I was thinking about it yesterday, I’ve had quite a few PDAs over the years.
I’m probably forgetting one or two, but here’s the ones that come to mind:
Casio BOSS organizer
I actually had 2 or 3 of these in succession, but I don’t remember the brand/model of the first ones. The Casio BOSS was handy – it fit easily in my pocket and stored all my phone numbers and schedules. It didn’t have any fancy extras, but it got the job done and had great battery life.
Casio Databank calculator watch
Ah, what nerd hasn’t had a calculator watch at some point? I was really fond of this one, though – although the memory was limited, it was still plenty to store all my phone numbers and schedule. And being a watch, the battery lasts for YEARS.
The first PDA I got with the ability to install apps. The Palm OS was lightweight and efficient, and there were a lot of people releasing free apps for the Palm. Good times.
The Palm III improved on the Palm Pilot’s screen and memory and was just better in general.
The PalmIIIxe was the same as the Palm III, but with more memory and I think a faster processor.
Combined a Palm with a cellphone in a form factor that was not unlike duct-taping the two devices together. Still, I could check my email when out and about, and even though the web browser was hacky and barely better than Lynx, at least it was something.
Dell Axim X5
A capable PDA with a color screen. Bulky in design, but a nice device. Running Windows Mobile, it was more capable than Palm OS, but also not very optimized. There were also less apps than on Palm OS, and unlike Palm, most Windows Mobile apps weren’t free.
I really wanted to like the Zodiac, it used the Palm OS and had a pretty color screen. The controls were perfect for games… however, the underpowered processor, small RAM, and terrible camera meant I ended up returning it after a week or two.
Dell Axim X50
A big improvement over the Axim X5, the X50 had a beautiful full VGA screen (even today, many PDAs are lower-res than that), a fast CPU, and WiFi. The mobile IE was pretty bad, but usable. App selection was ok, although one flaw with Windows Mobile is that if an update to the OS was released, each PDA manufacturer was responsible for working with Microsoft to create a custom build of the release for that PDA. Which meant that you were pretty much stuck with the OS on the PDA, and could only gaze wistfully at updates.
Danger Hiptop 2 (aka Sidekick 2)
Sexy design with a swiveling screen. However, a crappy CPU, crappy camera, poor app selection, and bad web browser had me returning it not long after getting it. It did do AIM real well, but that was about it.
My current PDA. Sleek and powerful, it comes at the expense of battery life. I didn’t get the original iPhone because at that point there were no apps for it. With the 3G iPhone, Apple launched an app store and a flood of applications quickly appeared. Interestingly, the main menu GUI is pretty much the same as the Palm Pilot, from way back when.
One thing I have noticed: over time, CPU and RAM has gotten better, but batteries really haven’t improved much. Which means I have over time gone from a PDA that could run for weeks or even months on a charge, to the iPhone, which can go maybe 2 days.