Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Love at First Type

My first PDA was a Palm Tungsten-T. Bought it back in 2003.

Back then, I remember a colleague commented that I seem to like "IT-stuff". We were at a meeting. I was using my Palm Tungsten-T, with its foldable keyboard, to record notes from the discussion. To that colleague, it seemed strange not to use pen and paper to take notes.

"Palm Pilot - Tungsten T", originally uploaded by talios.

I replied that I didn't use IT just because it was cool. I went purely for utility, I said.

The PDA allowed me to be more productive. I wanted a way to reduce the time copying notes on paper to digital (e.g. preparing Minutes of meetings in a Word document, or sending them out via email). The PDA was a worthwhile investment. What I typed into my PDA could be synced to my computer at my office cubicle and sent out immediately. I cleared my backlog of notes and updates that way.

But thinking back, my decision to buy the Tungsten-T wasn't entirely utilitarian.

It was a case of love at First Type.

The Story
My wife was the first to buy a Palm Tungsten-T (she's the real IT-person in our home). Up to that point, I have never had a PDA. It did not occur to me to get one. Not even when I saw my wife using it, even though I could logically deduce it would improve my work productivity.

Until I saw the foldable keyboard my wife bought with her Tungsten-T.

The foldable keyboard was beautifully designed. When folded up, it was the size of a cheque book. Sleek looking, encased in brushed aluminum. Lightweight but felt sturdy. When open, its size was way smaller than a conventional PC keyboard cousin.

What sealed my decision to get a Tungsten-T myself, with the foldable keyboard, was when I tested the keyboard.

Its touch and feel was the same as a conventional keyboard, if not better. What impressed me was that in spite of its size, it had exactly the same functions as a typical keyboard. The size of the keys was the same but the overall keyboard size was reduced. The designers combined up to three functions in selected keys on the foldable keyboard, so that reduced the number of keys needed.

Improved office productivity
The PDA and the keyboard was a worthwhile investment. Using it drastically improved my work productivity.

Instead of typing handwritten meeting notes to a email memo after each meeting (with the inevitable three to four days delay), I eliminated the need for handwritten notes by typing directly into the PDA, doing a 'Hotsync' to the PC/ laptop, then a quick copy-n-paste job to the email memo.

And after I tried out the Calendar feature on the PDA, I stopped using my printed calendar. It took a little getting used to, but the change was worth it. I could update my daily tasks much more easily, and I could set alarms for future deadlines. My printed calendar used to be stuffed with so many post-it notes of To-Do items, not to mention peppering my desk with post-it note reminders. The PDA eliminated that.

Also, I tend to do my best thinking when not consciously thinking about work. Like traveling on the train or bus. With the PDA, I could take down notes quickly whenever those *ahem* brilliant ideas strike. Or if writing was not possible, then hit the record button on the PDA to store audio.

But all that were just consequences of getting myself the PDA. I discovered the PDA's utility after I gave myself time to try it out.

In reality, I fell in love with its foldable keyboard first.

My Tungsten-T and its foldable keyboard served me well. I retired them five years later when the touchscreen failed and was beyond economical repair. I bought a Nokia e61, which had similar office productivity features, plus a phone.

I still have my Tungsten-T as a keepsake. But in truth, I've kept because of its foldable keyboard. From time to time, I still unfold the keyboard, slot the PDA onto it. And remember the good times.


  1. Thanks for bringing back the memories. I went through 5 generations of palm PDA (starting with Palm III), before finally giving it up in Sep 2008. In the last few years of my Palm ownership, the actual usage had dropped tremendously as mobile phones and Google apps took over most of the functions which Palm did so well. Now, I use Microsoft Office for my office work, and for personal use, I rely on Google Calendar and good old notebooks (not the computer!).

  2. @nch - yeah, the mobile phones nowadays are effectively our PDAs. I use my Nokia e71 as a PDA more than a phone.

  3. I also fell in love with a keyboard, although mine was for the Sony Clie. It was so handy to take to class to take notes and didn't distract me with multiple windows where I could surf the net (not that I couldn't, it was just another step away, so I wouldn't unless I needed to look something up). I loved that keyboard and was so sad to see it go after the Clie battery stopped taking a charge and I sold the whole parcel.

  4. @Srcsmgrl -- wow, and I thought I was the only one. LOL

  5. Didn't know you are an early adopter of the Palm PDA, Ivan.

    You are a tech-savvy guy who keeps up with the latest IT technology. This I know from reading your blogs.

    I was a Palm PDA fanatic in my younger days, always chasing after every new Palm PDA model in the market. Not anymore. My Treo 650 has been with me for over 3 years and I am now a matured utilitarian of PDAs.

    My thoughts on the Palm PDA seven years ago is found at:


    Thanks for the memories. I love this blog, love of a similar type : )

  6. Hi James, I think the Tungsten-T was 3rd generation, so no I am not an early adopter in that sense. Definitely way behind you!

  7. Palm PDA are the best. Too bad their R&D is slow and didn't catch up with time.

    I used to have a TX with a foldable keyboard. But the keyboard is no longer working. Sigh.

  8. @DK - I'm perfectly happy with my Nokia e71, since it has Word. I take notes with it and download it to my computer. Cheaper than the Palm devices too.

  9. Nice story and I remembered my old palm pilot days too! I used to long after the keyboard too but I didn't go ahead to buy it then as the price at about $179 was simply too prohibitive for me to consider. I suppose I also wasn't a serial keyboardist then (well actually now too).

    The more important thing is how did the love story with your wife progress after the keyboard episode? :)

  10. @Coolinsider - our 10th wedding anniversary is coming up. Does that answer your question? :)

  11. Happy 10th wedding anniversary, Ivan. Congratulations!

    Its a great occasion to celebrate..with your wife, and the Palm PDA : )

    Its Simply Palm!

  12. I used three Palm PDAs: the m100, Tungsten T, and then a TX.

    When I got the m100 I immediately entered contacts and calendar appointments into it.

    When I got the TT, it was used more for Bejewelled and MP3s.

    The TX was used to look up Japanese dictionaries, and play music and videos.

    I am now using scrap paper and a mini organiser, though!

    Will be interesting to see how the Palm Pre fares against "incumbents" like the HTCs, Nokias, GPhones and iPhones.

  13. The comments just get more and more interesting! @Mike - you should plot a graph or something... your experience reminded me of my 1996 dissertation for my first degree. Was a case study on the computerisation efforts of the school I was enrolled in. Called it the "Boomerang Phenomenon".


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