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(Image: James Kendrick/ ZDNet)
2004 — Sony U-50 handheld Windows Computer
Japanese electronics giant Sony introduced a full Windows PC with a 5-inch touchscreen that set the stage for many devices to appear later. The Sony U-50 was first introduced in Japan, but eventually made its way to the US.
Sony made a device that was actually functional in spite of its small size by including thoughtful controls and the touchscreen that worked well with either touch by fingers or by stylus. An extended battery was available that gave a decent run time of 4 or 5 hours, a first for a full Windows handheld device.
The U-50 was bundled with a dock that made it a snap (literally) to use the device as a core processing unit that connected to peripherals at the desk. This worked so well, I used the U-50 as my only computer for a year. It was my field system during the day and my desktop computer by night.
The U-50 has a fond place in my heart as it directly impacted my professional life. I installed Windows XP Tablet Edition on my Sony and blogged about how well a 5-inch tablet PC worked on my personal tech site, jkOnTheRun, This caught the attention of a lot of people and jkOnTheRun rapidly grew into a popular tech site. It was eventually sold to the GigaOm Media Network, which allowed me to retire from my career as a geophysicist and become a tech writer full-time.
This also led to my meeting Bill Gates with Microsoft, who admittedly enjoyed reading about a 5-inch tablet.
It's easy to understand why the Sony U holds a place dear to my heart. It was a fantastic handheld computer that paved the way to mobile technology of today.