Essays on Technology and Culture

A Personal History of Personal Computing, Part 3—PDAs, iPods, and iOS

As a kid, I loved reading computer magazines. I was the only 11-year old in the world, I think, with a subscription to PC/Computing. When the magazine stopped talking about hardware and software, and then became a crappy business magazine, I was miserable. Reading these magazines was terrible for a budding geek. It gave me ideas, especially about portable computing.

Somehow, Christmas 1999, I’d convinced my parents to get me a Palm IIIe. I think I sold it as a way to help me do better in school, remember my homework, and so forth. In actuality, it became a pocket Minesweeper device. Still, I was the only kid in my high school with a pocket computer. The best anyone else could do was a TI–83 Graphing Calculator, which I also had. I rarely used the Palm for note-taking, or to-do list making. Eventually, when I went off to college and got a laptop, the Palm stayed at home. I think I sold it off for $20 on eBay.

I went without a pocket computer until 2003, when I got my first iPod, a 40GB 3rd Generation model. The original iPod did serve as a rather basic PDA, albeit one that could only be updated when connected to a computer. It could display contacts, and a calendar, or play Solitaire. Really, though, it was my MP3 player, and I used it heavily for three years, even replacing the battery. [1]

However, the darn thing took one too many falls from my pants to the ground. The hard drive crashed, and the iPod would not boot, just make whining and clicking sounds while getting very, very, warm. I unplugged the battery, shipped it out for parts, and bought a black, 60GB 5th Generation iPod. That one lasted a year, before the headphone jack broke, and I replaced it with the 6th Generation model, with the anodized aluminum face—also in black. Within a month, I’d dropped it on the road, and stepped on it, while running to the bus, cracking the screen and scratching the aluminium. Still worked like a champ.

In 2008, tired of my damaged iPod classic, I took some bonus money from work, and bought my first iOS device, a second generation iPod touch. I’d lusted after the iPhone, like all good Apple fanboys, back in 2007, but was stuck on Verizon for the forseeable future. The iPod touch was my first taste of the future, and I was hooked immediately. Then, in 2009, when my Verizon contracted ended, I got an iPhone 3G. Omnipresent internet! I finally had the one device to rule them all, even if it was on AT&T. The iPhone served me well, despite being damaged in an attempted mugging on Christmas Eve, 2010. [2] While I considered keeping the touch around as a secondary device, even jailbreaking it as an experiment, I decided it was superfluous. Come October of 2011, I replaced the 3G with the 4S, which I have today, and serves me well. Its big brother, a refurbished, 3rd Generation iPad, came into my possession in November, and quickly found a niche.

  1. Back in the day, you actually could replace the battery in an iPod, though it wasn’t easy.  ↩

  2. It wasn’t even a good attempt. Someone tried to snatch it out of my hand on the subway, but I had a death grip. When the kid realized he couldn’t get it, he tried punching me, but not very hard, and ran off at the next stop. As I was on my way to get a bus to NYC, I declined to give chase. All I was out was a pair of (good) headphones.  ↩