The HP was the first handheld device running a full version of DOS. HP had a full line of accessories that could turn the 100LX into a complete computer. This was one of the first handheld devices that was a full programmable computer. It is still available on eBay.
James Kendrick of ZDNet Mobile News takes a trip down memory lane to showcase the most important mobile gadgets he has owned.
The Palm xv was the PDA that cemented Palm's dominance in this new device category. With the pictured Omnisky modem snapped onto its back, the Palm xv became the first handheld device with a connection to the new thing called the Internet. This combination was the first handheld method to get email on the go. I was one of the first mobile professionals able to get and respond to email from anywhere, thanks to the Palm xv and Omnisky modem. The data connection provided by the Omnisky was insanely slow and tremendously expensive, but it was the first of its kind.
The Apple Newton didn't last long, but it pushed the envelope in so many areas for mobile devices. The first device to offer true handwriting recognition, the Newton focused on intuitive input methods that competed with the constrained Graffiti input method used by Palm Pilots. The Newton was extensible with accessories such as modems and keyboards that turned the device into a full-fledged computer. There is an active Newton user community on the web even today, and the devices have even been hacked for Wi-Fi connectivity. You may have been impacted by the Newton handwriting recognition technology, as the team behind it went on to develop Evernote.
The E-125 was one of the first gadgets in Microsoft's Pocket PC product category, and it became a wildly popular PDA. The Casio was built like a tank and had features not found on any other product of its type at the time. The Casio E-125 would fit in a shirt pocket yet could handle a surprising spectrum of business tasks due to the rich support of the Microsoft Office platform.
Sony pushed the envelope with the first full Windows XP computer with the 5-inch screen, making the first truly handheld computer. The resistive touchscreen was the first on any Windows computer, and the inclusion of a dock and portable keyboard could turn the handheld into a laptop replacement in just a few seconds. My coverage of the U-71 detailed installing the Windows XP Tablet Edition on it, producing the first handheld Tablet PC. This coverage caught the eye of none other than Bill Gates, who made the then conceptual UMPC a mandate to the Microsoft team to get it to market, according to those in a position to know.
Simply popping the Sony U-70 in the dock added a full set of connections, including the ability to connect an external monitor and keyboard and mouse. This created a full Windows computing system that also had a responsive touchscreen for control. The original models had to be imported from Japan at an insane price, but Sony released the U-750 in the U. S. The high cost never generated significant sales for Sony, and the line was eventually dropped.
Toshiba produced the first handheld device with a VGA screen, setting the stage for the PDAs and smartphones down the road. The e805 was light yet the most powerful mobile device of the time. It cemented the dominance of Windows Mobile in the handheld segment.
Sony was the company pushing the envelope regularly in the early days of mobile devices, and the line of Picturebook laptops was popular. The 8.9-inch screen made the Picturebook the smallest, most portable laptop to this day, and at less than an inch thick. The hardware components in the Picturebook made for a laptop that could compete with anything of the time. I used a Picturebook for a long time, and my oldest daughter asked to take it to college with her. It served her well as her computer at school, due to the included replicator bar that Sony included with it. She kept this replicator in her dorm room, and plugged the highly portable Picturebook into it to turn it into a full desktop computer when needed. She still has the Picturebook today, a testament to the build quality Sony was famous for back in the day.
The Tablet PC never appealed to the mainstream, but the innovative hybrid design of the HP tc1100 served me well in my mobile work. The ability to pop the 10-inch screen off the keyboard turned the tc1100 into the thinnest, lightest full Windows computer of all time. The active digitizer made the tc1100 into the perfect note taking machine, while the ability to snap it onto the keyboard to form a full laptop computer made it highly versatile.
The EVO 4G is the only modern day gadget on this list, due to the impact it has made on my life. The first smartphone with 4G (WiMAX) connectivity, the EVO 4G with the large 4.3-inch screen is still a real workhorse of a handheld device. The EVO was one of the first with the big screen, and the high-speed connectivity was groundbreaking, and has led to a number of like configured phones.