My Early Mobile Digital Devices

4 minute read

I took the opportunity of the holidays to rifle through some old storage and I found what I’ll call my ‘first mobile devices.’

A cool nostalgia swept over me.

Casio’s Secret Sender 6000

I believe I got this in around the 6th grade in 1995.

This little guy was seemingly little more than a calculator and archaic note-taker (ha.) What it lacked in processing power it made up in cuteness. This thing sported a calendar, contacts directory, note-taking app, etc. but had two incredible features.

One, it had a “romantic compatibility” program where you’d put in your and your love interest’s birthday to assess how much of a match you were. Now that I think about it, I have no idea how this thing actually sorted folks out (the Zodiac? Random seed?) but I put a lot of stock in it. A lot.

Two, and only marginally cooler than finding the love of your life, is that it actually had an infrared port and so could control your TV and VCR (wow!) but also send/receive messages from other Secret Senders. This was the first time I remember really using something like this. The great thing was that my brother had an identical one, but since we didn’t go to the same school, our sending of secret messages was kind of meh. BUT, this kid in my class also had one, and I remember with glee sending each other messages like, “Hello from outer space!” to Jesse across the room. I think we even got in trouble once and had to explain our alien technology to the teacher.

Thus it began.

My first devices alternate view. From left to right -- Secret Sender, Palm Pilot, Siemens, Alcatel.
My first devices alternate view. From left to right -- Secret Sender, Palm Pilot, Siemens, Alcatel.

Palm Pilot Vx

I. Loved. This. Thing.

I was pretty bullish on Palm Pilots, even as a high school kid. Don’t worry, I wasn’t like Alex Keaton, wanting to balance my checkbook and stock options at the dinner table. But I never liked my hand-writing for taking notes or making to-do lists, and I loved the portability of this guy.

I know everyone waxes poetically about the Apple Newton really inspired what became smart phones, blah blah blah. I honestly trace the line from this guy (no disrespect). This wasn’t the clunky original Palm Pilot – this was a sleek, silvery, elegant beauty.

I got the Palm as a junior in high school (Christmas present – I’m sure my parents assumed I was a dweeb). I actually didn’t detest the Graffiti input system of using the stylus to enter in cursive-like style letters one by one. I’m sure I would HATE it now, but hey, it was huge at the time.

I really can’t say enough great things about this. What really set it apart for me were the accessories.

One, it had this bad-ass silver case. This thing just chilled so awesomely in the pockets of my Guess Jeans during Chemistry class.

Two, I was able to score a slick keyboard that broke down into four parts for folding. The model I had was actually pretty stable to type on, and had a little cradle for the Palm itself. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to trying to type up a few notes in some of my classes on this thing. It was too much of a novelty and I remember social cues being embarrassing enough for me to do this in any serious fashion, but looking back, I should have kept with it.

Third, it had a modem. A MODEM! It was a 28.8 little guy that just snapped onto the back, and had the one RJ-45 slot for a phone line. This thing actually worked, and I remember dialing into either AOL or Juno or NetZero’s lines to actually get email (seriously) and go online (again, seriously). I did this during a vacation once with the family, using the hotel phone line. It was hands down amazing.

The phones

I’m including these guys because I think it’s interesting to see the evolution.

There are a few missing steps – my first phone was actually a CAR PHONE Motorola thing that my parents had bequeathed me due to worries about traveling back and forth from Topeka to Kansas City all the time when I was only 16. It was mounted into my 1990 Honda CRX and I never thought much of it. Next was a hand-held Motorola STAR thing thing, only marginally more practical than the installed version. Then, heading into college, I had one of the glorious Nokia brick phones. This was the first phone that I ever sent a text from, and I had it for a couple of years. It’s been lost to history, but it was a badass phone.

Then we pick up the thread again in college with that Siemens guy with removable (and in my case Hobbit-inspired?) face. That thing got beat up but man it was cool. I had another couple of phones while traveling abroad, but I must have left them with friends in Europe.

Finally the Alcatel guy from Madagascar in 2007. This was probably my favorite phone because in so many ways it was less technologically advanced than any device in my repertoire, but it was a veritable life-line during my time on the island. I could talk to my family, text my friends, and transfer money with texting. It was cheap as heck, durable as all get-out, and helped to boil my creature comfort experiences down to the essentials.

From here, we hop onto a steady narrative of returning in 2009 and buying an iPhone 3GS, 4S, and 6 (in that order, apparently). Though now I’ve also had intimate relationships with Android phones and even tested the Firefox phone.

Next up, I’ll have to do my computers. They were always the base stations for these ridiculous little mobile devils.