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Piloting Palm

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Piloting Palm

The Inside Story of Palm, Handspring and the Birth of the Billion-Dollar Hand-Held Industry


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

The history of the HotSynch.

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Editorial Rating



  • Innovative


If you like your corporate biographies short on technological details and long on struggles for survival and success, Piloting Palm is the book for you. Andrea Butter, Palm’s marketing director in the early days, provides backstage access to Palm’s evolutionary drama, complete with political infighting, searches for cash and the simple quest for survival. The story is told largely from the point of view of Jeff Hawkins, whom Butter and co-author David Pogue dub the father of handheld computing. The involvement of such dynamic firms as Casio, Tandy, GeoWorks, America Online, Intuit and various venture capitalists makes the story all the more interesting. recommends this book for its straightforward - although not all too objective - account of the creation of a modern technological phenomenon.


Palm: The Beginning

The beginnings of Palm Pilot and the handheld industry go back to 1991, when Jeff Hawkins, later called the father of handheld computing, was trying to create a new kind of computer. He lived in Silicon Valley at a time before the dot-com boom, when venture capitalists were still eying new ventures warily. The guess was that nine out of 10 new technology companies would fail.

Hawkins was then 34 and worked as vice president of research GRiD systems, a small computer company on the east side of the San Francisco Bay. He had briefly left his first job with the company to go graduate school at the University of California at Berkeley. While at Berkeley, Hawkins had engaged in brain studies and wrote software to recognize hand-printed characters, based on the theory that the computer could be modeled after the pattern-recognition functions of the brain. He conceived of an approach called pen computing through which a consumer could write with an inkless pen, called a stylus, directly on the computer screen, using handwriting-recognition technology to recognize the characters.

GRiD management agreed to allow Hawkins to pursue his research into ...

About the Authors

Andrea Butter  worked as Palm’s marketing director in the early days of Palm’s development, starting in 1993, when Palm just had 16 employees. Before then she had held various marketing positions with Apple and Claris. David Pogue has written and co-authored numerous computing manuals.

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