Palm has been grabbing headlines for the launch of its latest smartphone, the Palm Pre.

The Pre looks like it could mark the comeback of a company that pioneered the modern PDA and smartphone markets. Palm was making pocket computers ten years before the iPhone became a reality, and before Google was even formed.

Mmany of Palm's handhelds will live on forever in tech history. Here's a quick pictorial look at the various Palms in our lives.

In the beginning: the Pilot 1000/5000

In March 1996, less than three years after Apple's first Newton MessagePad attracted much media interest but little commercial success, Palm Computing (by then a division of US Robotics) brought to market a pair of personal digital assistants (PDAs) that offered some of the Newton's most interesting features (including the Graffiti handwriting-recognition system).

The Pilot 1000 (shown above with 128KB of memory) and the Pilot 5000 may look stubby and square by today's standards, but were small enough to fit in a shirt pocket, a real innovation for the time.

Both PDAs had 160x160-pixel greyish green screens capable of displaying four shades of grey. They lacked infrared or a backlight, but using a supplied cradle they could hot-sync calendar information, contacts, and memo pad data with desktop software for Windows (3.1 or 95) and Mac (OS 7 or later).

These early Palms could run for a week or more on two AAA batteries. Notice that the Palm brand name is nowhere to be found on the front of the device.

Photo: Courtesy of Palm

Enter the PalmPilots

Ecstatic media reception and good word-of-mouth made the first Palms a moderate success, and a year later the name Palm appeared as part of the second-generation products' name - the PalmPilot Personal and the PalmPilot Professional (shown above).

The new models incorporated backlighting but not infrared. The PalmPilot Personal had 512KB of memory, while the Pro had 1MB of memory and could hot-sync either through the included cradle or through an optional 14.4-kbps modem.

The design was a tad sleeker than that of the original Pilots, and Palm added an expense-tracking app to its basic organiser suite. By this time, 3Com had swallowed up US Robotics and its Palm Computing subsidiary (the 3Com brand appears on the upper right).

Photo: Courtesy of Palm

NEXT PAGE: Enter the Palm III

  1. Does the Pre mark the start of a new era for Palm?
  2. Enter the Palm III
  3. The first wireless Palm
  4. The Tungsten and Zire
  5. The Treo takes off
  6. The Centro
  7. Finally, the Pre