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Chapter 1: Welcome to VisorHow to...
- Distinguish between Visors and other Palm devices
- Choose one of the three Visor models
- Use Palm OS software on a Visor
- Buy a Visor
Hawkins knew he'd have a tough time selling the concept, so he decided to convince himself before trying to convince investors. His device would be roughly the size of a deck of cards-much smaller and lighter than the Newton-and would therefore fit in a shirt pocket. But would it be practical even at that size? Would it be comfortable to carry around? Hawkins decided to find out. Before a single piece of plastic was molded, before a single circuit board was designed, the Palm Computing Pilot existed solely as a block of wood.
In his garage, Hawkins sawed a length of 2-by-4 to the size he'd envisioned for his handheld device, put it in his shirt pocket, and left it there-for several months. Although he quickly came to realize that such a form factor made perfect sense, doors slammed whenever he showed the "product" to potential investors. "The handheld market is dead," was the mantra at the time.
Fortunately, modem-maker U.S. Robotics didn't think so. The company liked the idea of the Pilot so much, it bought Palm Computing outright. In March 1996, thecompany unveiled the Pilot 1000, and the rest is history. Flash-forward four years. The Pilot-which would eventually be renamed PalmPilot and then just Palm-had become the fastest-growing computer platform in history, reaching the million-sold mark faster than the IBM PC or Apple Macintosh. In the interim, U.S. Robotics had been assimilated into networking giant 3Com, and Palm Computing along with it. The Palm line had grown to include a variety of models, and companies like IBM, Qualcomm, and Symbol Technologies had adopted the Palm operating system for their own handheld devices.
Hawkins himself departed Palm Computing in 1998-not to take up golf, not to delve into a different kind of work, but to reinvent the wheel he'd already invented. In September 1999, his new company, Handspring, introduced the Visor-a licensed Palm clone (see Figure 1-1) that many say is superior to the devices that preceded it.
The Visor made quite a debut. Handspring was so swamped with orders during the first four months, the best it could manage was a four to six week turnaround. Positive press, combined with lower-than-Palm prices, created a kind of buying frenzy that lasted well past the 1999 holiday season. In short, the Visor was an overnight success-much like the Pilot that started it all.
What Makes the Visor So Unique?
Why all the fuss? What makes a Visor-and, for that matter, any device that runs the Palm operating system-so special? To answer this question, we must first look at what a Visor actually is. Put simply, it's a pocket-size electronic organizer that enables you to manage addresses, appointments, expenses, tasks, and memos. If you've ever used a Franklin Planner or any similar kind of paper-bound organizer, you get the idea.
However, because a Visor is electronic, no paper and ink are involved. Instead, you write directly on the device's screen, using a small plastic stylus that takes the place of a pen. A key advantage here, of course, is that you're able to store all your important personal and business information on a device that's much smaller and lighter than a paper planner.
What's more, you can easily share that information with your Windows-based or Macintosh computer. Visors are not self-contained: they can synchronize with a desktop computer and keep information on both sides up-to-date. This is an important advantage because it effectively turns your Visor into an extension of the computer you use every day. Changes and additions made to your desktop data are reflected in the Visor and vice versa (see Figure 1-2).
Saying that a Visor is an extension of your computer is only a half-truth: in reality, the Visor is a computer in its own right. It is capable of running sophisticated software written by third-party developers, and those developers number in the tens of thousands. There are thousands of programs available that extend your Visor's capabilities, from spreadsheet managers and expense trackers to electronic-book readers and Web browsers. Got five minutes to kill? You can play a quick game of Asteroids. Need to check your e-mail while traveling? Snap on a modem and dial your Internet service provider (ISP). Simplicity is a major key to the Palm platform's success-and, therefore, the Visor's as well. The devices are amazingly easy to use, requiring no more than a few taps of the stylus to access your data and a little memorization to master the handwriting-recognition software. Most users, even those who have little or no computer experience (like Dave), find themselves tapping and writing productively within 20 minutes of opening the box.
About Springboard Technology
To look at a Visor is to see a device that closely resembles a Palm III. While the two are indeed very similar, the Visor has one significant advantage: its Springboard expansion slot. This rear-facing slot, which makes the Visor look not unlike a Nintendo Game Boy, accommodates special hardware modules that expand the device's capabilities. In fact, the modules work much like Game Boy cartridges: you simply plug one in and start using it...