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PalmPilot: The Ultimate Guide, Second Edition by David Pogue

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“PalmPilot” in the Name—and the Title

As with any computer, the Palm family is constantly being enhanced. The original 1996 models, the 1000 and 5000, were simply called Pilots. The next generation debuted in 1997 with backlit screens, improved software, email features, and the Palm prefix: the two models were the PalmPilot Personal and the PalmPilot Professional. (More about these model distinctions in Chapter 1.)

But the story didn’t end there. In late 1997, IBM announced that it would begin selling PalmPilots under its own name: the IBM WorkPad . (The WorkPad is identical to the PalmPilot in nearly every way except for the color: it’s black instead of PalmPilot gray.) Symbol then announced its own PalmPilot series—equipped with barcode readers—and TRG and Handspring have since joined the party.

Along the way, the lawyers of the Pilot Pen company got nervous. “We manufacture an inkless stylus for use on PalmPilot computers,” they muttered. “The consumer will get confused!” After a legal tussle in a European court (where name-protection laws are more stringent than in the U.S.), 3Com was forced to drop the word Pilot from subsequent products.

That’s why 3Com’s products are now called the Palm III, Palm V, Palm VII, and so onwithout the name Pilot. Unfortunately, instead of avoiding confusion, this change only adds to it: Microsoft calls its family of Windows CE-based PalmPilot knockoffs—Palm PC or Palm-sized computers!

So what’s a poor book writer to do? What are we supposed to call this computer—and what am I supposed to call the book? I can’t say “the Palm/PalmPilot/WorkPad/Palm III” four times per paragraph. Nor does 3Com’s suggestion work: they propose using “the 3Com connected organizer family” or “PalmPilot Computing ® platform devices” as the noun. No thanks—that’d bore you silly, pad the book out to 800 pages, and require the sacrifice of too many acres of rainforest.

Clearly, Pilot Pen’s lawsuit has left 3Com with an intractable problem: the company no longer has a noun for its product line. “Palm” is an adjective—Palm Computing, Palm Central, and so on; few people say, “I gave my dad a Palm for his birthday.” Because of this problem, most people—including, by the way, Palm Computing’s own employees when they’re not speaking officially—still call their handhelds PalmPilots, even though that name has been officially retired.

For the purposes of sanity and clarity, therefore, I’ll call your palmtop, whatever the model, a PalmPilot, both in the text and the title. When an adjective alone would do, I’ll humor Pilot Pen’s lawyers by using “Palm,” as in “Palm software” or “Palm accessories.” Here’s hoping you’ll know what I mean.

Finally, there’s the matter of trademarks. Palm Computing doesn’t want its trademarks—HotSync, Palm V, Palm VII, and so on—to become generically used terms (like Kleenex or Rolodex). The company earnestly requests that writers about the Palm platform use its trademarks only as adjectives: “when you perform a HotSync operation” is correct, but “when you HotSync” isn’t. Similarly, an author should never write: “You can beam data to any other Palm III, IIIx, V, or VII”; instead, the preferred wording is, “You can beam data to any other Palm III organizer, Palm IIIx organizer, Palm V organizer, or Palm VII organizer.”

As you can see, a book-length document that stuck with Palm’s guidelines would drive you quietly postal. In this book, I’ll refer to individual models incorrectly—“Palm V,” for example—and trust you to add the term “organizer” mentally as you read each occurrence.

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