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Cracking Open the 3Com's Original Palm Pilot
Before the iPhone and before BlackBerry, there was the Palm Pilot. Known as the Atari 2600 of PDAs, the Palm Pilot was considered revolutionary in its heyday, as business execs trashed their Franklin-Covey day planners and replaced them with this new status symbol of the dot-com boom of the late 90s.
Alas, technology moves quickly and the Palm Pilot was left in the dust after a handful of years in the spotlight. We’ve rescued this model just so we can crack him open and see what this time capsule of circuitry looks like on the inside.
Control buttons and writing area
This area on the bottom of the screen is where you write notes in the Palm Pilot’s various calendar and appointment book apps. It has several onscreen buttons in addition to the physical buttons at the bottom of the unit.
Left-side scroll wheel
The left side of the Palm Pilot features a scroll wheel for scrolling onscreen content.
Right-side Stylus Holster
While the right side of the Palm Pilot features a holster for the stylus that you use to input your notes and other data, considering that 3Com had a side business selling extra styluses to hapless Palm Pilot owners, it’s probably safe to say that this holster wasn’t very effective.
Palm Pilot & iPod front
Just for fun, I thought that I would compare the 10-year-old Palm Pilot to my 5th Generation Video iPod. The iPod is about 2/3 the width and height of the Palm Pilot, and much lighter too.
Palm Pilot & iPod Side
However, the iPod has only about 1/2 the depth of the Palm Pilot.
One Last Look…
Let’s take a long last look at that green monochrome screen, because it’s time to crack this bad boy open.
Top RAM hatch
Always a good idea to remove compartment hatches before you start unscrewing and prying these delicate electronics. This hatch covered a RAM chip, which would allow even casual users an easy opportunity to upgrade the memory for their Palm Pilot.
I guess this was before Lithium Ion batteries. Removing the battery hatch reveals two slots for AAA batteries. A warning label on the inside of the door reads “WARNING: Device may lose data if batteries are removed for more than a minute.” Well, I think we crossed that line a while ago.
At the bottom back of the Pal Pilot case, I can see two small Philips-head screws on each side of the data port.
That was easy.
Removing the two screws at the bottom of the Palm Pilot, along with a third screw in the center of the back, allows the casing to easily come apart.
The physical buttons
Like most buttons on these kinds of devices, these buttons are part of a single silicone-like pad that lies on top of contacts on the circuit board beneath.
The Front Screen
The Front interactive screen swings open easily, letting a ribbon act as a hinge.
The back circuit board
The circuit board on the back of the unit is wired to a solenoid-like device on the back plastic casing.
Removing the RAM chip
The RAM chip pops out of it’s housing very easily. One can only imagine the countless IT personnel who had to do this simple task for many execs who just couldn’t be bothered.
The Scroll wheel exposed
The scroll wheel is still tightly in place and feels secure, even after all these years of non-use.
Palm Pilot Disassembled
Here’s the Palm Pilot, spread eagle.
…and back together again!
It wasn’t much trouble to get the Palm Pilot back into shape. I’m sure every techie gets nostalgic for their old computers and electronics, but there’s usually a good reason that we all eventually upgrade our gear, right?
That reminds me — gotta ask my wife for an iPhone for my birthday.