06/06/2016, 10:50 PM
On this, the 7th anniversary of the launch of webOS and the Palm Pre, I wanted to share my own history with Palm and webOS, and some reasons why, after all this time, I still use my Veer and TouchPad every day.
I work as a software developer/maintainer in my day job, starting in the late 80's. Soon after I started my career, I started having to keep track of A LOT of detailed information: meeting dates and times, contact information for co-workers, software development tasks, bugs, new feature requests, etc. It got to the point where my family and co-workers were noticing I didn't always remember things they told me, I would sometimes forget meetings, and things like dinner dates. People were getting annoyed with me, and I felt bad for letting people down. I thought maybe there was something wrong with me - other people could keep track of their life and work obligations, so why couldn't I?
One day at work, it came to a head when I went to add another Post-It note to the pile on the inside of my briefcase, and I suddenly realized - I had no more room - there was no more empty surface area on the inside of my briefcase to add even a single, additional Post-It note. I also realized that there was NO WAY I could possibly do all of the things I had on all of those notes.I had to find a better way. This was sometime around 1998.
I decided to try one of those Franklin-Covey Day Planners to improve my organizational skills, and I really got into it. I took a couple of training courses, read books, and really worked to make a habit of writing down and organizing contacts, appointments, tasks, and random notes. I got rid of all those Post-It notes covering the inside of my briefcase, and I FELT a lot more organized. But I found this paper-based system wasn't as flexible as I wanted it to be - and I couldn't re-arrange the data to make it easier for me to find things once I had written them down. I got better at remembering appointments and meetings, but it seemed like an awful lot of effort, and even then, I still forgot or lost track of some things.
Towards the end of 1999, a co-worker started talking up the Palm Pilot he had recently got. Sure it was a PDA, and could do all the things those other electronic organizers could do, he said. But this one had a growing library of 3rd-party software, and could do things like e-mail, connecting to the Internet using an optional modem. A pair of AAA batteries would last about a month. You could even write your own software for it.
I was interested, and the more I researched it, the more I liked what I found, so around the end of the year, I bought a Palm IIIx. The next few days were a blur of learning the Grafitti hand-writing recognition software (that built-in Giraffe game was AWESOME!!), all the PIM programs (calendar, contacts, tasks, notes) and realizing how easily and quickly I could look up whatever I entered into this device. Before there was Google, and Just Type, there was the Palm OS find function, and it was glorious. Anything you had previously entered into your Palm device could be retrieved nearly instantly just by searching for it. Coming from a paper-based organizer, this was a quantum leap forward.
Oh, and about getting information into that device - it was incredibly easy. Oh sure, you could use the standard dialog boxes and wizards to enter data, but there were all sorts of little time-saving shortcuts that made data-entry faster and easier than writing it down on paper. I actually started to look forward to get more information I needed to remember, just so I could marvel at how easy it was to enter into Palm OS.
After about a week or two of having that fist device, I noticed a change in my life - I was no longer nervous, worrying about what meeting I may have missed that day, or what family obligation after work I was forgetting about. I could look up notes from a past meeting, or reference a to-do list instantaneously.
I became a more confident, more capaable person, because of Palm. How could I not grow attached to this little electronic marvel? I strated to (only half-)jokingly refer to it as my second brain - the one that never forgets things.
The years went by, and I upgraded to various different Palm OS devices - the VIIx, Zire 72, Tungsten T, and finally the Tungsten TX. I rode the roller coaster of ups and downs through various Palm CEOs and competitors promising to be "the next big thing". I held out hope that Cobalt, the planned successor to Palm OS, could usher in a new era of market competitiveness for Palm, but like so many of us Palm fans, was stunned to hear news that it was cancelled.
Smartphones like the Treo and Centro hadn't seemed like a viable option for me - I couldn't justify the expense of the service plans offered by the cell phone companies, so I stuck with my Palm TX for a while.
Finally, in January 2009, Palm introduced it's savior - the Palm Pre, and more importantly webOS. Just a few minutes into that CES presentation, I had that same feeling you get when your favorite sports team comes from behind in an incredible upset. This looked like it would change everything. Sure, I had seen the iPhone and Android phones, but webOS looked so much more capable, and coherent, and well thought out, with attention to detail to a level that I had seen only in Palm OS.
When I realized it was going be exclusive to Sprint, I came up with WILD ideas to try to figure out a way to justify the expense of having both my family plan on AT&T, and a second phone - the Palm Pre - on Sprint. Instead, I waited patiently from January, 2009 until May 16, 2010 when the Pre Plus was launched on AT&T.
On that day, I was the first person in line at my local AT&T store, in Vernon Hills, IL, about an hour before the store opened. OK, I was the ONLY person in line, but only for a while. Shortly before the store opened, another person came to stand in line with me, and after about a minute, I realized he had a Palm logo on his shirt. It turned out he was the Regional Sales Manager for Palm, and had come to this store to help out with the launch of the Pre Plus. When I told him I was waiting for the doors to open to purchase a Pre Plus, he was so excited, he asked if he could take my picture and send it to corporate headquarters - of course I agreed. I told him about my long history with Palm, and how this was my first smartphone purchase, and he said he would help the store personnel with any questions they had about this new phone, and how to provision it, etc. Ironically, I didn't think to put his name in my Palm TX, so I no longer have his name.
Good thing that guy from Palm was there to help the folks at the AT&T store with my purchase. Even with him helping, it took nearly 3 hours(!) for them to figure out how to sell me my first webOS device. I didn't really care about how long it took, I was too excited to be mad or upset about it.
Once I got it home, I of course fell in love with webOS - seems a little strange writing about loving any OS - and it took me afew days to figure out how to do things, and unlearn the Palm OS way of doing things. Some things from Palm OS I missed, but other new capabilities were welcome.
Why am I writing all this? I guess this 7th anniversary of the launch of webOS just made me think about the reasons why I still use webOS devices every single day. There are reasons for loyalty - it's not a "tribal" thing, it's a "you changed my life and made me a better person, able to more easily function in society", thing. How can I give that up?
Sometimes I think about how long I can go on with webOS - whether I could function just as well with an iPhone or Android phone. The rest of my family all have iPhones, and every time I get asked to configure or change something on one of them, I realize that no, I am not missing anything, and it's just too different. Sure, I could learn, but once you've tasted the good stuff, you're spoiled for life, and nothing compares. I would be less productive without a keyboard on my phone, and why would I willingly go back to that phase of my life?
And if I ever get to the point I can no longer keep any of my webOS devices going, and LuneOS isn't an option, I would probably just buy a set of AAA batteries and start up my old Palm IIIx again, and use it in combination with a dumb phone.