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Flashback Friday: The Age of PDAs

by Sean P. Aune | April 22, 2011April 22, 2011 3:45 pm PDT

Flashback FridayPDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) were all the rage for some time in the business world, but then those darn smartphones came along and killed off those beloved devices with their … er … smartness.

Earlier this week Adriana spoke about her PalmOne LifeDrive in the Vintage Buffalo column, and that got me to thinking about my history with PDAs.  While I had several over the years, the one that blew me away my Palm VIIx.  While it didn’t do much more than its predecessor, the Palm VII, it had the added ability of a cellular connection.  Thanks to the (flimsy) antenna on the right side, all you had to do was flip it up and through the magic of your $14.95 a month cellular service, you could be getting data down to your device in a matter of minutes.  (Yes, I said minutes)

This was a pretty radical idea back in the beginning of this century.  The concept that you could pull down data while you were out and about was pretty unheard of, so you definitely felt like you were living in the future a bit.  Even Amazon built an app for it so you could shop on the go, albeit in a highly rudimentary form.

Palm VIIxOne of the biggest selling points to me was that I could put Excel spreadsheets on it and view them.  I’ve always been a big lover of organizing my life via spreadsheets, and the idea I could take digital copies with me as opposed to printed ones when I was traveling was like a dream come true.  Of course, it also became somewhat of a nightmare at times as if the sheet was too large it felt like it took an hour to scroll through it, and boy did you never want to over scroll.

The funny thing is, in my mind PDAs are still with us to some extent, they just go by very different names.  Take the iPod Touch for instance.  Essentially this is a PDA that just happens to play music.  You can store your calendars, contacts, important documents and so on, and the music is like a bonus.  Yes, it’s a bit of a stretch, but that’s how I think about my iPod Touch at least.  And, of course, you have the smartphones of the world that bring all of this to you while also allowing you to make phone calls.

The age of the PDA has definitely passed as no one wants to carry a separate device with them any longer, and we can’t say as we blame them.  It’s fun to take a look back every so often, however, and think about the devices that you once thought of being the stuff of the future and how you now cringe at how much you loved it.

Did you ever own a dedicated PDA?


Sean P. Aune

Sean P. Aune has been a professional technology blogger since July 2007, but his love of tech dates back to at least 1976 when his parents bought...

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