The Evolution of the PDA 1975-1995

Instinct told me to start with the market of the 1970s – the time when electronics were getting small enough and cheap enough to allow for the definition to become true. Therefore the 1970s were also a time when the very concept of a PDA was something ordinary people could grasp. In some ways this was because of real-life inventions, such as Bowmar’s handheld calculator, the handheld tape player (Sony Walkman), and handheld games like Mattel Auto Race. It’s also thanks to literature and popular culture concepts, like Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and gadgets such as the communicator and tricorder from Star Trek; see more examples below. The fact is, by the mid-to-late 1970s, the PDA was inevitable and just waiting to be invented. —Evan KoblentzThe Evolution of the PDA 1975-1995

Link via Slashdot.

Star Trek featured the “microtape,” which looked pretty much like a 3.5 inch floppy disk and served basically the same function, except the writers treated each “tape” as if it held only one file (which could be an audio recording, a video recording or a single slide).

There was a “tape viewer” which was a device into which the tape could be inserted, but it was rarely seen on the show, and only geeks like me know about it.

But certainly worth a mention are the nameless clipboards that yeomen carried about (for Kirk to glance at and sign with that pale blue triangle-shaped pen).

2001: A Space Odyssey features a flat-screen video player, but it’s not clear that the device was supposed to have any other functions (though it’s been years since I’ve read the novel).

2 thoughts on “The Evolution of the PDA 1975-1995

  1. My wife and I have discussed getting digital phones, but we have no pressing need. When I first saw a Palm Pilot, I knew it was the gadget that I was waiting for. I have yet to see a phone that creates the same reaction in me. Maybe when the kids are old enough to be on their own, I’ll want to be able to get in touch with them for safety and convenience…

    Good luck in your PDA quest.

  2. Of course, the PDA originated when the first caveman substituted a handy palm-sized rock for the cave he was chiseling his runes and to-do lists into. A ‘petroglyph’ data assistant, if you will.

    GREAT geeky posting… and so timely for me, personally. I’ve been obsessing about PDAs lately, as I somehow killed my Clie (getting an alarm and fatal crash upon boot, every time I reset it) and I’m looking to upgrade for my birthday. I’m looking into getting a Japanese Clie, since they’re no longer manufactured in the US — everything Palm post-Tungsten E looks like a step backwards to me and it seems like a person might as well get a tablet PC instead of a datafied cellphone.

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