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21 February, 2007

In Praise of the Hewlett-Packard Jornada 720

I got my first 'palmtop' computer in about 1993. It was a Psion 3a (see picture on left) and I loved it. I could carry it in my pocket and yet it had a 'clamshell' design - just like a full-grown laptop - with a screen and a keyboard. It ran a real word processor too as well as other useful applications. I took it everywhere with me and used it to satisfy my constant craving to write.

After it died, some years later, I got a Palm Pilot (see right). Very small and neat, very portable and easy to use but no keyboard. I taught myself to write on the screen using the special script it understood and, over a couple of years , wrote two whole novels that way. However, not having a keyboard was a big mistake. So, when it died, I went looking for something like my old Psion 3a.

By then Psion wasn't making clamshell palmtops anymore and, following the huge success of the Palm, all the manufacturers were making 'PDAs' that were Palm clones. There wasn't a keyboard in sight - untill I spotted an advert for a second-hand Jornada. This was perfect - essentially a tiny laptop - with word-processor, spreadsheet, email, web-browser, media player and so on - but still so small you could fit it into a large) pocket. And the keyboard was great - not a funny set of buttons like the old Psion but a real 3/4 size QWERTY keyboard! It came in a range of memory sizes and specifications (I picked the 720 as being perfect for what I needed) had a touch screen as well as the keyboard (very important) and it even looked pretty smart.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that HP was no longer making it!

At the time, HP had just been bought out by Compaq and they were merging their product lines. Compaq had a range of Palm clones and HP had its wonderful Jornadas. For some reason I will never understand, the newly-merged companies dumped the wonderful Jornadas and rebadged the Compaq Palm clones as their new Jornadas. The old Jornada was dead and nobody else - nobody! - made a small clamshell computer with a keyboard. So I bought my Jornada 720 from eBay and have had the great pleasure of using it for about 4 years now (two more novels, dozens of stories and almost all my blog postings).

That's my Jornada in the picture above, in its natural habitat - a street café. What I will do when it dies, I have no idea. There is still nothing like it on the market. But I won't be buying anything from Compaq - not until they see the error of their ways.

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