Remembering PalmOS

Continuing the discussion from Push Back on NameDrop Privacy Insinuations:

If I remember correctly, PalmOS was designed by several ex-Apple engineers. So they had plenty of experience with respect to UI design.

One of its key design features (at least as written in my Palm Programming book) is that the device should not try to do everything, but should always work in concert with an associated computer (PC or Mac), via its “hotsync” and associated “conduit” plugins.

The most illustrative example was its “expenses” app. The Palm app was a simple data collection app. You could add, remove and edit expenses, but not do too much more than that. But when you sync with a computer, the associated conduit would generate an Excel spreadsheet containing all the data. Suitable for you to later manipulate, print or even export into a corporate expense system.

So they managed to very successfully provide the illusion of the device being more powerful than it really was.

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To this day, I have never come close to the proficiency I had with Graffiti vs. any hand-writing-recognition I’ve encountered since.

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Very cool observation. And it’s very true. And note that that principle endures. The early iPhone was just an extension of the computer, with many features only available on the desktop, including basic syncing (there was no cloud). Over time, the mobile apps have become more full featured. But until recently, you couldn’t even manage Contact Groups without your Mac, and you still can’t touch up photos without your Mac.

And of course the Apple Watch is still very much just a read-only extension of your iPhone, but that gap is also shrinking with time. Heck, we can even control volume and mute from our AirPods now, without touching ANY of these devices!

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Indeed. And as someone who always wrote in block caps anyway (my handwriting is hard even for me to read) I found the Unistroke system dead easy to learn and far easier to use than the keyboards and touchscreens that have replaced it.

Likewise. I think comparing Palm vs. Newton demonstrated one (now obvious) fact: It’s far easier to train a human to write the way the computer wants than to train a computer to recognize human handwriting.

I agree that Palm’s Graffiti was extremely intuitive and easy to learn. I also found that I could input text extremely quickly with this system. Definitely faster than tapping a virtual keyboard on a phone, but I think the swipe-based input on modern iPhones is faster than Graffiti (when it works - when autocorrect fails, it’s a nightmare).

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Exactly. The problem with software that tries to predict what you’re going to type next is that it’s guessing. You’re not. :sunglasses:

For speed, accuracy and accessibility paper and pencil were always best for me. When I was working, my Palm Pilot was for scheduling & reminders only–saved my bacon more than once. Otherwise I kept a dated notebook handy (there were a lot of them by the time I retired). Still do.

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I got very proficient with Graffiti, but what I miss most was the calendar. Palm’s calendar app had functions that Apple still lacks (floating tasks/appointments for example). Didn’t get to it today? No problem, it appears on tomorrow’s page. The ability to automatically link a calendar entry with a phone number in contacts was another one. There were more, but I’ll need some time to think of them.

You might want to give BusyCal a try, it does both.

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Thanks! I will.


Ars Technica recently did an article about Palm devices. It’s a relatively long, infinite-scroll article, so you may need to refresh it or wait a while for it to load as you scroll, especially on a slow connection.