Chapter 3. Typing Without a Keyboard

The PalmPilot’s creators had their first design meetings at a particularly useful point in history—after the debut of the Apple Newton. The Newton was a much larger, much heavier, much more expensive machine, but it, too, lacked a built-in keyboard. To input text, you were supposed to write on its glass screen, just as with the PalmPilot. The Newton was designed to recognize your handwriting and convert it into neatly typed, editable text.

Unfortunately, the original Newton’s fledgling handwriting-recognition skills wound up serving as Doonesbury comic-strip fodder. (Man writes: “Does this work?” Newton transcribes his scrawl: “Egg freckles?”) There are simply too many different writing styles for one handheld computer to understand.

That’s why Palm’s designers decided not to train their handheld to understand you; instead, they’d train you to understand it.

Graffiti: The Sure-Fire Alphabet

To pull this off, they designed a special alphabet called Graffiti. If you learn to write using the letter shapes the PalmPilot expects, it responds with perfect accuracy. Some people grumble at first—isn’t technology supposed to serve us?—but after a day or so of practice, the Graffiti alphabet becomes second nature for most people.

The Graffiti system isn’t limited to the PalmPilot, by the way; you can also buy it as an add-on for other handheld devices, such as the MagicCap and the Motorola Envoy—even the Apple Newton.

The Logic of Graffiti

If you examine ...

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