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March 28th, 2000

Paul’s Adventures in PDAdom

As of late, I’ve been entertaining the purchase of a personal digital assistant. That’s a PDA to you and me (although it could easily be "public display of affection".) Why do I need one? Well, I’m not 100% sure that I do need one. I don’t use a paper organizer of any type, but that’s mostly because they’re quite bulky. I used to use one in high school; the thing was practically attached to my hip.

I think my subtle love affair with PDAs began when I got to play with a classmate’s Palm last semester. The fact that it had a version of Frogger helped. But it just seems inherently more practical than a paper organizer, and the relatively small size helps.

I’ve narrowed the purchase down to either a Visor Deluxe, or a Palm IIIxe. They’re both the same price, and both have gotten glowing reviews, so it’s going to be a matter of personal preference. The upshot is that Handspring Visors will be available in stores such as CompUSA beginning… next week!… so I can check it out in person.

Any opinions on these things? -pm

Posted in Technology

FROM: Old Fezziwig
DATE: Tuesday March 28, 2000 -- 3:43:20PM
In some cases, I'm an old fashioned guy and prefer to use the old Franklin Planner-type thing, but have been curious about getting a PDA lately. I use to have one of those electronic address gadgets (and it was an expensive one too). I changed the batteries regularly but one day, it decided to konk out for no reason and I lost all my stored info. Therefore, I'm a little cautious when it comes to trying this again. Have there been any documented cases of PDAs dying and losing their stored information? I know you can transfer info from the PC and vice-versa but I'm a bit lazy and might not do that too often....

-Old Fezz

FROM: Tony
DATE: Wednesday March 29, 2000 -- 5:45:46AM
Id choose the Visor, the springboard thingies look very promising.

FROM: Viren
DATE: Wednesday March 29, 2000 -- 7:56:25AM
I have a Palm III, while a friend of mine has a Visor. If I had to choose
right now, I'd probably go for a Palm Vx (just for the looks and size). However, the springboard modules you can attach to the Visor are a definite plus if you think you are ever going to buy one of those. Currently you can get a radio, digital camera, and a couple of others.

FROM: Jeff
DATE: Thursday March 30, 2000 -- 7:14:35PM
You might want to look at the Visor 8M, it's comprobable to the Palm V and it cost about the same as a Palm 3. so If you want function and price that might be your best bet. Also they come in nifty colors.

FROM: Marcus Mackey
DATE: Thursday May 4, 2000 -- 2:41:08AM
Hey Paul,

I had to do research on PDA's for a class, and the following information I'm going to state comes from my experience of the industry from the analysis I had to perform. I feel that while the Palm OS is doing tremendously well, even the 80% of a rather dimunitive market right now can be beat in a heartbeat. Products like the Symbian (consortium of Palm, Epoch, Motorola, Nokia, Ericcson, and rumored addition... Sony) Quartz system (very impressive, but based on a permanent internet connection service via cellular, which will be harder to work in over here; the system looks very similar to PalmOS) pose a threat in Europe with their cell-phone functionality, as well as Microsoft's PocketPC based systems (which are more more fathomable than WindowsCE based devices... even if they're still behind Palm in ease of use and functionality, as well as programs).

Ummm... Visors are good, but the Springboard modules that have been promised for months have been few and far between. I personally like the expandability nature of them in that regard, but the downside is that it's a proprietary technology that only "Handspring" supports. Until Palm uses them as well... I'm on a wait and see issue with them. Until it becomes an industry standard, we'll see how much support they get in all (no matter how cool they are).

I don't personally own a Palm, but I've heard that one of their glaring brightspots is their construction. They're a bit better made than the Visor, which is built pretty well itself, but it has some nuances that make it rather iffy. For one, it doesn't have a very good lid mechanism. I know, I know... a lid's a lid... but the Palm's is easier to use and can stay attached and flip back, the Handsprings is only removable, and this can lead to laying it down and losing it. Bad design etiquette from someone that does Product Design. It also is critiqued for it's software support (more crashprone in syncing from desktop to pda) much moreso than Palm, and ultimately... there's just some design aspects that are considered to be more chinsy... which the front buttons have been given a "thumbs down" by a few magazines I have read critiques of Handspring in since their release. Not to mention... many times... you might get more with Palm than Visor. I've seen some of the charts comparing features, and the Visor isn't as expandable nor does it sometimes come with features comparable to what Palm has to offer.

Another thing, remind me before next Tuesday Paul to bring my handheld PDA design prototypes to Web Production class. My goal was to make a handheld that is expandable, and an open standard that could be built on (think of it being pretty open to interpretation by other vendors much as the PC industry is). I have it open pretty much to ARM and PowerPC processors, but it could also use Motorola's heavily impressive DNA chips (probably the best embedded processor developed yet) and possibly even a Transmeta Crusoe albeit it'd be a rather large package to fit in.

The system would be a stripped down portable "embedded" version of Linux (I was thinking of using QNX but it has some serious issues within the kernal, and ultimately... it's not an open standard) with only the core essentials (no x11 as it would likely be replaced on a heavily modified Netscape Gecko engine) and a JavaVM with JIT, and the interface would be based around HTML (as well as Javascript, Flash/Shockwave, XML, VRML, etc.), and be capable of being modified. The goal would also to be able to use form functionality crossed with built-into the OS handwriting recognition so that one could write into form spaces rather than be relagated to a tiny keyboard (which would add heft).

I can show you the model prototypes (still in rather rough vacuum form models, I need to get onto the Solid CAD program sometime next week, as well as figure out the "base" interface proposal in Illustrator) and maybe get some feedback on things you'd like to see. I can also go over more of the hardware specifics on where I saw this going, as I'm sure you being a tech. head like me might have a bit of interest about seeing it, as well as steering the handheld market in your own way.

Mind you... it won't be a working prototype... but I might actually think about putting up a web page with the designs and the idea and see how far the idea can be taken by other hardware and software hackers... from vision, to reality. After all... in 1993, Linux had 3 users... how many does it have now?!?


FROM: Paul
DATE: Thursday May 4, 2000 -- 5:13:52PM
Much more than 3, Marcus. Like... 60? ;) I'll see you Tuesday.

DATE: Saturday January 1, 2005 -- 2:17:23 pm

Paul February 8, 2008, 8:52 pm

As a very late postscript to this Ping: I never bought a PDA. Didn’t need one and, really, still don’t. Viva la technology!

Paul August 20, 2010, 2:21 pm

And as an even later postscript: my iPad is now functioning as my PDA. So it took me ten years to buy a PDA. I’m really glad I didn’t buy that Visor.

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