While the article focuses on Jim Yurchenco’s work on building Apple’s first mouse, as a Palm adept, I’m obviously more interested in his other great contribution to the computing world: he built the Palm V.
“That was a really important product for us, and the industry”, Yurchenco says. “It was one of the first cases where the physical design – the feel and touch points – were considered to be as important as the performance.” That wasn’t lost on users; the device sold like wild and helped shape modern gadget-lust. Ars Technica’s review of the device came with a disclaimer: “Remember, if you don’t intend to buy a Palm V, under no circumstances should you allow yourself to look/touch/hold/feel/smell/see/inspect/rub/behold/taste or have any type of contact with one.”
I touched upon this in a lot of detail in my Palm retrospective, but in this day and age of iOS vs. Android, wherein everybody seems to think the portable computer era started with the iPhone, it can’t be stressed enough just how much Apple – and thus, the entire current smartphone industry – owes to Palm. Whether it’s software – iOS draws heavily from Palm OS – or hardware. I wrote:
The Pilots that had come before were strictly utilitarian, focused on businessmen and women instead of general consumers. The Palm V changed all this. Its shape would define the company’s products for years to come. It had smooth curved sides with a slightly wider bottom than top section, making it all not only look distinct and beautiful, but also very comfortable to hold. Whether you looked at other PDAs, smartphones, or mobile phones of its era – there was nothing else like it. Everybody else was building plastic monstrosities.
The Palm V was a smashing success. For the first time, a mobile computing device was designed to be beautiful, and “it turned out to be very successful. We turned it into a personal artefact, or a personal piece of jewellery or something and [Microsoft] couldn’t compete with that,” according to Hawkins.
The Palm V made pocket computing fashionable. The relationship between Palm OS and iOS is very thick – but so is the one between the Palm V and the iPhone.