I came across this article by Andrew Liszewski in Gizmodo a couple of weeks ago. It’s from last year, but for me, it might as well have been written this afternoon.
Andrew misses his Palm Visor and I have to admit, so do I.
The Palm Visor was just one of a selection of PDAs I owned and adored in the late 90s and early 2000s. Before I got my first smartphone, in the shape of a Palm Treo, the Visor was one of the last non-phone PDAs I owned. Before that, its predecessors were the Palm Pilot Personal, the Palm TX, the Palm One…I could go on.
The Handspring Visor was excellent as it was just so flexible, light, speedy and versatile. I never ended up getting any of the fancy modular add-ons – despite lusting after them in several of Tottenham Court Road’s less salubrious IT shops – and probably spent far too long playing games on it. And, for someone my age, I probably spent far too long entering dates in the calendar, while everyone else I knew either used their memories or had some form of paper diary.
I was slightly obsessed.
One of the best things was that it was an unconnected uni-tasker. Much like a Kindle, it wasn’t connected to the internet and could only serve up one application at a time. This helped with focus and minimised distractions. Unlike now, when I frequently forget why I picked up my iPhone in the first place, then get lost in a sea of app switching and notification-blocking.
The early PDAs’ simplicity was also their strength. You could use them flexibly, but they weren’t going to necessarily take you away from the task at hand. Very few beeps and bloops.
These days, the onus is very much on us not to let our handheld devices transport us too far from the here and now. And sometimes that’s tough. I think we have a closer and more intimate relationship with our mobile phones, more so than any previous personal devices.
I never slept with my Palm Pilot next to my bed. And I never saw someone light up their PDA screen in a cinema.
Without downgrading my iPhone to a ‘feature phone‘, I can’t see myself returning to the glory days of simple but reliable tech any time soon. But I’ll always have my memories of my Palm Pilots and the look on people’s faces when I took it out on the train.