Somewhere between here and there

by Suw on October 11, 2007

I'm writing this on my old Palm Vx, which I dug up the last time I went home. In nearly pristine condition, it's a relic from my web designer days, when I needed to keep track of an awful lot of meetings and was given this by my boss to do so. As soon as I left that job, I found I didn't really need it, so it was put away for half a decade to emerge only now.
My Palm Vx
It's funny how stylish it still looks – actually, it looks nicer than Kevin's Tungsten T5, and if you can't see the screen, it could pass for something new. I used to be quite good at the Graffiti alphabet used to input text, and am quickly getting my chops back. Certainly it's quicker than trying to type on the Nokia E61's tiny keyboard. Battery life is fab, and the flash memory means no faffing around with stupidly long menu trees to save stuff.
My Palm Vx
The problem is that it doesn't seem possible to sync it any more. I have a serial to USB adaptor, and the Palm Desktop in both Mac and PC flavours, but the Mac refuses to recognise that there is anything there to sync with, whilst the PC sees the device but can't figure out how to talk to it. I've spent a fair amount of time fiddling, but nothing seems to help. Palm Vx and computer just don't like each other any more. Perhaps the laptops feel the ol' Palm is just too pass?©.
But hoorah! All is not lost. It turns out that I can beam documents from the Vx to my E61 using infrared, then I can Bluetooth them from the E61 to my Macbook. In theory, this works the other way round too, as the E61 can beam files to the Palm but in practice the Palm can't recognise the file contents, so displays them as truncated gobbledegook.
What this means is that I can't add any new Palm apps to the Vx, so I can't add AvantGo (which it used to have), so I can't cram it full of stuff to read. It is, effectively, a write-only device. There is not much else it can do that's of any use. Yes, the other apps all work, but I don't do much calculating on a daily basis, and an address book on an un-networked device is a bit useless. So really all I can do is write… No disturbances. No multitasking. No interruption. (Although also, no spell checker either.)
I've started to carry it with me wherever I go, and scribbling down scraps of blog posts whilst on the tube or, as today, on the plane. (Let's just say that going to Berlin and back in one day is not necessarily a habit I would encourage anyone to get into.) The amount of stuff I've got going on never seems to diminish, and time for blogging seems to be getting harder and harder to come by. But maybe by using the little lost moments on the tube I can get more written.
The unexpected benefit of resurrecting this old thing is the retro geek joy it engenders. At Future of Web Apps, everyone I showed it too cooed as if it were something new and exciting, like an iPod Touch. I think people have fond memories of Palms from this era – they were certainly nicer than many of their contemporary competitors – but these days Palm devices feel old and unloved. If only Palm would do a serious update of both their OS and their desktop. Syncing and conduits and stuff are just all so boring – we want it to just work, not to be a right royal pain the backside. (Although frankly, all syncing is a right royal pain in the backside, if you ask me.)
Anyway, I am not going to promise anything, but it is possible that I will get more blogging done now.

Anonymous October 12, 2007 at 9:14 am

It not just Palm – I think that all palmtops have moved backwords in the last decade.
I used to be a huge Psion fan, but there is nothing around which can compete with an old 3 or 5 series.
As you've said, the issues of networkability renders them almost useless, but the form factor, usability, simplicity and reliability are unmatched even now.

Anonymous October 17, 2007 at 1:03 am

You can get Palm Pilot keyboards for about £50 now. I bought one for my Palm TX, and it's great РI can type almost as fast as I can on my computer.

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