Before people were able to store hundred of numbers in the memory of their cellular phones and before PDA’s could also double as cell phone, a small company named Palm, then a division of U.S. Robotics, introduced the world first PDA, a catchy acronym for Personal Digital Assistants. With people’s lives both professional and personal becoming increasingly hectic, Palm saw the need for a portable and easy to use device that could essentially store information: addresses, important dates to remember, to do and shopping lists, as well as telephone numbers, fax numbers and e-mail addresses.
Portable digital assistants are nothing new and many had been around long before Palm entered the arena. Electronics giants such as Sharp and Casio long offered small portable assistants which utilized a keyboard to enter information and then save the information for future reference. Palm took this idea to the next generation. In 1996, Palm offered what it called the first Palm Pilot. Reportedly, one of the Palm’s original designers, Jeff Hawkins, cut a block of wood in roughly the same size and shape as the Palm and carried the wood in his pocket for a week to see if that would be a comfortable size and weight for the real Palm Pilot.
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In an interesting side note, further versions of the Palm Pilot would simply be referred to as Palm because Pilot pens filed a lawsuit against the company for infringement on the same Pilot. This was not the only change in store for this revolutionary device. The Palm’s OS would go through many changes which would make it the world’s most advanced operating system ever designed for a handheld device.
Initially, the first Palm Pilots did not have backlit screens or flash memory, but they did connect to the PC’s serial connection port which allowed for the easy transfer of data between the Palm device and a IBM compatible PC. In fact, it was the serial data transfer feature and this feature alone which set the Palm Pilot aside from any previous portable digital assistant. One drawback to carrying around portable devices with tons of saved personal information was that if the device was lost, all the data was lost with it. The Palm Pilot allowed users to store personal data on their desktop PC first, make any necessary changes to the files that were required, and through the Palm’s hot sync feature, completely transfer all changes to the portable device in a matter of seconds. The copy of the data on the PC and the copy on the Palm were identical and always matched.
Without a doubt, the development of the Palm reached its zenith with the introduction of the Palm V. Now Palm was under the control of 3Com and the new Palm V reflected all of the best qualities of the new company. The Palm V no longer used AAA batteries to store data, but now used an internal, rechargeable battery which could last years. The Palm V had 2MB of RAM to store data as well as the ability to wirelessly transfer data to another Palm through an infrared port located in the top of the device. The Palm V also offered a revolutionary portable keyboard which allowed users to type data into the Palm pilot. The Palm V was the pinnacle of PDA development and would be the last of its kind before PDA’s began to merge with cellular phones post 2001.