In the Beginning: The Pilot 1000/5000
In March 1996, less than three years after Apple's first [[xref:http://www.pcworld.com/news/article/0,aid,123950,pg,4,00.asp#item28|Newton MessagePad|Apple Newton MessagePad (1994)]] attracted much media interest but little commercial success, Palm Computing (by then a division of U.S. Robotics) brought to market a pair of personal digital assistants that offered some of the Newton's most interesting features (including the Graffiti handwriting-recognition system) without its hefty US$700 price tag--or its plain old heft.
PC World named the $299 Pilot 1000 (shown above with 128KB of memory) number four on our list of "[[xref:http://www.pcworld.com/article/123950-2/the_50_greatest_gadgets_of_the_past_50_years.html|The 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years|The 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years]]." The Pilot 5000, with 512KB of memory, cost $369. Though the two models' gray cases looked stubby and square by today's standards, either could fit in a shirt pocket.
Both PDAs had 160-by-160-pixel grayish green screens capable of displaying four shades of gray. They lacked infrared or a backlight, but using a supplied cradle they could hot-sync calendar information, contacts, and memo pad data with desktop software for Windows (3.1 or 95) and Mac (OS 7 or later). These early Palms could run for a week or more on two AAA batteries. Notice that the Palm brand name is nowhere to be found on the front of the device.
Photo: Courtesy of Palm