1.Pocket PCs

Ah, the Pocket PC.  The precursor of the Tablet PC,Tablets and Slates. They were essentially mini-tablets.  I do not really count the Palm since one had to write single character to be recognized one by one in order to build words, whereas the Pocket PC, from version 2, accepted words and phrases to recognize.  It was slow, depending on the memory available, but it did the job!

I had a Toshiba e310. To me it was simply wonderful. And I had a Toshiba Satellite s151 latop to pair with it. It had low memory to work with but it had Word and Excel pocket versions which will convert into normal Word and Excel upon syncing. Wow!

Toshiba e310 Pocket PC

Toshiba e310

I used my e310 to record class attendance, to record the grades – with a custom configured Gradebook- and took a lot of notes while in the libraries.  I also used it to read books downloaded from the Gutenberg project or Microsoft Reader configured ebooks.

I also loaded a graphing scientific calculator apps, as functional as a TI-84, and later a symbolic algebra software, that run like a baby Maple/Mathematica. I also loaded a Pocket versions of Flight Simulator, SimCity and the like. It all run. There were apps to see videos on various formats, like AVI, QuickTime, Mpeg and later DiVx. There was a tiny webcam that plugged on the SD card slot, for WiFi videoconferencing using Internet2 programs like vic. The upper version, the e340, ran with flying colors.

It was a marvelous piece of computer. Its hand writing recognition was not perfect, I would say it had a 85% efficiency, since I already write in block letters. Problem in the end was the battery. It run time kept on dying short, until I finally got a new battery but never got it to charge again. So I would say it is almost permanently in state of hibernation. Perhaps if I fin an external battery charger, I would see if it can be bring to life again. I doubt the ActivSync program works in Windows7, and also doubt my W7 will ever recognize it. Toshiba never looked back at this IT triumph. Dell also drop theirs. Only HP maintain legacy Pocket PCs of their own, the iPAQ, but they should cost only $100 a piece and not the same $400 I paid for the e310 in 2002. An equivalent HP of the e310 was the iPAQ 110.

There were very nice projects to put Pocket PC in classroom for students to use as book readers, or some interactive programs, to use Excel, etc. There were a lot of apps and even magazines dedicated to the Pocket PCs. When Microsoft decided it was time to add it a cell phone to the Pocket PC and created the first Smartphone, nobody was looking. However that it was really happened, and the PC part of the Smartphone died with it.


Recently while navigating through eBay I found fans of Pocket PC still around. Even fans of the Toshiba Pocket PCs. So much of fans that while bidding for an old Toshiba e750, many other came to bid against. As a matter of fact I got two, each for about $30; when new the e750 costed about $600. The e700s series was superseded by the e800s series, which only lasted two years on the market before Toshiba dropped altogether the Pocket PCs amid the invasion of the smartphones, a field it never entered. Until they enter recently with the Thrive tablet.  The e750, as well as the e740 and the e755, had WiFi (b) and access to two types of the card, one dying, the CompactFlash card, and one growing, the Secure Digital SD card. And they enjoy something denied to others, except the iPaQ from HP: an expansion attachment that supported USB (1.1) and a VGA connection to an external projector.

There are still quite a bit of Pocket PC applications or apps, some more complex than current tablet/phone apps, but still usable and efficient. Some providers of Android or iPhone apps also provide legacy Pocket PC applications, such as Handango, which took over PocketGear, and FreewarePocketPC.net.

Good times those of the Pocket PC, Good Old Times!

Note: Pocket PCs and Palms were categorized as Personal Digital Assistants, although the e310 and its cousins were true computers. I always though of the PDA as something between a calculator and a computer.

Timeline:The immediate precursors of the Pocket PC were the Palm handheld (1996) and the Apple’s Newton MessagePad (1993). The followers are the the hybrid PocketPC Windows Smartphone (2003), the non-Windows Smartphone, and finally the tablet with WiFi or 2G/3G/4G phone services or both. The Tablet PC (c.2001) cannot be considered a true follower of the PocketPC since the handwriting recognition departed from the Transcriber who used the full screen of the device to the dismal widget we see on Windows XP for Tablet PC, Windows Vista for Tablet PC and Windows 7.


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