I’ve loved gadgets since I was a kid, which is why I’m always thankful that I have the job of my dreams that allows me to test them today. One Christmas gift that I’ll never forget is the Philips Velo 1.
It launched in 1997 for $599.99, but I’m realizing now that there’s no way my parents would have spent that much money on me for Christmas. I think I probably received in about a year later, if I had to guess, when it was likely a lot less expensive and had been replaced by newer models. That means I was 14 years old at the time.
That’s the year I started building my first computer, so I was really into playing with connected devices of all kinds. The Philips Velo 1 had a soft touch finish, a beautiful rectangle-clamshell design, a solid dock and more. To me, it was a super portable computer that ran on two AA chargeable batteries. The idea of having a pocketable PC that I could take with me to write, send emails and play Windows CE games was just so fascinating to me that I carried it everywhere. The thing is, I hardly actually used it.
The Philips Velo 1 had terrible battery life, if I remember correctly, and I needed to send it in for a replacement at one point. After hours and hours of trying to get it to work with my home Internet connection, via the small telephone jack you see on the side of the device, it never worked. I even used to call my dad’s buddies in tech support to see if they could help, but no dice.
The Velo 1 couldn’t really do much – there were Windows CE versions of Pocket Word and Pocket Excel, and it had a pretty cool glowing backlight that I found fascinating at the time. Other features included a 36MHz processor (Wow!), a 5.1-inch 480 x 240-pixel resistive touchscreen display that worked with the included stylus, a QWERTY keyboard and 5MB of storage. It was ultimately relatively useless. I was a kid, and this sort of tool was made for business users who needed files on the fly.
And still, I loved the Velo 1 for what it promised but never actually succeeded at offering me. I still look back on it with fond memories of just carrying it around and feeling more important and connected than I actually was. It’s no wonder I have a bit of a soft spot in my heart for Windows even today.