain strict control
over the operating system. This created a system which had
severe hardware : software compatibility problems.

As a result, some hardware makers ( SONY ) used an OS
which was incompatible with Palm Desktop. This caused
an inability to sync the Palm with the desktop computer, and
also corrupted 98% of the data on the Palm when the sync
was attempted.

This is why I use an iPhone. Sure, it has drawbacks, but Apple
does control the desktop OS and iOS as well and disasters like
what happened to me with my Sony Clie are unlikely to happen
with the Apple device. I know all about the various reasons to
"hate" Apple, but those reasons are most often embraced by people
who have the time to obsess over the trivial. I need a computer
and phone which works without me needing to fuck with it,
and Apple has consistently given me that.

-

Responsiveness is what I miss. (1)

safetyinnumbers (1770570) | about a year ago | (#43149405)

I'm sure I've mentioned this before, but it's the speed that I miss. I now use an iPod as a PDA, so I'm sure it's slower than some phones, but it just took over 10 seconds to open Notes. The Palms took under a second to do something similar.

Apps like BugMe and DiddleBug were drawing-based alarm apps - you would just write a not on the screen (drawing not using graffiti) and then set an alarm time with just three taps (it displayed hour and 5-minute buttons). I could scribble a reminder alarm in 2 or three seconds. Try setting an alarm with a note on your phone. IOS spends more time than that sliding the various screens around. (Maybe SIRI can do this faster, I've never used it).

I miss my old Palm Pilot Pro (3, Interesting)

lord_mike (567148) | about a year ago | (#43150061)

I was always really into the idea of portable "palmtop" computing. Back in the 1980's, I coveted the Radio Shack pocket computers [oldcomputers.net]. The thought of being able to carry around a device in my pocket that I could program on the fly was thrilling to me. In the 90's, HP came out with the HP 200LX [wikipedia.org] which gave you a full MS-DOS computer in your pocket. Wow! Of course, this was the age of Windows, so if you wanted a GUI, HP had the Omnigo [ericlindsay.com] which was my personal favorite (it ran Geoworks GEOS on it). But, none of these really caught on with the general public. The HP200LX did have a strong cult following, but it's high price precluded wider adoption. A used one still costs over $250 on eBay, not much less than its original retail price. One thing was sure, though. Palmtops were the wave of the future, and Palm jumped in at just the right time. Their units were exceedingly popular, and I desperately wanted one, but I couldn't justify the cost for me.

Then, one day, an unexpected package arrived in my office. The unabomber had not been caught, yet, so I was a little suspicious, so I opened it. Inside was a brand new Palm Pilot Pro! A few months earlier, I had put card into a drawing for one of these at a conference, and I promptly forgot about it. After all, no one wins those contests, right? apparently, I defied history and won the contest. I immediately got the Palm III upgrade card (with an IR beam so strong, you could use it as a universal remote), and fashioned a screen protector out of an old transparency projector sheet I had lying around. I used that thing until it was worn thin. The development kit was rather sparse, but it got better, and there were other tools that became popular, like Pocket C. It's biggest limitation was the measly amount of RAM--only 2 MB. The biggest complaint I had about the unit was the battery--not the battery life, which would last weeks, but the whole power "system". It didn't have a backup battery when changing the alkaline triple A batteries. It merely had a capacitor that held the power for about a minute while changing them. Well, that capacitor went bad quickly, and I always had to resync after changing the batteries. Eventually, I soldered in a new one. The sync cradle made even less sense. Ideally, you'd have the Palm sitting next your desk as an extra calendar "window". But, you couldn't do that with the old Palms. Not only would the sync cable not power the palm in the cradle, it actually DRAINED the battery if you left it in there for any length of time! Nuts!

Still, I miss the simplicity of that little palmtop. It worked well and was quite reliable. I eventually traded it in to get $50 off a color model, which I still have, but it's not the same. It's sad how Palm just kind of disappeared. There's tons of software still floating around somewhere that is unusable. There's such little interest in the platform, that no one has even bothered to develop an emulator for Android or iPhone, which surprises me. It's almost as ig the palmtop revolution of the 90's never actually happened at all. It's certainly been mostly forgotten, even though many benefited from the technology.

The future is a trap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43151163)

My father has two palm vx's just in case one breaks. Tough and hard to beat for a todo schedule and address book.

My mother has a psion mx. Psion base particularly just has no upgrade route.

There is just no obvious upgrade path. Going near helping them is just a nightmare.

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