Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The Other Tech in My Life: Pocket Tech

Even before I got the TabletPC, I was notorious for having the cool technology. It's not like I've got the dough to be a first adopter, but eventually I WILL adopt, even it it means waiting until I can get something off eBay for a tenth of the original price.

I cut my handheld computing teeth on IBM WorkPads issued by my employer. These devices were just Palm IIIs with black cases that had IBM stamped on them. I spent many happy hours searching for, finding, downloading installing and running applications (including lots of games) on the WorkPads. Of course, I used the PIM functions a lot (not email, though; not on a 2mb device!). We even had an app which worked--sort of--with our help desk database. After dropping and breaking several WorkPads, I decided I should destroy my own stuff, and I bought a Palm III on eBay. The PCs and laptops I synced with never noticed a difference. Years later, I still have my old 2mb Palm; it managed to survive numerous falls, but the screen must be torqued to make it legible and to make it respond to input from the stylus.

When Palm released the IIIc, I was thrilled. I wanted in! By this time, the limitations of 2mb storage had really begun to aggravate me; for a while, I carried both a WorkPad and my Palm III so that I could have it all. So why do I have a picture of a Casio Cassiopeia BE-300 preceding this paragraph? Let's go back to that statement about not having enough dough to be a first adopter. Those grainy color pixels were far too expensive, so I waited. When my friend showed off his shiny new iPAQ (now there's a first adopter for you), I salivated, but I was determined to remain a Palm enthusiast...so I kept on waiting, occasionally checking eBay. I lost all resolve when I spotted the BE-300 being sold on the Dell web site. For a good deal less than $200, I ended up with a color CE3 device with 16mb of storage and a 32mb compact flash card for extra storage. Not only did I have color, but I had sound, and the LCD looked great. There were two detractions:I had to plug in headphones to hear my MP3s, and there was no infrared port, so I couldn't sync wirelessly with my laptop. In addition to doing all the stuff I once did with the Palm devices (except for synchronizing with the Help Desk database), I was now reading eBooks (with the excellent µBook), using email and surfing wirelessly, thanks to a Pretec WLAN CF NIC.

Less than 2 months after purchasing my BE-300, I received email from Dell advertising their new PocketPC, the Axim X5. I'd never seen a PPC priced so low, so I jumped on it with only a few minutes of delay. I decided to go with their Advanced model (more storage and faster processor than the Basic) to try to stave off future upgrade cravings. Two years and one month later, it is still the most sophisticated PDA I've got. I'm I still run PPC 2002 OS on it, though Dell did make the Windows Mobile 2003 (WM2003) upgrade available to Axim owners.

400 mHz Xscale processor
64mb RAM
48mb Flash ROM
3.5-inch 240 x 320 QVGA display
Compact Flash (CF) slot
Secure Digital (SD) slot
Infrared port

Pictured above the unit is my Linksys WCF12 802.11b compact flash (CF) network adapter. I always have a 256mb SD card in the slot for storing documents, music and programs.


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