Are PalmPilots able to stand up to the extreme temperatures Dave and I could face at the top of Imja Tse? That’s what I needed to know, preferably before I took it up to face a possible -10 degrees F. Maybe what we learn from this almostEverest expedition can help you be more prepared, too. For example, suppose you have to fix a flat tire on your way to an IT job interview…in the middle of a blizzard. You need to look up the phone number so you can let the interviewer know you’ll be late, but will your PalmPilot work in the extreme cold?

After conducting careful scientific research, I have the answer for you: probably not.

Outdoor newsgroup posters double as IT pros
I hadn’t found any “outdoor” specs for PalmPilots, so I turned to the alt.rec.outdoors newsgroup for advice. One avid skier replied to let me know he had tried using his handheld on the slopes and discovered the screen wouldn’t work in the cold (in addition, trying to read the screen while skiing almost cost him dearly). An engineer/outdoorsman confirmed that the crystals in the display froze at 32 degrees F (0 degrees C).

Don’t try this at home
It sounded true, but that’s hearsay. I wanted to verify the facts, so I performed an experiment. I placed my PalmPilot Professional in the freezer next to the frozen broccoli stir-fry, letting it chill for about an hour.

Indeed, the results showed that the screen was completely blank—at least until it thawed. After a few moments at room temperature, it returned to normal operation. Note that batteries don’t like the cold either, so you’re also taking a chance with your data. Furthermore, I must report that the freezing and thawing puts your machine at risk of condensation, as a bubble of moisture formed on the surface of mine after the experiment, and it lasted a few weeks.

After conducting the PalmPilot freezer environmental stress test, I have come to the following conclusion: Don’t expose your Pilot handheld device to below-freezing temperatures for long periods.

Actually, I have some practical advice for you—something that you campers, mountaineers, and photographers already know. Wear your Pilot under your arm. Experienced winter campers use this trick to keep all kinds of gear from freezing—batteries, cameras, and liquid medication (such as that all-important, high-altitude medication, schnapps).

So if you’re ever caught traveling on the road in below-freezing temperatures, place your Pilot in your armpit to keep it safe. And just think of the reaction your interviewers will give you when you arrive, brush the snow off your coat, and whip your Pilot out from your under your arm.
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Mike Jackman is an editor in chief of TechProGuild, an editor of PC Troubleshooter and Windows Support Professional, and also works as a freelance Web designer and consultant. Together with his co-editor in chief David Bard, he is traveling to Nepal to report on high-altitude technology and to climb 20,285-foot Imja Tse. In his spare time (when he can find some), Mike’s an avid devourer and writer of science fiction, parent to two perpetually adolescent cats, and a hiking enthusiast.