I really like my Palm Vx PDA... it was my 3rd attempt at finding a pocket device that was useful to me- at an emotional level as well as functional. Technology Review May/June 2007 print edition has a photoessay "Objects of Desire: Famous industrial designers talk about iconic pieces of technology.
Described in the May/June 2007 print edition one of the Objects is the 1999, Palm V
"If I had to pick one product as the best of the last 20 years, it would be the Palm V," says Duarte [Matias Duarte, vice president of experience design at L.A. mobile-communications firm Helio]. "It has the three essential attributes of design: substance, style, and simplicity. It set the essential feature set for a PDA. Its metallic case had no exposed screws or fasteners. The hardware and software set were part of one experience. Its leather cover and metallic body really made it a fashionable accessory item you could create an emotional relationship with. Before the Palm V, you were happy if you could get a device with the right feature set. If it was always easy to use, you were ecstatic. Style was unusual. Once an object reaches technological maturity, it becomes about an aesthetic feature set. In the consumer electronics industry, we're constantly riding that wave."
My attempt No. (1) was exemplified by the Psion 3c
165x85x22 mm, weighing 10 oz. it more or less fitted in my jacket pocket... well I carried it everywhere, in the same manner that I carried my Time Manager.
134x205x25 mm, weight 14 oz. Lovely tactile feel in (Royal) Navy leather; can toss it from hand to hand on the move... fun. As Lotus Notes was introduced into the organisation we worked with a Notes apps supplier and TMI International to bring in a software version.. where we could fill our leather folder with Key Area, Tasks, Actions, etc. and make them visible to our colleagues through a Notes Server... it worked ok for 4-5 of us in close proximity but failed to stick across a network (pre-WWW and almost pre-internet).
We tried the Psion next but not until the 3c version. We synchronised it with the first of the laptops we were experimenting with so we could have basic names and addresses on both and a txt files transferred from Psion to PC. We were using All-in-One as an email system and Lotus apps. This helped at a personal level but few people wanted the (relatively small amount of) hastle.
We looked at the first Palm weighing in at 5.7 oz, 120x80x18 mm
but as we couldn't play with one we decided to go for the Psion V.
100x73x27mm 7.8 0z.
As our corporate IT system was stressed to the limit as we lurched through from local to regional infrastucture it became difficult to get the synchronisation software to work and I guess I was the only owner of one!
Then the Palm V (designed by IDEO) arrived and I got one.......
Wow! The software to sync the pda was simple to install and when I put the wee beastie into the docking station I pressed one button and it got on with it.. and as we, by this time, had moved to Outlook the address book was always in step. At home I sync'd with the Palm addressbook app for the PC, so that was an added bonus.
I met a professor at a conference... he pulled out his Palm and said "snap!". I showed him an app. I had downloaded for monthly, weekly and Daily appointments and to-do's; he showed the predictive text app and we swapped via infra-red and went on our separate ways!
Other people saw the style, watched my quick demo and rushed off to get their own!
We had a winner, good looks, good functionality, did what it did well.
So the Palm was so much easier to use and sync with the PC and was much better on aesthetics and so the Psion disappeared. A few years later the pda generation seemed to fade as mobile phones vied for attention. I still like my Palm Vx and I also like my Nokia..... but I connected my Nokia to my Laptop many years ago, so do I need the pda?
In 2004 the V&A Museum published David Redhead's book "Electric Dreams- Designing for the Digital Age". He devotes one chapter to the Rise and Fall of the PDA, which makes interesting reading.
So half way through 2007 I look at p 95 and read that "Irene McWilliam, Professor of Computer Related Design at the Royal College of Art, is one commentator who believes the PDA is on the verge of obsolescence. She argues that the device is now caught in a deadly pincer movement between ever-more compact personal computers and ever-more versatile mobile phones.
So, with my Palm V battery dead and my personal organiser cover needing recharging with blank paper and the iPhone about to launch I think " Simplicity, connectedness, intuitive, aesthetics, convergence, systems experiences, desire, stories "...... Oh and have a told you the story about the Palm V case for my Palm? I received it at the CRAVE conference in San Francisco.
A year later at a conference on Inclusive Design at the Helen Hamlyn Centre at the RCA in London Bruce Nussbaum was on stage and waved his "Craved" Palm as an example of a great product... I waved my Palm from the audience and he called out "Were you there? Lets talk after" and that's how I got to meet him. I also met Michael Schrage at CRAVE but that's another story.