Memory lane: Palm xv and OmniSky Minstrel V -- mobile email rocked my world

Few gadgets have touched my world as profoundly as the lowly Palm PDA and the cellular modem I used with it.

The year was 1999 and the BlackBerry was just getting started on its rise to the top and eventual crash. There was no solution for getting email on the go as the BlackBerry had not appeared in numbers. There weren't any smartphones, almost no one had a cell phone, and Palm still ruled the PDA world.

The Palm xv was a great PDA, much thinner than any other mobile gadget and full of those great Palm apps. It was only black and white but that was all we needed; the key was the apps that let us do virtually anything on this handheld.

Then magic happened: OmniSky introduced the Minstrel V modem that fit on the back of the Palm xv. Mobile email was a reality, and it rocked my world at the time.

I was a senior manager for a firm with global connections, and only having email during business hours was a hardship. Then the OmniSky appeared and I had email 24/7, and it was a game-changer. The $299 OmniSky was expensive but worth it for me at the time, and the $40 monthly service fee for the cellular service a bargain.

The 19.2 kbps service made it painfully slow for web browsing, but could handle business email just fine. I was able to respond to email at any time of the day or night, and people were amazed. They would send me an email from their office around the globe, and get a reply from me in minutes. Instead of going into the office and finding dozens of emails waiting for action each morning, I went in to a clean inbox. It was revolutionary and gave me a huge advantage over other managers at the firm.

The Palm with the OmniSky proved to me how important mobile email was going to be in the future. I was not surprised to see the BlackBerry take off as fast as it did for that reason.

There have been few gadgets/ mobile technology that have impacted my professional life as did the Palm xv and OmniSky. OmniSky wasn't long for this world due to the high cost to use its device and service, but it rocked my world for that brief window of time.