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As a card-carrying geek I have been carrying a PDA since 1994. My first was an HP200LX, a small marvel, about the size of a paperback book, with a real keyboard that ran Lotus 123, ccMail and various PIM tools. It was actually a real DOS computer, with an 80186 chip, that ran on a pair of AA batteries and could be switched on instantly. I carried it backwards & forwards each week into China, using the train journey to catch up on email before sending it at the end of each journey. I even had a financial model of the company on it, useful for management meetings when we were discussing pricing or marketing. It meant I didn’t have to carry my laptop around as much for which I was very grateful. Sadly, when my employer switched from ccMail to Outlook and 123 to Excel it’s value to me trailed off badly.

I was keen to recover the lost functionality so I purchased another HP, a 360. This was a dog: horrible form factor, terrible OS and all my attempts to link to internal email failed. By now PowerPoint had become a major tool for me so my laptop could not be left behind anymore. Combined with the crappy WinCE interface it soon fell out of use. I tried a Casio instead, it was easier to carry but it’s use waned too.

On a trip to Australia I fell in love with the Palm V a colleague had just bought. Research commenced and it wasn’t long before a purchase was made, this time whilst leaving for a trip to India. I recall bouncing along in the back of a minibus playing with my new toy whilst everyone around me was gawping at cows in the road and the general street life. It’s main use was for PIM, linking to my Outlook, however I did not make much use of it for email because of the volume that I received. The Palm was a joy to use, I loved the “graffitti” hand-writing recognition which I used for note taking in meetings, battery life was great and accompanied me just about everywhere for a number of years.

Of course, technology moves on and I became envious of things like a colour screen, more memory and so on. On a trip to London I acquired a Palm Tungsten T. The colour and clarity of the screen was a delight, the ability to play music was good, the battery life so-so and the sliding format a bit of a pain. On balance it was an improvement on the V but some of the simplicity was lost and the Palm magic was starting to fade. A few years later, a long wait and several drinks at Manchester airport yielded a Tungsten T3. Although still a sliding design it was bigger than the original T and it’s increased memory and speed meant much worse battery life. In short: a mistake. For the first, and so far only, time I reverted to earlier technology: my previous Tungsten which did good service until it’s place in my life, or rather my briefcase, was eclipsed by an iPod for music and the PIM functions on my work-issue phone.

Last year, 2009, I bought my newest PDA: an iPhone 3GS, which I will write about in another post. The previous six PDAs had an average life of roughly 2½ years which I guess is not bad in the world of technology. Two stand out: the HP200 for it’s great functionality and sheer portability and the Palm V for it’s simplicity and again, portability.