Vintage 1958 Palm PDA

Now, here’s something you don’t often find. But, our friend, (we’ll call her “Jay” to protect her identity from blog trolls and design stalkers), is always showering us with bits of thoughtful vintage technology. This is a rare 1958 prototype of the device, which would iterate and reiterate into the modern PalmPilot. Most people are unaware that personal digital assistants or PDAs (as those of us in the industry refer to them) have been around for some time. Originally, “personal” referred to the fact that you could keep them in a purse or pocket and “digital” denoted the method of searching through the tiny contact cards with your fingers or “digits.” Later, when the miniaturization of transistors and digital (as in 1s and 0s) consumer electronics really took off, makers of these handy gadgets were thrilled to be able to retain the original “digital” label for the “mobile Rolodex.” The interface moved over time from contacts being hand written on durable card stock, to information recorded on interactive touch screen LCDs. Most busy professionals and “techies” embraced the newer technology, but there remains a loyal following of Luddites, who prefer to record their important personal information with a Sharpie on a ’58 Palm.

No account of the evolution of the modern PDA would be complete without mentioning that Palm was actually the “Johnny come lately” to the conception and original design of these wonders of technology. Two prominent PDA pioneers were Go Corporation and Apple Computer (Apple’s iNewton is pictured with the familiar logo). The iNewton was the first PDA ever to go into production, but it was plagued by ink “blotting” and smearing of the contact records, due to an inferior finish on the contact record cards. Apple sunk millions of dollars into the development of the iNewton, but it was doomed from the start. When Palm entered the market, they were able to build upon the foundation laid down by Go and Apple. Some say that the ’58 Palm bears an uncanny resemblance to Apple’s first entry into the market and maintain that the Palm is nothing more than a cheap iNewton knockoff. iNewton users continue meeting in user groups, where they exchange custom accessories for their aging PDAs and speculate about how and when Steve Jobs will transform the humble iNewton into the PDA of the next millenium.


  1. You have a riveting web log
    and undoubtedly must have
    atypical & quiescent potential
    for your intended readership.
    May I suggest that you do
    everything in your power to
    honor your Designer/Architect
    as well as your audience.

    Please remember to never
    restrict anyone’s opportunities
    for ascertaining uninterrupted
    existence for their quintessence.

    Best wishes for continued ascendancy,
    Dr. Howdy

    ‘Thought & Humor’

    P.S. Greetings Bo…

    September 14, 2005
  2. Camille said:

    I don’t understand that comment at all…

    September 14, 2005
  3. Mel said:

    Hey Bo-I think you need to cheer up a bit in your profile picture!

    September 15, 2005
  4. Sadie Lou said:

    is that person real or spam?

    anyhoodles, that post was cool. I’ve never seen those thingies before.

    September 15, 2005
  5. Michele said:

    OK, Bo, I’m getting a retro-Net-Nanny to screen all of the cool stuff you parade before me, causing me to lust.
    I don’t understand your blog today, but love those pics.

    September 15, 2005
  6. Heh. Never owned a PDA. Keep all that info on the back of business cards in my wallet to this day. I guess I’m a Luddite, even though I work on computers for a living.

    It’s been shown though that too much simplification has resulted in loss in the ability to remember phone numbers. In other words, the more folks use PDAs, the less phone numbers they keep stored in their noggin.

    September 15, 2005
  7. Melanie said:

    True enough, Zombie. I’ve noticed that in my sister Michele’s house, thanks to “memory dial,” none of the residents there are able to recite a single phone number from memory-even those all important ones that they call each and every day.

    September 15, 2005
  8. Bo Salisbury said:

    Michele… Call Levi and ask him about the Newton and the freakazoids that still use them… The Newton was one of the first attempts at a “personal digital assistant” using character recognition technology… an electronic writing pad. Get it? Like the little one in the picture that you atually write on with an ink pen?

    Okay, Melanie… I’ll just change that picture!

    September 15, 2005

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