Handspring (company)

Handspring (company)

Handspring was a maker of Palm OS-based Visor- and Treo-branded personal digital assistants. It was run by Jeff Hawkins, Donna Dubinsky, and Ed Colligan, the original inventors of the Palm Pilot and founders of Palm Computing, after they became unhappy with the direction in which 3Com was taking the Palm division. Handspring was founded in June 1998 and merged with Palm, Inc.'s hardware division in 2003 to form palmOne. The Treo 600 was the last product to use the Handspring name.

Handspring Visor

The company launched the Handspring Visor line of products on September 14, 1999 which, unlike most products produced by Palm at the time, used USB to synchronize with the desktop computer and included an expansion port. The USB support made these the first Palm devices to work with the Macintosh operating system out-of-the-box. More liberal in design than the Palm Pilot, the Visor line featured vibrantly colored handhelds focused more towards average people. The expansion port, called the Springboard Expansion Slot, allowed for addition of modules such as games, ebooks, extra memory, universal television remotes, cellular telephones, modems, MP3 players, digital cameras, GPS receivers, and even a device for connecting to an EKG.

While the Handspring Visor is out of production and is now considered passé by today's PDA market, the durability of solid state electronics, along with the power and verstility of the Visor series hardware, has sustained a substantial community of fans who continue to use the Visor today. This longevity was assured when the Palm people decided to make their newer operating systems (Palm 4.x and 5.x) backward-compatible with the previous OS (Palm 3.x) which drives the Visor series. Therefore, most of the software that was written for the Visor will also run on the later Palm devices including the new Treos (and vice versa).

There is an immense landscape of software still available, a user community on Yahoo Groups, and a supply of Visor hardware to be had on eBay. The most powerful feature on the Visor is its Springboard Expansion Slot for which a great many modules can still be purchased.

Visor and Visor Deluxe

Handspring first introduced the Visor Solo, which was black and contained two megabytes of onboard memory. The Visor Deluxe had the option of translucent colored models, and had eight megabytes of onboard memory. The Visor and Visor Deluxe used Palm OS 3.1H running on a 16MHz Dragonball processor, a modified version of the OS from Palm that included an enhanced datebook, a city time application, and an advanced calculator. Unlike the Palm Pilot, the Visor's infrared port was placed on the side of the device to make room for the Springboard. Critics of the device note the lack of rubber between the buttons and metal contacts making the buttons harder to press. There were also complaints that the screen cover was not connected, making it easy to lose, despite its ability to attach onto the back of the Visor exactly as it attached to the front.

The Visor and Visor Deluxe weigh 5.4 oz. Their dimensions are 4.8" x 3.0" x 0.7".

Visor Prism

When Handspring released the Visor Prism, it was the first Palm OS handheld to have a 16-bit color display (65,536 colors); the contemporary model (IIIc) produced by Palm only had an 8-bit color display (256 colors). Its power came from a rechargeable lithium ion battery, rather than two AAA batteries like most Visors. However, it did have the Visor standard Springboard Expansion Slot, and the infrared port was again on the side. The Prism featured Palm OS 3.5.2H3, and weighed 6.9 oz. The dimensions were 4.8" × 3.0" × 0.8".So far the highest os upgrade is OS 3.5.5. The back of the case is designed slightly differently. There is a rise right before the sync port so a cradle for a Visor that is not a Prism will not work. Cradles were offered in both.

Visor Platinum

The Visor Platinum was similar to the Visor Deluxe. In fact, apart from shell color, the exterior of the devices were indistinguishable. The Visor Platinum was available only in a silver (platinum) or black colored shell, as opposed to the Visor Deluxe's many color choices. The difference between the Visor Deluxe's and Platinum's electronics was the Platinum included a 33-MHz Motorola DragonBall VZ processor while the Deluxe only supported a 20-MHz chip. More, the Visor Deluxe used OS 3.1H while the Visor Platinum used OS 3.5.2H. At the time of the release of the Platinum, it sported the fastest processor for a Palm OS device.

Visor Edge

Released in March 2001, the slim Visor Edge featured an MC68VZ328 DragonBall CPU clocked at 33 MHz. The 160×160-pixel, 4-bit grayscale (16 shades of gray) display was standard for most Palm PDAs. However, at the time it was the smallest and lightest Visor, sizing in at 4.7" x 3.1" x 0.44" and weighing 4.8 ounces. Packed with 8 MB RAM and Handspring's latest version of the Palm OS, version 3.5.2H, the Visor Edge was an appealing PDA. Available in three colors, Metallic Blue, Metallic Silver, and Metallic Red, it was also eye catching. The built-in rechargeable Lithium-ion battery generally lasted two to four weeks on a charge. However, due to its size, the standard Springboard Expansion Slot was accessed through a slide-on sleeve rather than a built-in slot. Nevertheless, this still allowed the Visor Edge to access the numerous Springboard Modules available.

Visor Neo

The Visor Neo offered nothing new to the Handspring Visor lineup. Released in September 2001, the Neo featured an MC68VZ328 DragonBall processor clocked at 33 MHz. It had 8 MB DRAM, an IrDA-compliant infrared interface, and Handspring's standard Springboard Expansion Slot. It also sported a built-in microphone and a 160×160-pixel, 4-bit grayscale (16 shades of gray) display. The 4.8" × 3.0" × 0.7" unit, weighing in at 5.4 ounces, came in a Blue, Red, or Smoke colored case. It used Handspring's modified version of the Palm OS, version 3.5.2H3. Power came from two AAA batteries that would last up to two months. The only new feature this model had was a lower price, with which Handspring was hoping to attract new users.

Visor Pro

The Visor Pro was Handspring's last model in its Visor series of PDAs. The 4.8" × 3.0" × 0.7" unit was powered by an MC68VZ328 DragonBall processor clocked at 33 MHz. Weighing 5.7 ounces, the unit came with 16 MB RAM, a built-in microphone, and Handspring's Springboard Expansion Slot. It had a 4-bit grayscale (16 grays), backlit, monochrome display. Its power supply came from a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

Handspring Treo

Handspring stopped producing the Visor line, and replaced it with the Handspring Treo, a more "communication centric" line of handhelds, most of which were integrated with cellular phones and included built-in keyboards for enhanced e-mail and SMS functionality. To keep the models slim, Handspring discontinued Springboard in the Treo series.

Treo 90

The Treo 90 was the only Treo model to be produced without an integrated cellular phone. Its form factor was similar to, but slightly smaller than, other early Treo models. At the time of its release, it was the smallest Palm OS device on the market.

Treo 180 / 180g

The Treo 180 and 180g were monochrome devices. The 180 had a built-in keyboard, and the 180g had no keyboard but included the Graffiti hand-writing recognizer. Both were GSM phones. The 180g was quickly pulled off of the market due to poor sales.

Treo 270 / Treo 300

The Treo 270 was a GSM model and the Treo 300 was a CDMA model which was released by SprintPCS.

Treo 600

Treo 600 is now known as palmOne Treo 600. At the time the GSM version was one of the few quad-band phones available in the United States.

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