Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 26th Aug 2012 10:28 UTC
PDAs, Cellphones, Wireless In light of the jury verdict in Apple vs. Samsung, the one-liners and jokes flew back and forth. One in particular, by Dan Frakes, has been copied and pasted all over the web, and it goes like this: "When the iPhone debuted, it was widely criticized for having no buttons/keys. Now people think the iPhone's design is 'obvious'." This is a very common trend in this entire debate that saddens me to no end: the iPhone is being compared to simple feature phones, while in fact, it should be compared to its true predecessor: the PDA. PDAs have always done with few buttons.
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Revisionist History
by socheltree on Mon 27th Aug 2012 03:07 UTC
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Thom Holwerda writes: "As a geek, I do not want history to be revised to make it seem as if mobile computing started with the iPhone and Android - I want credit to go where it's due: Palm. The Zoomer was the first fully touch-screen operated graphical PDA, in 1992 (before the Newton, even), and PalmOS is the common ancestor to all that came after it: PocketPC, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and everything else."

As a longtime geek myself I remember the timeline somewhat differently. I owned both the original Newton Message Pad and a variety of Palm devices back when they were relevant. The Newton, while flawed, was a much more sophisticated device with a much more highly developed UI. The Palm was simpler, which was actually a strength given the state of hardware technology at the time, but it followed the Newton, and owned the market by premiering at an incredibly low price. The more sophisticated Newton could not compete at that price level, and with negative reviews of its earliest incarnation had little chance of succeeding.

While the iPhone is certainly not the first PDA, Apple was in this market before Palm. And if you want to go back to the Psion devices, apart from size and apps such as contacts, calendar, and calculator there is little comparable with devices which came after it.

A few citations I found that confirm my memory:

Wikipedia's entry for Palm says "The company started to create a PDA for consumers, called the Zoomer (1993).",_Inc.

According to Venture Navigator "In August 1993, Apple began shipping its Newton. Palm’s Zoomer followed in October. " Palm didn't really enter the PDA market until January '96

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RE: Revisionist History
by thavith_osn on Mon 27th Aug 2012 03:34 in reply to "Revisionist History"
thavith_osn Member since:

Thank you...

I remember it this way too!

Not saying the Newton was first, I'm sure there is something somewhere to prove otherwise, but the Palm certainly wasn't.

I owned a Palm by the way, not a Newton...

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE: Revisionist History
by galvanash on Mon 27th Aug 2012 04:49 in reply to "Revisionist History"
galvanash Member since:

The Zoomer was not technically a Palm device...

The hardware was made by Tandy/Casio (Casio called their version the ZPAD - they were indentical for the most part).

It was originally released in 1992 (very late in the year). The reason Thom is linking it to Palm is that Jeff Hawkins started Palm as a software company - and the software that the Zoomer ran was written by Palm. He started the company for the express purpose of writing software for this device (in cooperation with Tandy - who was for a short time his employer after they bought his former company GRID Systems).

A bit later Palm also created the Graffiti handwriting recognition software for the Zoomer (and other PEN/GEOS devices like the HP OmniGo 100) and the Newton.

Palm did not themselves release an actual self branded PDA until 1996, and it was entirely different from the earlier Zoomer (both in hardware and in software). However, for all intents and purposes the Zoomer was Jeff Hawkins brainchild, the "original" touch screen PDA.

Apple didn't release the Newton until 1993, about a year after the Zoomer was released.

ps. I am NOT at all saying that Apple copied the Zoomer - just that the Zoomer technically was first to market. They were just similar devices arrived at by different companies independently (in many ways the Zoomer was more sophisticated than the original Palm Pilot was).

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RE[2]: Revisionist History
by socheltree on Mon 27th Aug 2012 16:06 in reply to "RE: Revisionist History"
socheltree Member since:

Can you site sources for the Zoomer being released in '92? The two sources I quoted say the Zoomer was released in '93, after the Newton.

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RE: Revisionist History
by MOS6510 on Mon 27th Aug 2012 04:56 in reply to "Revisionist History"
MOS6510 Member since:

Apparently Apple had a prototype of a touch operated phone in 1983:

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RE[2]: Revisionist History
by galvanash on Mon 27th Aug 2012 05:24 in reply to "RE: Revisionist History"
galvanash Member since:

Another interesting tidbit...

Ironically (since this thread was talking about the Zoomer and Palm) - tying back to our current court case you can get the following reverse chronology:

Thom points out that most modern Smartphones are decedents of the Palm Pilot (1996), created by Jeff Hawkins

... who originally wrote the software for what most consider to be the first touchscreen PDA, the Zoomer (1992)

... who previously worked for GRID Systems and designed the GRIDPad, what is widely considered to be the fist touchscreen Tablet (1989)

... which was actually manufactured by, take a guess

... Samsung

And the we all go spinning down the rabbit hole ;)

Reply Parent Score: 2