Today’s cheapest iPhone vs the PalmPilot: 20 years of handheld computing


Back before our phones did everything, computers sat on our desktops or in our briefcases. The idea of a pocket computing device was something of a dream, but until the mid-1990s, it was too difficult to engineer into something a mainstream consumer could afford to buy.

The Pilot 1000 was bare bones, especially by today’s standards. It had a 160×160 pixel display. There was no keyboard, neither on-screen nor BlackBerry-style. You entered information into the device by learning a new way to write, called Graffiti. This was a gesture language entered with a stylus where each letter was designed to be clearly distinct from every other. It wasn’t hard to learn, but it wasn’t instant, either.

Even so, the Palm devices found a sweet spot, both in terms of price and size.

For many of us, this article will be a wistful trip down memory lane. For many more of you, it will invoke pity of those of us old enough to have used a PalmPilot.

  • rick gregory

    I had a Palm III and it was a HUGE step forward. My computer at work was a desktop machine so the Palm let me take my schedule with me to a meeting so I could see what was next without printing stuff at the start of the day or running back to my office. HUGE. I still have it somewhere around here I think.

  • These then-now trips apply to so many things in life, for better and for worse, no?

    Last weekend I gave my son the “This is how big my TV was when I was your age, and this is how we changed the few channels we had to choose from” lecture while explaining to him why my wife and I are concerned about his unsupervised rollicks through YouTube.

  • AAPL.To.Break.$160.Soon.>:-)

    They should have used the Palm Pre as a comparison to the iPhone. That was the Palm device that was supposed to put Apple out of the iPhone business (except it didn’t).

  • JimCracky

    I loved my PalmPilot

  • Mo

    I kind of miss our m500s. They were helpful for the relatively short time we used them. Great design for both the hardware and the UI. And Graffiti actually made sense to me.