Friday, September 20, 2019

IBM Workpad Personal Organizer

November 30, 2003 by · 23 Comments 

I want to take a few paragraphs to review the IBM Workpad PDA (Palm III) I own. With the holiday season fast approaching, I would highly recommend it for the executive on the go, who needs a way to keep organized and streamline their life. Note that the instruction manual has the caption “Your Thought Connection” written right on it. This device really is almost fast, streamlined, and powerful enough to seem as if it has a direct connection to your thoughts! IBM does it again.

But enough of the subjective reviews, let’s get to specifics! As seen in the photos, this PDA is only slightly larger than a cassette tape, making it one of the smallest consumer electronic devices on the market!

I also purchased the faux leather protective case in the photos, which anchors the Workpad firmly with a strip of Velcro in the back. This is a very secure mounting, but if not careful it will actually break the case of the Workpad (that’s what the Scotch tape is holding together in the video…oops). The ABS plastic housing is very durable though, despite being broken by Velcro, and the device has a nice weighty, solid feel.

Movie of Velcro attachment.
The screen produces sharp greyscale images. Pixels are only slightly larger than the period at the end of this sentence. The Workpad runs on two AAA batteries, which provide decent battery life, a few weeks with moderate use. Note that if you let the batteries run down completely and do not replace them, you will lose all data stored in memory!
The Workpad comes with a cable to connect to a PC, and synchronize stored contacts and information between the Workpad and computer. It also has an IR port for wirelessly linking this device with computers or other Workpads. There is also a desktop cradle, not pictured. It doesn’t come with a method for pressing the reset button, but a paper clip can readily be fashioned for this purpose (see photo). The paper clip stores neatly in the faux leather case. The Workpad also comes with two identical stylus pens, one of which can be stored in a clever recessed slot on the side of the device. The other can be stored in the leather case ready for use near the ‘reset paper clip’.

This device comes with software you install on your personal computer (PC), either supplied on 3.5” floppy disks or a CD. Software is compatible with Windows 95, or NT 4.0 if you’re upgraded already. I opted for the CD because my new computer has a 8X CDROM drive so installation should be fast. You can also order Mac software and accessory package for $14.95. Beware that it will not support Palm III Expense or Mail Applications!

Let’s talk about the features of this device. First is the graffiti text entry feature, which promises to speed up text entry once the modified print alphabet is memorized. The Workpad comes with two ‘cheat sheet’ stickers you can put wherever you need (see photo). The device also includes quickkeys to access the four primary applications: Calendar, Address Book, To-Do list, and Memo List. There are also screen shortcuts for Applications, Menu, Find, and Calculator. I’ll review each of these in turn, but as you can see these will cover almost anything you might need your Workpad for.

Calendar: This application allows you to enter appointments into your calender, and even set alarms and review conflicts with other appointments in your calendar. You can even set up recurring appointments! You can also use the Phone Lookup tool to find phone numbers for an appointment.
Address Book: The address book allows you to enter up to FIVE phone numbers or email addresses for each address book entry. Since quite a few people don’t even have email addresses or cell phones, that should be plenty for any contact you may have.
To-Do List and Memo List: I’ll skip over these now. Suffice it to say these are very useful for writing memos to yourself and putting together to-do lists.
Comparison Shopping:
Many consumers will overlook the IBM Workpad because of the showier devices in the marketplace today touting such features as high resolution color screens, upgradeability, removable memory cards, digital cameras, wireless network compatibility, bluetooth, removable memory media, mp3 player capability, use of ubiquitous Windows applications like Excel, Word, etc, multi-hundred Mhz processor speeds and hundreds of MB of onboard memory, internet capability, smaller size, and sleeker appearance, compatibility with operating systems currrently used by the general public, lack of velcro fasteners, cellphone capabilities, etcetera. But for the $500 price tag, it matches up well against the Dell Axims, the Ipaqs, the Tungstens, and of course, the Zaurus . When you compare feature to feature, battery life to battery life, protective case to protective case, stylus to stylus, and considering that this device connects to your PC with only one small cord, you’ll find that there aren’t many better deals around. 8.5/10

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