Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 5th Jan 2014 20:19 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless

I came across a website whose purpose was to provide a super detailed list of every handheld computing environment going back to the early 1970's. It did a great job except for one glaring omission: the first mobile platform that I helped develop. The company was called Danger, the platform was called hiptop, and what follows is an account of our early days, and a list of some of the "modern" technologies we shipped years before you could buy an iOS or Android device.

Written by one of Danger's first employees, Chris DeSalvo. Amazing detailed look at some of the revolutionary things Danger did - years before iOS and Android.

It should come as no surprise that I loved this article. I hate how everything is framed as "iOS/Android invented this" - while in fact, both of those platforms rely very, very, very heavily on those that came before, such as PalmOS and Danger.

Order by: Score:
Awesome.
by looncraz on Sun 5th Jan 2014 21:05 UTC
looncraz
Member since:
2005-07-24

I vaguely remember something about these products - merging a Gameboy was pure brilliance...

Sad something like this could not have taken over and held the lead... just imagine if the Hiptop won out instead of the iPhone or BeOS instead of Next...

Thankfully we have an open platform dominating right now - I hope it stays that way (be it Android or another open platform).

Reply Score: 7

My first phone
by Bill Shooter of Bul on Sun 5th Jan 2014 21:20 UTC
Bill Shooter of Bul
Member since:
2006-07-14

I was looking for a phone at the time. It was much more expensive than other dumb phones, but it could do so much more I splurged and bought it anyway. With the built in ssh client, I did more than a few website updates. Good phone. I even repurchased it after it was stolen/lost.

Reply Score: 4

Ha
by strim on Sun 5th Jan 2014 21:28 UTC
strim
Member since:
2008-07-01

At least some of the newer Danger (OS v5) devices were based on NetBSD. Too bad the article fails to mention this. It was sort of how BB10 is based on QNX...

Reply Score: 4

Comment by Kroc
by Kroc on Sun 5th Jan 2014 21:33 UTC
Kroc
Member since:
2005-11-10

Nintendo: Failing to understand digital distribution since 2005.

Reply Score: 4

Inventing
by WorknMan on Sun 5th Jan 2014 22:45 UTC
WorknMan
Member since:
2005-11-13

I hate how everything is framed as "iOS/Android invented this" - while in fact, both of those platforms rely very, very, very heavily on those that came before, such as PalmOS and Danger.


Who the hell are all these people claiming that iOS and Android invented everything? I see people constantly bitching about other people saying it, but I've never heard anyone actually claim such a thing. Well, maybe some non-techies do, but it would be like people who think that the Atari 2600 was the first game console. You can't really blame them for not knowing any better.

I would go so far to say that, after my experiences with Palm and Windows Mobile devices, Apple was the first to invent a portable PDA/phone that I'd actually want to use. For that, they get most of the credit as far as I'm concerned.

Edited 2014-01-05 22:47 UTC

Reply Score: 5

RE: Inventing
by Tony Swash on Mon 6th Jan 2014 00:26 UTC in reply to "Inventing"
Tony Swash Member since:
2009-08-22

"I hate how everything is framed as "iOS/Android invented this" - while in fact, both of those platforms rely very, very, very heavily on those that came before, such as PalmOS and Danger.


Who the hell are all these people claiming that iOS and Android invented everything? I see people constantly bitching about other people saying it, but I've never heard anyone actually claim such a thing. Well, maybe some non-techies do, but it would be like people who think that the Atari 2600 was the first game console. You can't really blame them for not knowing any better.

I would go so far to say that, after my experiences with Palm and Windows Mobile devices, Apple was the first to invent a portable PDA/phone that I'd actually want to use. For that, they get most of the credit as far as I'm concerned.
"

I agree, lots of knocking down of straw men. What's interesting in the history of mass computing and technology is what products really changed things. Trying to write the history of technology based on the the question of who invented what first is not just meaningless but actual diverts the discourse away from the really interesting questions: what products caused the big changes and shifts, and what was it about those products that caused them to have such large impacts.

Reply Score: 0

RE[2]: Inventing
by M.Onty on Mon 6th Jan 2014 02:24 UTC in reply to "RE: Inventing"
M.Onty Member since:
2009-10-23


I agree, lots of knocking down of straw men.

Yes, there is a bit of this. But ...

Trying to write the history of technology based on the the question of who invented what first is not just meaningless but actual diverts the discourse away from the really interesting questions: what products caused the big changes and shifts, and what was it about those products that caused them to have such large impacts.

Meaningless to you, perhaps, and really interesting to you, perhaps.

I happen to take an interest in who actual invented things initially, because sometime those people's stories are more interesting and inspiring than the stories of the people who got rich by borrowing from them.

Yes, its important to know who made something go mainstream. But if we habitually belittle the contributions of whoever had the original breakthrough because they weren't good at business then we discourage further invention by taking away all that's left for them; a place in history.

Reply Score: 11

It is called 'selective history'
by shotsman on Mon 6th Jan 2014 06:28 UTC in reply to "RE: Inventing"
shotsman Member since:
2005-07-22

Many years ago I went to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. They had a special exhibit about vertical flight that I wanted to see.

It was all about the development of Helicopeters.
There was nothing about the Harrier VTOL aircaft at all yet only a few miles away the US Marine Corps were flying them. Having worked on the Avionics for the Harrier at Dunsfold I felt insulted.

I guess that in 20 years when there is a show about the F-35 it won't mention its forerunner, the AV8B and its forrunner the P-1127 and the flying bedstead at all.

The omission of certain key development in mobile history is not surprising to me at all.

Reply Score: 6

unclefester Member since:
2007-01-13

It was all about the development of Helicopeters.
There was nothing about the Harrier VTOL aircaft at all yet only a few miles away the US Marine Corps were flying them. Having worked on the Avionics for the Harrier at Dunsfold I felt insulted.


Anything that wasn't invented/built in the USA is considered worthless. However if it is really good the US claims to have invented it (eg refrigeration, cinematography, incandescent light bulb etc). Ford won't even admit the Focus (the best selling car globally in 2012) was mostly developed in Australia.

Reply Score: 4

ricegf Member since:
2007-04-25

I guess that in 20 years when there is a show about the F-35 it won't mention its forerunner, the AV8B and its forrunner the P-1127 and the flying bedstead at all.


Possibly, but remember that BAE Systems UK is one of the three prime developers (along with Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman) of the F-35 - and BAES (originally as Hawker Siddeley) also developed the Harrier. Their unique STOVL experience might even have been a factor in their invitation to join the team.

Also, the F-35 is called Lightning II. At the naming announcement (working from memory here), the name was chosen because the Lightning I is actually two aircraft - The English Electric Lightning (English Electric eventually became part of BAE Systems UK) and the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, thus honoring both nations' contributions.

If you ever have a chance to tour the Lockheed Martin facility in Fort Worth, be sure to visit Legacy Hall. You'll see a tribute to the products that led to all of that factory's major products throughout its history, including the Harrier's major contributions to the F-35.

Of course, that doesn't mean that some future shows won't ignore the complex industry interactions, alliances, and licensing that lead to any new aerospace product nowadays, but at least the developers recognize and honor them.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Inventing
by MOS6510 on Mon 6th Jan 2014 05:41 UTC in reply to "Inventing"
MOS6510 Member since:
2011-05-12

Who the hell are all these people claiming that iOS and Android invented everything?


Nobody, but if you keep repeating a lie it becomes a truth.

Reply Score: 4

RE: Inventing
by tupp on Mon 6th Jan 2014 05:57 UTC in reply to "Inventing"
tupp Member since:
2006-11-12

Who the hell are all these people claiming that iOS and Android invented everything?

Apple fanboys regularly suggest that Apple originated something that actually originated elsewhere.

I don't recall ever hearing anyone saying that "Android" invented anything. Furthermore, Android is not exactly a definable R&D entity -- it is merely a Linux-based OS.


I see people constantly bitching about other people saying it, but I've never heard anyone actually claim such a thing.

I have seen Apple supporters make false claims many times on this very forum.


Well, maybe some non-techies do,...

That was certainly a quick turnabout.

By the way, what kind of users do would you say Apple attracts -- "techies" or "non-techies?"


You can't really blame them for not knowing any better.

Oh, as adults, they certainly should know better than to claim falsehoods and make things up.


Apple was the first to invent a portable PDA/phone that I'd actually want to use.

And what is it, exactly, that Apple "invented" in regards to the PDA/phone?

Reply Score: 4

RE[2]: Inventing
by henderson101 on Mon 6th Jan 2014 12:29 UTC in reply to "RE: Inventing"
henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

And what is it, exactly, that insert manufacturer "invented" in regards to the PDA/phone?


That's more like it.

Palm took the filer and put it in you pocket, but Windows, Mac and various XWindows interfaces had already "invented" the concept. Indeed, the Newton took the idea from the Mac before the Palm guys came along. Seeing as that is the crux of most of Thom's arguments that Palm was robbed blind by everyone else, I see that as a pretty good indication that Palm innovated rather than invented in exactly the same way Apple, Google and Microsoft have with their various mobile OS. Nothing else in Palm was very original. The database idea was used in NewtonOS first, as was the pen input - which wasn't even original when Apple used it. The handwriting recognition Palm used was originally produced as an alternate input method for Newtons (and actually worked better as one could move the input window.)

There's one kind of troll worse that an archetypal "Apple fan boi" and that's an archetypal "Apple basher". Kind of like a sad stuck pixel, blinking away with no real point.

And here's the thing - I own both Apple and Android devices, and have used an Android phone for the last 6 months and owned PalmOS devices "back in the day". Gosh, that really does mess with your "Fanboi" claims, doesn't it?

Reply Score: 5

RE[2]: Inventing
by WorknMan on Mon 6th Jan 2014 18:26 UTC in reply to "RE: Inventing"
WorknMan Member since:
2005-11-13

And what is it, exactly, that Apple "invented" in regards to the PDA/phone?


They invented a phone that my mom can use, WITHOUT wanting to hurl it through a window. I don't know if that's exactly a crowning achievement, but even tech tards know what apps are now, and can readily install them.

Don't get me wrong... I personally think Android is better, but Apple was the first one to REALLY put this shit in the hands of the masses.

Edited 2014-01-06 18:27 UTC

Reply Score: 1

"Always On" = Genius
by tupp on Sun 5th Jan 2014 23:11 UTC
tupp
Member since:
2006-11-12

From the article:

We called the device hiptop [snip]. It was the first always-on, internet-connected smartphone.

Which means that other smart phones already existed that could connect to the Internet, but due to the noted condition that this device defaulted to "always-on," the author and his fellow ex-Apple buddies were geniuses.

Why do Apple people (and ex-Apple people) always have to rely on adding trivial/arbitrary conditions to argue the distinctiveness of a device?

Reply Score: 3

RE: "Always On" = Genius
by ddc_ on Mon 6th Jan 2014 01:02 UTC in reply to ""Always On" = Genius"
ddc_ Member since:
2006-12-05

From the article:
"We called the device hiptop [snip]. It was the first always-on, internet-connected smartphone.

Which means that other smart phones already existed that could connect to the Internet, but due to the noted condition that this device defaulted to "always-on," the author and his fellow ex-Apple buddies were geniuses.
"

Pre-existing smartphones - Nokia 9xxx series and Ericsson R380 - were basicly PIM-enabled phones (R380 was even unability to install 3rd-party software). First smartphones released after EPOC32 was renamed to Symbian - Nokia 7650, 9210i and SonyEricsson P800 - were released simultaneously with Hiptop and didn't make much use of network connectivity either, albeit 9110 and P800 included web browsers. They didn't even provide network synchronization options AFAIR. Hiptop (as I gather) was oriented towards mobile networking and internet access from the very beginning, which actually makes it noteworthy.

Edited 2014-01-06 01:06 UTC

Reply Score: 5

RE[2]: "Always On" = Genius
by chandler on Mon 6th Jan 2014 03:18 UTC in reply to "RE: "Always On" = Genius"
chandler Member since:
2006-08-29

The way I remember it, the Hiptop hit the market about the same time as the first wave of Windows Mobile smartphones, the Handspring Treo, and the first BlackBerry phones. What was particularly unique about that first Hiptop that makes it especially "always-on, internet-connected"?

Reply Score: 1

RE[3]: "Always On" = Genius
by ddc_ on Mon 6th Jan 2014 09:06 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: "Always On" = Genius"
ddc_ Member since:
2006-12-05

What was particularly unique about that first Hiptop that makes it especially "always-on, internet-connected"?

Again, Palm and PocketPC were basically organizers with Mobile connectivity (IIRC PocketPC phones came in 2003), and their focus was mostly on enabling offline PIM experience within the same device you use to make calls. Hiptop's claim of notability is its orientation towards cloud services from the very beginning - something that went mainstream with current iteration of smartphones.

Reply Score: 3

Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

Well, I actually decided to buy a phone, once I realized that Microsoft had an operating system for them and was essentially windows CE. So, I tried finding one with a carrier. The only one I could find on T mobile in early 2002, didn't have a microphone built in. You had to plug in a headphone/ microphone combo to take and receive calls on it.

I couldn't make that kind of a compromise for a primary phone. So I decided to try the unknown danger, in the hopes that it didn't suck.

Reply Score: 4

RE: "Always On" = Genius
by henderson101 on Mon 6th Jan 2014 12:35 UTC in reply to ""Always On" = Genius"
henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

Why do Apple people (and ex-Apple people) always have to rely on adding trivial/arbitrary conditions to argue the distinctiveness of a device?


Danger were made up with more than just ex-Apple employees. A number of the engineers from Be Inc ended up there (Ficus Kirkpatrick, for example, and Baron Arnold also) and Danger was the genesis from which Android was born... Andy Rubin FFS! If you don't want to open your eyes an see past your Apple hate, not my problem. But at least see the bigger picture.

Reply Score: 3

Great tech.
by siraf72 on Mon 6th Jan 2014 05:26 UTC
siraf72
Member since:
2006-02-22

Very interesting device, but ultimately describing it and using it are two different things. The first thing that came to mind is how the "always on" internet would be on the battery. If this was over a GPRS connection then surely the device was just polling the servers at a regular interval.... just like many other devices were doing at the time. Such as the excellent SonyEricsson P800 which offered many of the same features.

IIRC Docomo in Japan also had some pretty crazy devices out in the early 00s that also had many of these features (albeit over a proprietary network technology).

Still, very interesting read and clearly a bunch of super-talented people with an eye on the future working on it. Alas, in the graveyard of good ideas.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Great tech.
by ddc_ on Mon 6th Jan 2014 10:53 UTC in reply to "Great tech. "
ddc_ Member since:
2006-12-05

I bought P800 in early 2003 and I can testify that it was poor at networking. Its browser was mostly useless, sync options were worse then lower tier SonyEricsson models and PIM was very limited. AFAIR the software choice also wasn't compelling. I ultimately broke it and replaced with Palm Tungstent T3 handheld and bluetooth-enabled dumbphone with good network connectivity support, and this combo outclassed P800 by far in all regards.

Edited 2014-01-06 10:53 UTC

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: Great tech.
by siraf72 on Mon 6th Jan 2014 11:58 UTC in reply to "RE: Great tech. "
siraf72 Member since:
2006-02-22

My experience was different. I thought the P800 was great. IIRC I had multiple email accounts on it (work and personal) and it synced contacts and calendar with my mac (though that might have been over serial cable..). Browsing was on par with whatever else was around (i.e. it sucked, but not more than anyone else). The camera wasn't any more terrible than anything else around.

It stood out for me as a good email device, at least at the time. I had some third party apps but not many.

Reply Score: 2

RE[3]: Great tech.
by ddc_ on Mon 6th Jan 2014 12:40 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Great tech. "
ddc_ Member since:
2006-12-05

Our opinions seem to differ only in choice of language. The only difference I'd mention is that browsers on Palm hardware at the time were superior. (From the article it follows that Hiptop's browser was also superior, though I never actually used it so I can't really comment on it.) Otherwise I absolutely loved my P800 until I switched to Palm.

Reply Score: 2

lucas_maximus
Member since:
2009-08-18

Apple and Google may claim they innovated and there is an argument that they did, but as we know innovation isn't the same as invention. Unfortunately the meaning of the two words is often mis-used.

Edited 2014-01-06 07:57 UTC

Reply Score: 3

henderson101 Member since:
2006-05-30

Well, as Andy Rubin was responsible for the Danger OS and then took that and created the basis of Android... Google probably has a foot in the door at least.

Reply Score: 4

nej_simon Member since:
2011-02-11

Here’s something we invented. Don’t – don’t copy it. Don’t steal it.

-- Steve Jobs on bounce-back scrolling

;)

Reply Score: 3

maccouch Member since:
2012-03-14

exactly.

from the wiki but if you read or attended any course or seminar about technology and business innovation they will say the same thin:

"An innovation is something original, new, and important—in whatever field—that breaks in to (or obtains a foothold in) a market or society".

What Thom constantly misses is this differences. it doesn't matter who researched or thought about what first. It definitely matters who first brought it to the masses/society and made a large scale "technological rupture".

Edited 2014-01-06 16:09 UTC

Reply Score: 1

ddc_ Member since:
2006-12-05

You know, you can't say that implementation is more important then the principle - they both are necessary. Implementation is impossible without invention and invention is meaningless without implementation. Saying that innovation is all that matters is like claiming that in tea that's only water that matters.

Reply Score: 4

lucas_maximus Member since:
2009-08-18

It is the only thing that matters in business is what he was saying.

Reply Score: 2

Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

maccouch,

What Thom constantly misses is this differences. it doesn't matter who researched or thought about what first. It definitely matters who first brought it to the masses/society and made a large scale "technological rupture".


The issue with this is that there is no "technological rupture", merely technological evolution. As technological costs become less prohibitive over time, more and more "innovation" will inevitably bear fruit. If apple/google/microsoft fail to catch the wave, others would take their place and we would presumably be taking sides of which one of *those* brought about the innovation. What's most important is that innovation happens, not who gets the title.

People who genuinely care about innovation, like you, should be pushing for open computing because that is the environment that fosters the most innovation. We would not be where we are today if the PCs had been locked down. That's why it's a real shame that new generations of devices are all being locked down.

The way I see it, a big reason mobile platforms don't have the same breadth of OS development as old computers is because today's mobile platforms are far more closed/proprietary/locked down and offer much less opportunity for innovative tinkering. There would never be a shortage of software innovation so long as users/developers aren't deprived access to the hardware. Innovation happens naturally across thousands of developers and millions of users. If hardware is restricted, then the barrier to innovation becomes much higher where very few have access. Ironically this has the potential to make the manufacturers' own OS innovation seem more unique and important than is really is.

Edited 2014-01-06 19:33 UTC

Reply Score: 3

I bet it didn't work too well
by Verenkeitin on Mon 6th Jan 2014 15:46 UTC
Verenkeitin
Member since:
2007-07-01

Ah the early 2000, time when anything was technically possible and sucked horribly in practice. I remember Penny Arcade guys liking these things a lot, but Google mainly remembers this sour note:
http://www.penny-arcade.com/2003/06/27/hmm

Reply Score: 2

Comment by jockm
by jockm on Mon 6th Jan 2014 21:26 UTC
jockm
Member since:
2012-12-22

It is funny that the author praised how locked down the app store was. I personally found that to be one of Danger's biggest negatives. I was a big fish in the small pond of online play by email gaming some time ago and couldn't get them to give me the time of day when I wanted to write a client for the Hiptop.

Hiptop may have done some things sooner (we can debate this) but they failed to see the future as much as Blackberry did.

Reply Score: 2

I still want one!
by harlleysathler on Tue 7th Jan 2014 12:00 UTC
harlleysathler
Member since:
2014-01-07

I didn't know this platform and, in fact, never heard of Danger, but reading the article and all the enthusiasm of its author I can say that I still want a hiptop!

But from what I read, the device without the Danbger's services is useless, is it right?

Reply Score: 2

RE: I still want one!
by jockm on Tue 7th Jan 2014 16:42 UTC in reply to "I still want one!"
jockm Member since:
2012-12-22

Correct. Microsoft supported existing customers up through May 31, 2011 (Oct 4, 2011 in Australia). If you were to lay your hands on one the voice functions would still work, but that is about it.

Reply Score: 2