Pocket Computer Reminds Us Of PDAs

Before smartphones exploded on the scene in the late 00s, there was still a reasonable demand for pocket-sized computers that could do relatively simple computing tasks. Palm Pilots and other PDAs (Personal Digital Assistants) were all the rage in the ’90s and early ’00s, although for cutting-edge tech from that era plenty of these devices had astronomical price tags. This Arduino-based PDA hearkens back to that era, albeit with a much more accessible parts list.

The build is based around an Arudino Nano with an OLED screen and has the five necessary functions for a PDA: calculator, stopwatch, games, phonebook, and a calendar. With all of these components on such a small microcontroller, memory quickly became an issue when using the default libraries. [Danko] uses his own custom libraries in order to make the best use of memory which are all available on the project’s GitHub page. The build also includes a custom PCB to keep the entire pocket computer pocket-sized.

There are some other features packed into this tiny build as well, like the breakout game that can be played with a potentiometer. It’s an impressive build that makes as much use of the microcontroller’s capabilities as is possible, and if you enjoy projects where a microcontroller is used as if it is a PC take a look at this Arduino build with its own command-line interface.

8 thoughts on “Pocket Computer Reminds Us Of PDAs

    1. At this point it blows my brains that so many people are still using Arduini for /anything/, let alone stuff like this. I mean, the software, sure, that’s still a great low-friction way to get started; but for the price of an Arduino board you could get ten much more powerful boards that will pretty much work as drop-in replacements.

      1. Depends of design requirements, sometimes you just need a simple chip with just enough silicon to do what you want with a low quiescent sleep current. IIRC the esp series aren’t so great at standby power and require weird things like tying io pins together just to allow the chip to wake itself up from sleep.

  1. Nice little device. I remember i used to have a Kyocera 7135 in 2004/2005 – flip phone/PDA running PALMOS and I loved the thing. It had a stylus and touchscreen and keypad all in 1 phone. People would say its huge but the size never bothered me. I still have it but no carrier supports it anymore :(. Good times.

  2. Oh, sweet memories of programming apps for Rex 6000! Like the one with replacing all constants in the code with specific values to shave off the few bytes that would allow the compiled app to fit in the memory…

  3. Back when Palm Pilots were still called Palm Pilots (before the Pilot pen company sued), there was a DIY PDA where all the code and design files were available for free and open source. IIRC it was done by Hewlett Packard. Can’t for the life of me remember what they called it but the construction pics of the prototype looked a lot like this device, though the screen was monochrome LCD, and bigger.

    Then when HP got into the market commercially with the iPAQ and Jornada, the free stuff went buh-bye.

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