History of PDAs - Part #2

History2 copy

Our journey to learn the history of PDA's continues and if you haven't read the first chapter yet - go ahead! There will be a short quiz at the end!

History of PDAs - Part #1

History of PDAs: Part #2

This chapter begins with 1996, and boy what a year it was: Palm, Symbian, Windows CE and who knows what else! Check it out:


1996: First Smartphone by Nokia:

nokia-9000 9000a

In 1996 Nokia introduced the first mobile phone with full PDA functionality, the 9000 Communicator, which has since grown to become the world's best-selling PDA and which spawned a category of phones called the smartphone.

Of course, after a while, Nokia took over Psion's Symbian OS (see first chapter of the History of PDA's) and it is now the OS used in all of its' smartphones.


Still 1996: PalmPilot is in the house! 


In that exact same year, Palm released their own PDA called PalmPilot. (The name later on was replaced due to trademark infringement lawsuit brought by the Pilot Pen Corporation to Palm but the name PalmPilot remained synonym for PDAs).

The original purpose of Palm was to create handwriting recognition software for other devices, named Graffiti, but their research convinced them they could create better hardware as well.

Palm's handhelds initially ran on the popular DragonBall processors, a Motorola 68000 derivate. More recent models are using a variation of the popular ARM architecture.


For 13 years Palm has developed PDAs and smartphones, but it seems like 2009 is going to become a major milestone for Palm with the release of the Palm Pre


Still 1996: It's Windows CE!

While Nokia and Palm unleashed their beasts, a small unfamiliar company (named Microsoft), released an unknown operating system called Windows CE for minimalistic computers and embedded systems. Designed to work with less than 1 megabyte of memory, Windows CE became the basis of the later to come PocketPC and Windows Mobile PDAs.

workabout_pro With Windows CE one can develop robots, industrial controllers, gas station pumps, voting machines, kiosks, POS terminals, video games, medical equipment, digital music players, interactive televisions, Internet appliances, cameras, etc. but most of us are familiar with it around PDA's. Some industrial PDAs are still running Windows CE.


Read more about the differences between CE and PocketPC in here.

1999: Handspring Visor:

3 years later, in 1999, Palm continues to rock in the PDAs zone, and with the Palm V it seems like Palm's PDAs (still with green screens by the way) are sexier than ever!

But, at the same time, 3 unhappy people who actually founded Palm and invented the PalmPilot (Jeff Hawkins, Donna Dubinsky, and Ed Colligan) decide to leave Palm and found a new company called Handspring Visor.

Handspring Visor released the first Visor PDA in '99 and after a few years they started with the Treo line of products.


(The amazing thing in the picture above is that you can actually see some of the familiar Treo UI concepts in that old Visor device. Same buttons style, same tabs concept. And to think that it was released 10 years ago!)

Look how identical are the different calendar applications:

handspring_visor_edge PalmTrioCalendar_1


2000: First try, PocketPC 2000:


What's this? Is that a today screen? What year are we? Oh, I see, it's almost 10 years ago... they way things are changing... or not.

The first version of the PDA which was based on Windows CE was released in the same year bug 2000 hit the entire universe... (OK, maybe most of it is real, except for the bug part...).

One of the biggest problem with it was that it was not finger friendly, but since no one knew back then what it means, it didn't make any difference.

The first version did not create the desired buzz, but will Microsoft give up on their PocketPC or will they continue to invest in it?

And what do you think of that today screen? Will it succeed or will it vanished eventually? How about adding widgets capabilities to it and calling it... plug-ins?

(More about it in the next chapter of the History of PDA's)

To be continued...


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