Palm Pilot set the PDA ball rolling

The Palm m130Pilot was the first generation personal digital assistant which was manufactured by Palm Computing, in 1996. Due to a trademark infringement lawsuit filed by the Pilot Pen Corporation the name Palm Pilot was given to the second generation of PDAs in 1997. From 1998 onwards, this virtually became the generic name for all handhelds.

The founders of Palm Computing were Jeff Hawkins, Donna Dubinsky and Ed Colligan. They were the original inventors of the Pilot though when they set out they wanted to produce handwriting software named Graffiti. Fortunately, for the world they changed their plans midway, and got into hardware. Palm is known to have gained from the attempts of Apple Computer and Go Corporation to produce handheld computing devices.

Palm Computing was initially a division of US Robotics and later of 3Com. The people who founded Palm felt that they did not have enough control over the Palm product. As a result they left 3Com and founded Handspring in 1998. Handspring became the first Palm OS licensee. Handspring produced a replica of the Palm handhelds, called the Handspring Visor, which used slightly different software and had a hardware expansion slot.

In 2000 Palm Computing became a separate company, which was called Palm Incorporated. In 2003 Palm Incorporated split into palmOne for selling hardware and PalmSource for selling software. Handspring merged with Palm to form palmOne. In 2005 palmOne acquired the full rights to the Palm name, which it had shared with PalmSource and changed its name back to Palm.

Earlier Palms used the popular DragonBall processor, a Motorola 68000 derivate. Recent models use a type of ARM architecture. This is a class of RISC microprocessors, which is widely used in embedded systems and mobile devices. It is usually referred to by the Intel Xscale brand name.

Handhelds from Palm are becoming more advanced and are merging with smart phones. They now have the capacity to work as computer hard drives via USB cables. The latest Palm handheld is the Treo 650, which functions as a mobile phone and provides SMS, e-mail and instant messaging.

It has been predicted that as handhelds with multiple functions like the Treo become cheaper, the traditional PDA device will disappear. Cell phone manufacturers are likely to start producing smart phone, which use interfaces similar to the Palm OS. At present the Palm OS is used by the Sony Clie’, TRG Pro and Handspring Visor, apart from the Palm handheld.

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