Buying up old Palms

Discuss HanDBase running on various Palm OS devices and synchronization with desktop computers.

Buying up old Palms

Postby BruceArnold » Fri Jul 03, 2009 7:41 am

I have been buying up old Palms lately. Also accessories such as replacement batteries, styli, and extra Fitaly Stamps.

I tried going the smartphone route. When the Treos first came out, I considered it. But my innate conservatism said, if your PDA and your phone are on the same device, when one messes up you have lost them both.

But time went on, Palm stopped putting out new PDAs, my contract with a former cell provider expired, and I was seduced by the Centro -- mainly the price point. $99 for a new phone and a new Palm? Why not try it?

Well, the Centro is a mixed blessing. It has its good points, it has its bad points. I liked the integration between Contacts and dialing, and with email addresses. There was a convenience factor in only having to carry one item instead of two. I liked having a calendar that really worked, instead of the underwhelming calendars that former cell phones sported. I liked having HanDBase so -- umm -- handy.

But there were downsides too. The tiny keyboard -- I have to keep my thumbnails a little longer than I like in order to use it with any precision. The loss in screen size. The lousy Bluetooth reception. The fact that the desktop version of the Palm software -- 6.x -- did not display colors for my categories any more. And then it stopped syncing. It won't even hook up to the computer. It could sync just fine, it is the hardware connection that is screwed up. I can see a long, deep scratch on the sync port on the Centro, and I am guessing that this is what causes the problem.

Ports have been a problem for a number of Palm and Handspring versions. They take something that critical and just hang it out there where it can be scratched, dirtied (oh the hours I've spent over the years with a pencil eraser, cleaning up the sync port to get a good connection.) And if you ever used the clunky GPS unit with a Palm III, you soon found that the little bit of flex that it created on the sync port every time you put it in or took it out of the GPS, it eventually cracked the circuit board and you could not use it at all.

The Tungsten E, however, has the perfect connection: a mini-USB port. Never fails. Doesn't collect dirt. Doesn't need cleaning. Doesn't get scratched, flexed, or any of that. There are versions of the old Palm PDAs that have richer features, like the Tungsten E2. But instead of sticking with the mini-USB port for both power and syncing, they threw in the multi-USB port -- looks similar to the one that has gone south on the Centro. Why would you hang something that critical out in the open where it is vulnerable to all kinds of damage? I've never understood this.

So, while I am still using my Centro as a phone, for Internet access, etc., I am back to the Tungsten for my PDA needs. I've bought one more so far on eBay -- I just put in lowball bids, knowing that every so often I will get lucky. I've bought batteries etc. It syncs fine on my Windows XP laptop. (To heck with Vista!) I figure I have ten to fifteen years left of active professional life, and this will get me through just fine.

I hope someday the rest of the world will catch up with me, and PDAs will once again have at least a viable niche in the market. For many, the smartphone may be enough. For me, it just hasn't worked out. Maybe it is just the Centro, and I would be happier with a Blackberry. I am interested in the Pre for all the reasons I still use the Centro -- phone, internet, email -- it would be a step up as far as I can tell. But for my PDA functions, I still don't see moving everything over to it. For one thing, I just don't trust emulators, and while the Classic program that will allow us to run older Palm programs on the Pre may be fine, I've always felt that this approach is a kludge. Like Windows emulators on Macs -- do they really work as well as a good PC running XP? (Again I say, to heck with Vista!)

I don't know why I am rambling on about this. I'm not going to convince enough people to go back to PDAs to revive Palm's flagging fortunes and get them to reintroduce something along the Tungsten line. But who knows? Others may come to the same realization I have.
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Re: Buying up old Palms

Postby dhaupert » Fri Jul 03, 2009 9:42 am


Thanks for 'rambling' on our forums. ;) It's great to see your train of thought as I'm sure a lot of Palm OS users are experiencing some level of your frustrations. I wanted to offer a little bit of insight from my perspective:

The first thing I wanted to say was that you've actually already been using emulation of Palm OS apps. You probably did not know this but Palm OS 5.0 actually has an entirely different processor than the previous Palm devices, and from Palm OS 5, applications were run in a virtual emulator on the new hardware. You mentioned how slow Windows XP may run on a Mac in emulation, but the comparison is not valid, because both required the same hardware speeds to run, and emulation is a magnitude slower than native. But because the Palm original devices hardware ran several orders of magnitude slower than the ARM processors included with Palm OS 5, the reality was that most apps actually ran faster on Palm OS 5 devices. And for the most part they were as stable- the NVFS woes created were actually not because of the emulation of 5.0, but started in 5.4 when they added Non-volatile flash storage.

So the moral is, don't be afraid of emulation! According to MotionApps, the Pre runs Palm OS apps on their classic an average of 2x faster than the Centro device, which if true is pretty awesome. That said, I do know they had some stability issues with their app itself the first few weeks but I am told that has been worked out.

The second thing I wanted to mention was that with technology, certain things become passe just like in fashion. And some things never gain traction because of the bad first impression they left on their 1.0 device. For example, the Newton was really one of the first mainstream PDAs. Because it had some embarrassing flaws early on, no one ever gave it a second chance. From what I've heard, it actually became quite a powerful and usable solution over time. But no matter - the class of devices was already written off- even mocked by most. A few other devices came between the Newton and the first PalmPilot, such as a Casio device, but the reality is that the category itself was doomed.

Then US Robotics came along and introduced the PalmPilot. They were smart enough to realize that the PDA category had a bad name, so they did not refer to it in those terms. It was a Personal Organizer, not a PDA. And it did what it was designed for very well- ran fast, no clumsiness about it, and the one button sync was a dream to users. It took off very quickly because of word of mouth, and as applications came out for it, the sales exploded. At this point, people looked back and said, wow, so the idea of a PDA was actually a good one after all.

Other companies jumped into the mix- Microsoft tried and retried several times to encroach on the dominion of the Palm OS, with Handheld PCs, Palm sized PCs, and then ultimately were able to make a dent with their Pocket PCs. Palm licensed the OS to companies like Sony, who made some awesome devices and innovated the platform, but with all the competition, the marketshare was split by too many categories and slowly many licensees closed up their shops and discontinued their products. The PDA started getting a bad name because many companies were failing at making money on it. And even Palm who had been selling millions of devices each quarter started seeing declines.

Thankfully there was something to take it's place, and they moved to the smartphone category. The PDA name was blemished and almost associated with being a relic, even though it still had some great qualities when compared to a smartphone - the bigger screen size, bigger batteries, etc being a huge part of them.

Now up to here everything I said is just historical- here's where I am speculating. I think the category of PDA has resurfaced under several other names since then, but just in slightly different form factors. An example is the UMPC- the ultra-mobile PC. I have a (now-defunct) OQO device. It's only a little bigger than the Palm 3x but has a slide out keyboard, 800x480 touch screen, Wifi, Sprint WWAn, etc. It's basically a full pc, but you use it like a PDA. This category was booming a few years ago and has since faded too- doomed by the fact that you can either make a good device like the OQO for 2000.00, or you can make a really crumby one no one wants to use for about 1000. In both cases, it's too expensive compared to a PDA and can only do a bit more than a traditional PDA.

After the failure of UMPCs, we have the current surge from Netbooks. These are what UMPCs evolved to- bigger to save costs and make it easier to provide standard parts for, but basically just the evolution of the PDA.

Lastly, we have devices that are for all intents and purposes the modern version of a PDA. The prime example: the iPod touch. This device is not a smart phone and no one dares to call it a PDA. But it's far more than a music player in every sense. I believe the industry and especially Apple avoids using the term PDA to describe it. But that makes it no less than a PDA. It even has the price point of a PDA (around 200.00). We have had several universities who are telling their students to buy iPhones or iPod touches, the same way we used to have them telling them to buy Palms previously.

Certainly a lot has changed- but if the PDA market would have continued innovating, my guess is that we would have come to something just like an iPod touch anyway- thinner, tons more memory, faster processors and graphics processors, better multimedia integration and standardization of wifi.

So the crux of this point is that the PDA is still alive and well- Apple has sold nearly 20 million PDAs but never owned up to the fact that they are the leader in the PDA market! The irony is that other PDA companies (Microsoft and Dell) are rumored to be releasing new devices that compete with the iPod touch, none of them calling it a PDA either!

Well Bruce, I think I out babbled you on this one- let's see what anyone else has to say.
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Re: Buying up old Palms

Postby curtterp » Sat Jul 04, 2009 8:48 am

My first PDA was an Apple Newton. I bought one used on eBay many years ago. Although the size was clunky, the handwriting recognition was pretty good with my chicken scratch I called writing. I used it to take notes on the job, in church, and it had all my contacts information on it.

Then I won a Palm V in a contest about 6 months later. I knew about Palms, but was content with my Newton at the time. When the Palm V came in the mail, my first impression was that although it was small enough to put into my shirt pocket, the 2 megs of memory was just not going to be enough. I had 8 megs in the Newton, and had to watch my memory because I was close to being full all the time. Well, the Palm applications were very small, very fast, and I was very impressed. I sold the Newton and bought a Palm III for my first wife because she wanted one too. I used the Palm V for many years. I was first introduced to HanDBase for the Palm, and used it to track my on site service calls, I didn't use the Sync very effectively (as in not at all), because I transfered everything over manually after a call, but it still was effective for me. I even played games while waiting for software to reload at a customers site when it took a while.

I bought a Pocket PC (Microsoft's first foray into the PDA world) because it had color which the Palm products lacked at that time. But it was slow, buggy, hard to use, and it was just not as good as the Palm. I got rid of it pretty quickly.

Years later, after relocating because of personal circumstances, I started to use a MS Database to track which bills had to be paid on what date because some bills were falling through the cracks. I then upgraded HanDBase so I could sync with that database and have the bills due in my pocket in case I needed to look at what needed to be paid with my upcoming check. I didn't need to use the Palm for work anymore.

I then got a Dell Axim, and have been using it every since. I crossgraded to keep my bills in my pocket, then upgraded to get the ODBC for HanDBase because I was working on moving my bills database to SQLExpress with my own application.

I had to replace my Axim after 5 years of faithful service because the screen was shot, and the connection finally gave out. I was looking into getting a smartphone or iPhone, but I do not want to switch carriers at this time for the iPhone, and the other smartphones screens are just not big enough for me. So I went with different touchscreen phone for now. Hopefully by my next upgrade cycle, iPhones might be a part of Verizon's lineup (but I am not holding my breath).

So that is my walk through PDA land.
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Re: Buying up old Palms

Postby BruceArnold » Sat Jul 11, 2009 11:11 am


Thanks for all the history, that is very interesting to me.Encouraging also.

While I may well stick with my decision to hang onto the old PDA concept, I will watch further developments. Like so many other users on the forum, being able to sync data is crucial. I sure can't afford to lose any of my HanDBase data, and have a great deal of information tucked away in DateBk6 that I would rather not lose also -- I use categories and colors a lot, and can tell so much at a glance -- Memos with important stuff I refer to often -- the list goes on.

I hope that, while the "glory days" may be gone, you will be able to reinvent DDH and continue to provide your fine products in some form or another, that will meet the needs of those of us who have come to depend on you. I get that Twitter and Facebook and all those are the new "killer apps" that mobile providers are looking to sell themselves on, but my guess is that this is because of the influx of new users like teens and young adults who were not part of the audience that made PDAs big. Isn't that older market, the one that is oriented more to business than networking and games, still there? It may be smaller in terms of percent -- market share I guess they call it -- but in absolute numbers, how many HanDBase customers can get along without it? And aren't there new folks coming along who see the benefit in a low-cost, fully functional, mobile relational database?

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Re: Buying up old Palms

Postby » Sat Jul 11, 2009 4:25 pm

I just wanted to weigh-in on the issue of the Palm OS and the Palm Pre.
Background: I have been a palm user for well over 10 years (I started with the Palm Pilot Professional and upgraded it to a "III" with the Palm upgrade kit.) I also adopted HanDBase as soon as I found out about it, around June, 2000, I think, and I'm currently using ver. 4.1.5, on a Palm Centro.
SmartPhone: I finally moved from a Palm T|X to the Centro less than a year ago, simply because it's convenient (one device instead of two) it was on sale ($99) it is less fragile and Verizon provides a reasonably priced monthly maintenance/replacement/extended warranty plan. My intention is to stay with the Centro as long as it is available.
New features/devices: I find the new devices and their many features fascinating. However, my Centro is a phone with a Palm imbedded. I don't even use the camera, let alone texting, email, web, etc. If I'm not at a computer, I don't need email or any of the rest. I'm glad to know that those features are available for those who want them. However, I can't remember when I last added a new application to the countless assortment I have acquired over the years. As for durability, I'm also glad I don't have to panic when I drop the Centro, but I have the PDA I need welded to a useful phone. For me, that's enough.
Future: I view the progress in devices as positive for me because my uses have been swept along with them. I've bought many apps for my palm over the years but the two I use and appreciate the most are DateBk6 and HanDBase. Both are quite "HanD". HanDBase is launched on my Centro by pressing the (otherwise useless) hardware button designed for "email". When I can’t find a functioning Centro anywhere, then I’ll think about what device is next for me. I've used many Palm devices as well as a string of very excellent Sony clones until Sony dropped us flat. It appears that DateBk6 is heading toward device independence in the foreseeable future. If HanDBase follows suit, my future choices will be less restricted. While I would miss some of my current applications, DateBk6 and HanDBase are not optional for me.
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Re: Buying up old Palms

Postby BruceArnold » Sat Jul 18, 2009 8:00 am

@wbnewton: sounds like we have a lot of the same history with these devices, and the same 2 must-have apps. I'm glad you chimed in. The Centro has been a decent alternative for me also, until it started refusing to connect to the computer. I've been thinking lately, if I put a Bluetooth dongle on the computer, then I believe I could sync the Centro that way. That would solve the problem too. But for now, I'm pretty much OK with using my Tungsten E's, for all the reasons mentioned in a previous note.
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Re: Buying up old Palms

Postby voytek » Fri Jul 24, 2009 9:13 am

BruceArnold wrote:I have been buying up old Palms lately.
So, while I am still using my Centro as a phone, for Internet access, etc., I am back to the Tungsten for my PDA needs. I've bought one more so far on eBay -- I just put in lowball bids, knowing that every so often I will get lucky. I've bought batteries etc. It syncs fine on my Windows XP laptop. (To heck with Vista!) I figure I have ten to fifteen years left of active professional life, and this will get me through just fine.

me too, I've lowballed several TXs and T3s, ended up with more Palms that I ever had... then, I got rid of the bad ones, even more luck, I even made some profit, which I've invested back into Palm apps.

fwiw, my 1st h/h was a Sharp (I think it was a had a little cards..), bought it in Melbourne, on the way home, used it on the plane, before the plane landed in Sydney (1 hour later) , I didn't want it anymore, realized it was not what I want, I got rid of it following week, and, wasn't interested to look at another h/h. Then, I saw a few friends and customers use Palm Pilot, once bitten, twice shy, I wasn't interested, I thought it was a concept like the Sharp. eventually, after I saw even more ppl use Palm, I thought, hmmmmm.... hmmm... what the hack, I'll try a hand held once more, maybe they got it this time...

so, I got PPPro. yes, they got it right, I decided.

and, I'm still a Palm user: PPPro, then... V? I think?... 3C, T3, TX. I tried LD, got rid immediately. currently, I use TX and T3 (for GPS/street nav). But I use the palm device as primary device for whatever I use it for, I'm not that much interested in using apps that have windoze counterparts, that's counter productive for me. I just want apps that have import/export in industry standard format, so I can use it in whatever I feel like. and, I'm still using a phone and a PDA, as much as I hate having to carry a utility belt, I still find the utility belt approach better for me. and, the bigger screen works for me, too.

Palm talks to the phone over bt for dialing/sms/email/gmaps/etc.

anyhow, as I was getting concerned there will be no more Palms, I ended up buying a few for 'spares'.
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