I was always really into the idea of portable "palmtop" computing. Back in the 1980's, I coveted the Radio Shack pocket computers. 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 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 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.