Anybody CURRENTLY using a Palm PDA?

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Well-known member
Sep 30, 2020
Hi all. Got what's probably going to sound like a strange question. Is anybody CURRENTLY using a Palm PDA or a Handspring Visor? A decade ago, I was using an LG flip phone as my phone. It worked great and actually had a physical keyboard. Unfortunately, Verizon has been phasing out the 3G phones. I had to upgrade to keep using a cell phone and I got a 4G Android smart phone. However, I've kept carrying the LG phone and just using the calendar since I had all my family birthdays and schedule items in there. I can no longer use the LG phone's calendar because the towers have been shut down and there's no way to set the clock. The clock is solely automatic. My smart phone has no data plan intentionally and I almost never connect it to the internet. For a long time, I didn't know how to create alarms with calendar items on the Android phone. I realize that can be done. And I'm fine with calendar items being only on the phone. However, I'm actually considering getting an old Palm E2 or TX or maybe even a Handspring Visor just for the calendar function and a few of the other built in apps. I don't care too much about games but it might be nice to be able to hotsync. I run a Windows 7 computer. But, even if I can only use the built in apps, that has some usefulness to me. This may or may not be illogical, but there's something cool about the retro tech and being able to instantly access the apps. I have an old Palm Tungsten T and it works but the battery is dead. I think it may be actually easier to enter calendar items there than on my smart phone. The Visor actually takes AA batteries. Interested to hear your thoughts. Thanks in advance.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
Hi all. Thought I'd add a bit of information. I've been having some success refurbishing the battery of the Palm Tungsten T just by draining it as low as possible until the device shuts down (with a catch) then recharging it fully. You can do this with more modern LiPo batteries and devices too.

Batteries are weird and have weird aging processes. Unfortunately, even though I was keeping the Tungsten T on the charger for years, the battery got to a point where it would only run less than a minute. Also unfortunately, this device had volatile memory, and lost all my contacts from the past. In any case, the device would shut off after a minute of use. Not very practical. But, I could almost immediately press the button and turn it back on and get maybe another 30 seconds out of it and it would shut off again. Unlike a smart phone, the Palm doesn't have to "boot" and spend 3 minutes doing it. When you push the button, the screen is instantly on. I was able to do this many times. The battery's voltage rises after the load is taken off, so it's not really drained all the way. Rinse and repeat. Once it gets to be more than a minute before I can get the unit to turn back on, I fully charge it again. Then, do it all over again. Now whether this is worth the trouble is up to each person. I don't want to spend lots of $$ on PDA tech at this time. I have now gotten this 20 year old battery to run for 30 minutes continuously. Still not very practical, but improving. If I can get it up to 1-2 hours, then it might be starting to be a practical device again. This device has an off timer which I cannot disable. So, I have to hit a button every 3 minutes if I want it to stay on. That's definitely a bother. I just keep it near my while I'm doing something else.

You can do this same type of testing with lead acid batteries too. I'm going to start a separate thread on that so as not to hijack this one:

Here's a blast from the past from @Steve that I found while searching for info. It's a 10 year old document that I found on showing a detailed analysis of battery usage in Palm PDA's.

He found that reducing the backlight to minimum usable brightness and reducing the CPU to the minimum usable clock speed (per application with a special utility) could increase the battery life up to 4 times. (That's battery life under continuous use, like reading a books or using media.) That's pretty wild.

I'll bet you could do that on a smartphone as well although I haven't tried it. While I don't yet know if I'm going to be using a PDA for my purpose, I like reading this old stuff as I was a heavy Palm user back in the day.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
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I used Palm Pilots almost as soon as they came out, and the last one was a T4. I don't use them any more, but there was much to like about them. One app I liked was iSilo which would effectively download a website for offline viewing. I still have the desktop software on a windows XP machine I don't use any more along with apps buried in old 'archives'. I haven't charged or tries turning on any of them for some time, but I assume the batteries are shot by now. I liked that they ran offline, and the later T4s had wifi when needed. I have a collection of Palms, but they are scattered around. Unlike Apple, at least some of them had slots for expansion cards.
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I have some more information to add. I've been researching and agonizing to a point trying to decide whether to buy a new old stock Palm device. From a geeky retro nostalgic point of view they are really cool. I've found out that the Palm ecosystem is very much alive with new old stock and used hardware. I'm not entirely sure about the aftermarket software scene at this time. I know you can get retro games. It's apparent there are still lots of Palm fans. But, still, I have to think twice when I'm spending money especially above $ 50 on old tech. Here is the description of the software included with the Palm E2, which is a popular unit. Following each item is my personal thoughts about whether I need such a thing.

Calendar - Manage your schedule from single entries, like lunch with a friend, to repeating
and extended events, like weekly meetings and holidays. Even color-code your
schedule by category.
  • Yes, I want a calendar with alarms. My Android phone has one I could use but not perhaps as easily as the Palm. My old Palm Tungsten T has a calendar, if I can get the battery working.
Contacts - Store names and addresses, phone numbers, email and website addresses—
even add a birthday alarm or a contact’s photo.
  • My phone pretty much has this nailed for phone numbers and my email client has it nailed for emails.
Media - View and organize photos and videos.
  • My phone does very well with photos and has a camera. I could watch videos on the phone or tablet with VLC although I rarely do. The Palm expansion slot is more readily available than the ones on the phone or tablet but I could use a USB card reader to get data into the phone or tablet. The Palm only takes a 1 GB memory card, so I'd have to jump through some hoops to move movies on and off the card and / or use handbrake to transcode to a much smaller 320 x 320 screen (I think). It's probably not worth the trouble for me to use either the Palm, tablet, or phone for this.
RealPlayer ® Carry music on expansion cards (sold separately), create playlists, and listen to
music on your handheld. This application has a companion desktop application
that you can install from the CD. (Windows only.) Both Mac and Windows users
can use RealPlayer on the handheld.
  • Same problems as above getting content on and off devices. I can play mp3 files with VLC. For conventional music, I can stream on the tablet from YouTube. For audio books, I have Audible on the tablet. Those end up taking lots of room, way more than 1 GB.
SMS Send and receive short text (SMS) messages using the built-in Bluetooth wireless
technology on your handheld.
  • This doesn't hold a candle to a cell phone.
Web Browse your favorite sites on the web using the built-in Bluetooth technology on
your handheld.
  • Not even sure how that works. No 20 year old browser is going to be very useful at this point.
Tasks Stay on top of your to-do list. Enter things you need to do, prioritize them, set
alarms, and then monitor your deadlines.
  • I don't currently use an app like this, but I could add one to the tablet.
Memos Capture information such as meeting notes, lists of books to read, movies to see,
recipes, and anything else you need to write down.
  • I have a text notepad app on the tablet.
Note Pad Write on the screen in your own handwriting or draw a quick sketch.
  • I could add a sketching app to the tablet.
Calculator Solve basic math calculations such as splitting restaurant bills and figuring tips.
  • Built into phone and tablet.
Expense Track business or travel expenses and print expense reports after you
synchronize with your computer.
  • Could be added to the tablet.
World Clock Set the time in your home city and two other locations, and set an alarm to wake
you up.
  • Built into phone and tablet.
So, even though I might like a new old stock Palm from a geeky point of view, It's hard to justify spending much on one. Each person will have a different decision matrix.

My best bet might be to try to get more juice out of the old battery on my old Palm Tungsten T. If I can get continuous run time over 1 hour, it might be practical for limited usage. Using a calendar only requires a few short usage times per day. I could also replace the battery for about $ 25. Apparently, the batteries on these old units are often very degraded. I might have to get a case for it and maybe a memory card.

If one is interested in getting back into the Palm scene for whatever reason, the following site has over 400 products related to Palm and some GPS's. The also do professional repairs and refurbishment. It's interesting to look at the inventory just to know what's out there. It's also possible to use Windows 7, 8, and 10 to hotsync in many cases. The lack of wifi and the lack of larger memory storage is a big limitation.

Here's the website I mentioned. I know nothing about them other than what's on the site. But, they certainly seem legit.

There are also lots of videos on YouTube about Palm devices. Hope you find this information helpful.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
I used the Palms a lot, including some convergent Palm/phone devices, including the Treos, and finally the Palm Pre (which wasn't really a Palm, though it pretended to be). When the early Samsung Galaxy Android phones came out, I made the jump, and the local Best Buy had a box they kept under the counter that copied all the data from my Pre to my Samsung, and I never looked back. I still have some old Pilots, Treos, and the Pre. Guess I couldn't bear to just trash them. But, being a ham radio operator, I tend to keep a lot of electronic 'junque'.
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Palm used IIRC NiCd packs, so the cells are likely still available as new, though it will be NimH cells, as companies like SAFT and Varta still make these cells new for customers who use them. Prismatic rectangular cells, so you probably can get the packs as well, and get a good lease on life with the existing charger with no issues, though just do not leave charging more than 6 hours, as the chemistries are slightly different regarding end of charge detection, so the new cells do not like continuous charge.
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@SeanBZA OOH. You blew my mind, in a good way, mentioning NiCd. I have bad memories and a significant grudge against NiCd batteries that I used to have in cordless phones and such that always developed charging problems. Now NiMH, on the other hand, is much better. I've retrofitted all my AA and AAA batteries in the house to NiMH from Maha Energy. I'm probably recharging one set per week for something these days, but at least I'm not paying for the disposables any more. I did a little checking and it looks like the battery in my Tungsten T is LiPo though. So, it's more compatible with modern batteries. I may actually end up replacing the battery. The Handspring Visor and some of the older Palm devices used AA batteries.

I have a little additional info to share. But, before I do that, I'm going to get a little philosophical. At some points during the messing with this 20 year old PDA, and writing these messages, I asked myself why do I care? I could plausibly use my cell phone for the calendar. And there is a limit to the time and money I'll put in. I asked myself do you all care? Nobody here has admitted to still using a Palm device. Still, the thread has been viewed 132 times, so there must be some interest. The computer nostalgia thread I posted a while back got some traction. I've never considered myself extremely nostalgic. I like to look forward, not back. My wife likes to collect and fix up old antiques. I tell her if it doesn't have a power cord or a battery, it's not for me with a few exceptions. Still, there's just something cool about getting a 20 year old handheld computer to work and do something useful. When these came out, handheld computers were just being invented. (I know there were some older ones.) Every 5 year old kid around wasn't walking around with one. It was a unique time. So, for now, I'm continuing my project.

I discovered something interesting about the battery on this thing. I think there may be a problem with the battery gauge. I even think I remember something about that but cannot dredge up the memory from 20 years ago. I can charge it then turn it on and literally watch the battery gauge draining. Not a great sign. Let's say it gets to 1/2. I can turn the screen off and immediately turn it back on. The battery gauge jumps to 3/4 as an example. There's no way this is literally happening in the battery. I can keep doing this over and over. I've gotten it up to a cumulative hour of run time, from a minute when I started. Flipping it off and on isn't a practical way to use it. But, I wonder if there is a software bug and if it will read a new battery improperly also. Anybody remember anything like that for the Palm devices?

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
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Early ham radio handhelds had NiCd battery packs, usually with 6 or more AA-size cells in series. The cells were not usually terribly-well matched, so if you ran the pack down severely, one or more cells would 'reverse' when they ran down faster than others in the string, and often end up shorted. So, then you have a series string with only 5 out of the 6 original cells working, but the charger doesn't know any better and so you end up overcharging the remaining cells with excess voltage, so they vent and the whole pack is done.

I used to buy single AA NiCd cells and rebuild packs, replacing the bad/weak cells, because buying a replacement pack was sometimes half the price of the radio. When you get a pack with one or more bad cells, they appear to charge OK, but have no discharge life, as the pack terminal voltage falls quickly during discharge.

People used to accuse NiCd's of having 'memory' but really any so-called memory effects were manifestations of the kinds of series-string failures I've described above. Even the much-vaunted 'Battery University" web site promulgated the fallacy of NiCd "memory" effects. I have GE research papers and books that never found any evidence of it in extensive testing and research. NiCd's (carefully matched) were successfully used in long-term space applications with great success.

There's a ham satellite, Oscar 7, that has been operating since the 1960's that uses NiCd's.
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You probably are best getting a new smaller Lipo with a BMS board, that you can replace the existing one, as a old dying battery will do that exact thing, or having a rapid drop in voltage, which will be interpeted as a discharge, as the old charge circuits generally used battery voltage to drive the gauge. If you are opening check the charge and discharge current, though you will not easily be able to measure it unless you use a DC clamp meter, with all the issues they have regarding drift and orientation, and in line current measure comes with it's own foibles. Simplest is to replace the battery, and see how a new cell works with it.

Myself never used Palm, first phone was a new to me Motorola Star Tac, and from there I went to well used Nokia phones for a long time, till I got smartphones, and sort of wandered into the Google and Samsung ecosystem. Batteries were always the thing that killed my phones, either you no longer were able to get them, or the battery management finally died.Palm, and that nice intuitive display, were never really available by me, the high price of data kept them from being more than a niche device, along with the high price of them.
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Hi all. I have a minor update to my project. I tested my Android phone and Google calendar is perfectly capable of managing my birthdays and events. However, I don't wish to use it. There is one main reason, which some will identify with and some will not. Simply put, I don't trust Google. I consider them the enemy considering their role in censorship over the the last 3 years. Please don't start a cat fight over that comment. You're entitled to a different opinion. But, that's mine. I don't want my data anywhere near their servers. And no, I don't use Google docs, GMail, login to Google unless I have to. None of it. But, my Android phone is by definition attached to them.

So, while I cannot believe I'm saying this, I plan to use a 20 year old computer to manage my calendar. Ironically, I think this is even older than the LG flip phone I was using. If I can get it to hotsync to Windows 7, I may add other things, media, puzzles, games, who knows. I'm rarely ever standing or sitting around long enough to need such things, and I do have Audible ebooks on my tablet. We'll see. Still testing the battery on my Palm Tungsten T that I have to see if I can use it. It's really hard to test considering the screen times out every 3 minutes and I cannot prevent it. I think I'm getting about an hour of run time. That's on the border line between usable and not usable. I may end up getting a new old stock Tungsten E2 from EBay and a 1 GB (blast from the past) memory card and a belt case from PalmDr. Whether I use this particular Palm or not, I guess I am a little nostalgic about it. Maybe I'll hang it up in a shadow box or something. :)

You geeks should appreciate this imagery. My belt is getting full, with smart phone, soon to be Palm PDA, multi tool, and flashlight. I feel like a cop or something.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
Well both Thunderbird and Evolution will both use MS exchange, and also both do have server side implementations as back end as well, so you can definitely have your own server for them. Both do notifications and calendar as well quite well.
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@SeanBZA Those are good points. I don't need anything that complex. I just need a little calendar app on my belt. I just use it for birthdays, holidays, and occasional events or appointments. The LG flip phone did it just fine but is now defunct. That's why I'm pursuing the Palm stuff, as well as the plain geek factor. 😃 I think I've gotten my Palm Tungsten T up to 1 hr 20 minutes of run time, up from just one minute, by continually draining it as low as possible and charging it with power on. I'm on the 6th charge / drain cycle. It might actually become usable.

During my research, the topic of using old Palm software has come up. This no longer marketed or supported software is called abandonware. I've done a little research on the legalities, problems, and ethics of using abandonware. This would also apply to running old retro games, etc. I've put info on that in this thread:

I've discovered there's still a thriving Palm ecosystem and community. Still lots of interest 20 years later.

PalmDR appears to be a good source for parts and repairs.

PalmDB appears to be a good place to get Palm abandonware software, should one wish.

Here are instructions for loading Palm drivers on Win 7,8,10.

And, you can run emulations of Palm programs in your web browser at a project over on Internet Archive.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
If memory serves I had the battery guage issue. Best I can recall the fix was to unplug the battery for a while and reconnect. I believe the Palms had non-volatile storage from the start since the early ones used standard replaceable batteries. Some years back I did buy a replacement lithium battery for a failing one, but I never installed it and am not sure where it is.

For me, the memo was probably the most useful feature I used for everything from keeping daily logs for work to personal stuff. The categories made it pretty easy to keep things organized. I guess now days phones have done a good job of replacing the Palms, but I like the fact the Palm was 'offline' unless wifi was turned on. With phones you never know what info is leaking out to the universe.
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non-volatile storage
battery guage issue
@Ralph Thanks for the tips. The early Palms including mine (Tungsten T) did have volatile storage. This means the data goes away if the battery is dead or missing too long. Unfortunately, this happened to mine some time in the last 15-20 years even though the device was on a charging cradle. We have had a few power outages longer than 6 hours. I lost a hundred or more contacts. I've thought about trying to boot up my old Vista laptop again to search for them but don't know if it's worth it. I think the newer Palms just before production ended did have non volatile memory. The old ones may have had a capacitor or something to allow for short times without the battery. By totally draining and charging the battery 8 times, I've managed to get 1.5 hr of continuous run time out of this 20 year old battery. That's probably as good as it's going to get. But, I probably don't want to disconnect it at this point. I too seem to remember some sort of battery gauge issue but can't quite pin it down.

Palm was 'offline'
Exactly. What seems like a curse could be a blessing.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
For those that simply cannot abide not having access and backups for the palm devices, if you are familiar with Linux, many of the open/free/non-commercial Linuxen out there come with pilot-link tools. This is a suite of tools, including a fair copy of the windows based GUI, that allows a RS-232 or USB connectable palmos device to sync to a Linux desktop. Development of the software appears to have been abandoned some 7 years ago. The project is still on github <> and many Debian based Linux distros still offer it.

Using these tools, I was able to back up my password database which was kept in a 3rd party product called Sysadmins Tool for Recalling Important Passwords (STRIP). I could then, using the STRIP developers' conversion kit, decrypt the database and import it to their new, android/iOS/MacOS/Winders password manager called codebase. This was not a process for the faint-of-heart, but I have an encrypted backup of all my old passwords and a path forward through codebase to manage the new ones.

The desktop app for Linux isn't half bad. It does look a bit dated and syncs to NOTHING except a palmos device. I used it on several Sony Clies that I've nursed over the last twenty or so years.
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Didn't know such a thing existed. I don't think I would start carrying a Palm around again although I really liked them. I carry enough gadgets around now :) I haven't looked yet, but I wonder if anyone has found a way to modify an old cell phone to disable all radio- something like cutting power to the cell chip so radio is completely disabled. Cell phones have a lot of abilities now days and using one 'air gaped' might make for a good PDA. Also, with no radio I would think the battery life would be extended.
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Simple enough, do not insert a SIM, and put it into airplane mode, which still allows you to use wireless and bluetooth, but the phone itself will not attempt to connect to any cellular towers at all. If you turn wireless off it will basically be the same power draw as turned off, providing all apps are sleeping, which is what the phone does when powered off. I am using an old phone this way, to run an OBD bluetooth module, but with wireless turned off along with being in airplane mode. Done to use the apps that are free, but to avoid the ad support grabbing data, and in case any of them are malicious. As the phone was reset to factory before, and again once while, because the cheap BT module stopped working, so went and got another $5 module as a simple troubleshoot of pave and nuke, then try again, did not work. Phone ran for 2 weeks like that, though I will have to remember to turn the BT off now after using it, as that does use a lot of standby power.
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The reason I started this thread was because I was using an old LG flip phone in airplane mode and not tied to an account for my calendar. Unfortunately, the only way to set the clock is to let it connect to a 3G cell tower. But they're all shut down. For other tasks, or if the old phone allows manual clock setting, they can be a good option.

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
Never thought of pulling the SIM card. If the battery in my old phone still works I'll give that a try.
I just turned on wireless, and let it look for updates, which also synced the time as well.