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Celebrating ten years of Treo 42

by Derek Kessler Sun, 12 Feb 2012 8:10 pm EST

Celebrating ten years of Treo

Just a few days ago we were looking back at one year since HP had announced the Veer, Pre3, and TouchPad and marveling at all that had happened in just the preceding 365 days. But webOS Nation reader Tim O'Brien pointed out something pretty crazy that hadn't even occurred to us: this February also marks the ten-year anniversary of the Treo smartphone.

That's right, a full decade ago the world finally got its hands on the first Palm OS-powered smartphone from Handspring in the Treo 180. How state-of-the-art was this smartphone? The Treo 180 had a 2.8" 160x160 16-scale monochromatic resistive touchscreen and a full QWERTY keypad (the 180g had a Graffiti area in its place) over top of a blazingly fast 33MHz Motorola DragonBall VZ MC68VZ328 processor, 16MB of RAM and 4MB of ROM. It was 2.7 inches wide, 4.3 tall, and a slim 0.708 inches thick, and weighed in at a featherweight 5.18 ounces thanks to its steel blue plastic shell. The Treo 180 ran Palm OS 3.5 with deep phone integration thanks to Handspring's VisorPhone software.

While the Treo 180 wasn't the world's first smartphone - that honor technically goes to IBM all the way back in 1992 (Ericsson was the first to market a 'smartphone' with the Symbian-powered R380 in 2000, and Palm teamed up with Kyocera to release the Palm OS-powered 6035) - it and the BlackBerry 5810 released a month later were the devices that really kicked off the idea that a smartphone was more than just a niche product for high-flying CEOs.

So happy tenth birthday, Treo 180. We've come a long way since February 2002, and it's thanks in large part to your pioneering ways.

42 Comments

Don't forget also that the Treo 180's keyboard wasn't even backlit.

All the important smartphone elements were present in Handspring and Treo. Iphone refined and expanded those functions but Treo had them first: pda functions, 3rd party apps, email, mp3 player. Makes me wonder why HP or whoever owns the Palm patents doesn't participate in the lawsuits Apple is throwing at Samsung or Motorola as surrogates for Google. HP could earn back some of the 1.1 + billion dollars they blew on their Palm investment and save up some money for future webos efforts (and dare we hope, new hardware?)

Maybe they dont own the particular patents or their inaction is a part of some strategy. Regardless, why would HP want to protect Google? Google needs to be wiped from the face of the earth (dont worry, about your precious apps and services; they'll be quickly replaced). As for Samsung, a good thrashing at Apple's hand may help them see the error of their non-webOS-buying ways (one can hope, right? :D ). But the huge multinational that is Samsung will be alright in the end.

You have to have standing to have an actionable lawsuit.

It's not as simple as saying Handspring had "elements" many years back and so should be allowed to be joined as plaintiffs in a lawsuit by another company based on a patent Handspring has no rights under.

Palm would have to have patent that is actually being violated. HP could have patent that expired. The subject matter of the nonexpired patents may not be the same as Apple's lawsuit. HP's patents may be for things like, a plug design, or a charge connector, or a design of a phone case, or any other design. But that's not to say that their design is being used by any defendant in an iphone patent case. And if it was Apple likely would not have rights, HP would and thus Apple wouldn't be suing.

And in a broad sense you cannot patent an idea. You can patent an invention, the tangible expression of an idea. For example, if you make a car that flies you can patent that exact car. But that doesn't prevent any other car company from making another, differently designed car that flys. Because you can't patent the idea of a flying car just the actual car. But saying that smartphone elements existed in Treo phones doesn't necessarily mean Handspring. Palm, or HP even owned the all the tech they were using. It's possible that elements in their phones where licensed from other companies.

Which is another point., Palm or HP has likely licensed many technologies it's invented to other companies and those are being used under a lawful license. So there isn't a need to sue in those cases.

Sorry Snot, I don't have time to pull it right now but Palm (now HP by purchase) HAS the patent for "the smartphone". Feel free to go to the USPTO and search for it. There's no mistake, it's right there in black and white. WHY they won't use it or any others remains a mystery. 8^l

Here is the TreoCentral review of the 180, from March 6th 2002.

http://www.treocentral.com/content/Stories/30-1.htm

Trēo 680 is the best smartphone EVER!!! Had one for about 2 years, then fall into a "lapsus" (HTC Touch/Cruise...? Don't really remember its name) and after that "lapsus", married to webOS! The best mobile OS EVER!!! Hope, no, I know we will continue giving life to this extraordinary gift we have been given by PALM/HP and finally adapt it into a serious piece of hardware (Samsung Galaxy Note maybe... would be so awesome). LONG WILL LIVE WEBOS!!!

Kind of a bittersweet moment, seeing the 180 (I remember!) next to the Pre 3 I'll never have...

I so agree...

Happy Birthday Treo, a device that embraced the needs of its owner, and continued a proud heritage.

Pre/WebOS abandoned all the fantastic values that Palm and Treo were known for. So seeing them pictured together is kind of unsettling.

Kind of a "Don't have a smartphone grandson with a dog collar" moment.

I'm glad someone pointed this out....some of use have been on TreoCentral for almost that long...

Heck I'm sure there are others like me who were rocking the Kyocera 6035...writing emails with Graffiti. I remember how people were AMAZED that I could send and receive emails from my PHONE....

+1. The Kyocera was a great phone for its time. Loved the clamshell design!

I used to have a Handspring Visor Platinum with the cellphone Springboard module. :)

Me too! I loved that brick!

I was planning on buying the Visor but then heard about the Treo 180 and for some lucky reason Sweden was among the first launch countries, got mine in Feb 2002. Wish the Pre3 had some of the PIM integration. =)

Had one of those, too! I always thought the Visorphone was the first smartphone...

I had one too. It was my very first cell phone. I was just giddy at the fact that I could dial in to my ISP and surf the net at a blazing 9600 bps!

My God! I completely forgot about smartphone dialup! Anyone else use Budget Dial Up to get some cheap minutes?

We've come a long way but we have also regressed, and the current state of affairs speaks to all that is wrong. Unlike the Pre3, the Treo 180 didnt have much going in the form category, but IMO, it defined function. Its ease of use ('Zen' of palm), simplicity and core apps combined to create a unique experience that continued well beyond the release of the last Treos (and Centro). It may have lacked a backlit keyboard but it beamed and received data without fuss, and just about all expectations were met. IOW, it worked the way it was supposed to.

Today, we have pretty devices that could, but for whatever reasons, dont. We're all familiar w/ the issues - whether it's the ability to send/receive files locally, fully exploit hardware (BT, GPS, mic, camera) or app availability - the current crop all fall short. Salt is added to wounds when not even the old functionality can be duplicated/emulated (core PIM apps dont add up; Classic is hit or miss) and one chooses to carry both old and new devices to compensate.

I look at the old device knowing that the only way to go is forward, but then I look at its replacement and think, "the highlight of its day is downloading and playing podcasts." I can finally edit docs so productivity has a slight boost, but these were all taken for granted on Treos. Large photos and maps? Treo zooms better. Calendar, tasks, notes...? Treo. So what is new or different? How far did we really come? Synergy? Just Type? Multitasking (Palm DAs sort of did that)? Neat tricks but at the cost of productivity.

I await the true Treo replacement.

I agree 100%. When PalmOS was dropped, the entire smartphone concept was lost at Palm.

I feel like the iPhone was an "entertainment phone" and the more Palm tried to be like that, the less useful my Palm products became.

I have a Verizon Pre3, and frankly, it's still not as productive for me as my old Treo 650.

The Calendar and Contact info was better. It would "reboot" in seconds (which was hardly ever needed). It had an SD card for quick backup and data swapping. I could back up and restore EVERYTHING to a PC, and easily edit Contact info at the desktop. And I miss the freakin D Pad!!!

I have a ton of games on my Pre3 that I never play. The Calendar is slow and crappy. I have all the document editing programs, and they still suck with webOS' gimpy navigation techniques.

webOS is great....but why couldn't they have kept all the great things that made the Treo line the most effective smartphones ever?

they probably wanted to get people like me. i don't use the calender on my phone or edit documents but i do a lot of music playing and texting and more entertainment type stuff. I don't play many games but i can't really do my work on a phone easily so i don't use it that way very much.

I totally agree - after 6 months with a nice Android phone I went back to my Centro. Yes, it has an absolutely small screen - but it does my work better and faster than I can do with Android. I still play with my Samsung Epic 4g over the WiFi at home - playing shows off my server that have been converted to mp4's (stripped of commercials) from high definition tv shows recorded through Microsoft Media Center. I too agree that the iPhones and Android smart phones seem to be great for entertainment. Business apps are forth coming and getting better - but right now, I'm going to stick with my Centro for my daily work. (Written using my Touchpad and typing with an old Palm Bluetooth keyboard).

I totally agree - after 6 months with a nice Android phone I went back to my Centro. Yes, it has an absolutely small screen - but it does my work better and faster than I can do with Android. I still play with my Samsung Epic 4g over the WiFi at home - playing shows off my server that have been converted to mp4's (stripped of commercials) from high definition tv shows recorded through Microsoft Media Center. I too agree that the iPhones and Android smart phones seem to be great for entertainment. Business apps are forth coming and getting better - but right now, I'm going to stick with my Centro for my daily work. (Written using my Touchpad and typing with an old Palm Bluetooth keyboard).

The Kyocera 6035 was preceded by the pdQ from Qualcomm (before that group was sold to Kyocera). It was a brick of a phone with, IIRC, 2MB of RAM, a large monochrome screen, and a flip-down keyboard that covered the fairly large screen. It was heavy but I loved having the phone and PDA integrated into one unit.

There was also a very brief update to the pqQ, I think called the pdQ+. It was the same physical size but RAM was bumped to 8MB. The pdQ was PalmOS 3-something based, darned if I can remember what the pdQ+ ran.

Bwahahahaha! I loved this!!! As soon as I could, I ordered a Chinese knock-off shell in flat black that looked just like the real one. My friends were blown away when they saw it. Good memories. :)

I am still using my T650 :)

OK, I had upgraded to a Centro a few years back but it broke in less than two years so I went back to my T650. Verizon keeps calling me to tell me I am due for an upgrade but since leaving the grind of the business world I don't need a data package and my brick still works great (and the battery is still solid).

I have my address book, tunes, memo pad and sudoku...what else could I possibly need? I have an Enfora wi-fi sled for desperate times as well.

That T180 looks kinda sweet, perhaps I should look into that if my T650 ever dies!

If I could get $15 data back, my wife would be toting my 700p around, and loving it.

The Treo 180 was the perfect upgrade from a Visor Edge and a Nokia 7160. I could have one device and all the functionality I've come to know and love. With the Treo 270 I got my first color screen and a backlit keyboard. Pretty amazing how far we've come.

But I do agree with the comments above, the true successor that would follow the Treo's lineage has yet to show it's face. Solid battery life, fast PIM apps, candy bar format w/o a slider, and enough power to perform any task including document editing. The Pre 3 does an OK job, but it is lacking. Maybe Open webOS is what we all need.

Tim O'Brien

VisorCentral | TreoCentral | PreCentral | webOSNation

It has been a wild ride. In some ways it is sad how quickly people have forgotten how Handspring/Palm in a very real sense established the smartphone market.

I have to second the notion that "smartphones" have gotten A LOT dumber. This was actually a conversation I had a few weeks ago. In terms of raw productivity, helping me actually get things done and keeping my information all together, none of the current "smartphones" are actually as good as my old Treo.

Gargoyle

my pre2 is my secretary and couldn't live without it...sadly I missed the palm bandwagon still don't know how...I've been with sprint since 1999 and always used dummy phones until I got an htc mogul 6800 and found that a smartphone can help you keep your life in order...

that treo 180 is a sharp looking phone and from what I read this would have been a perfect phone for me back then

I had a color Handspring with a phone module for many years. Then, I switched to a Treo 680 that I had for four years, before I finally switched to a Pre3.

Yup. I much prefer Palm OS to webOS. The Veer doesn't feel like a Palm phone at all. And I've only owned Palm phones starting with the 180. All kinds of patches just to get the "ringer off" icon to appear onscreen? C'mon! Wasn't anyone from Palm involved with the new phones? Oh well...

I still have a working T180, T270 and T650 :o)

I started out with a Handspring Prism and Visorphone. Everyone that saw my phone was amazed by what all it could do. It was huge, but I could surf the web before most of the iPhone sheeple knew what suring the web on a phone was all about. I replaced that which a Treo270, 600, 650, then 680. Loved all of them but wanted faster data thus got a PrePlus and still used Classic all the time. I now have a Pre3 and love the faster processor, faster data speeds, and larger screen but still miss some of the things my PalmOS phones could do. BTW, I Came into PalmOS with a PalmPilot personal in 1996. Loved it too. Wish we could get classic working on the Pre3, especially since it cost my $30.

'Wish we could get classic working on the Pre3 [...]'
Yes, me too. Even just for satisfying my nostalgia when it overcomes me ;-)

Amazingly before i bought a Pre i didn't even know, one, that people where such big fans of Palm phones, but second, that people had such a rooting interest in phones in general.

This article needed more links. Here is the link to the IBM Simon, not only the first smartphone, the first touchscreen phone, http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/people/bibuxton/buxtoncollection/...

Sometimes I just pull my Treo 700p out of the desk and say I miss u big guy!

I wanted a 180 when they came out, but I stuck with a combo of Clie NX60 and whatever dumb phone I had [went through a few.] until the 600. Then moved up through Centro and finally preplus. My pre 2 is really nice. And yes, I do miss the treo 700 at times.

The right one I own, the left not yet... When I got started with Palm devices it was just too far off for me. Later I opted for a T5 to go along with my S35 mobile, over the Treo 650. I was too much of a fan of the big screen. But later I purchased a T680. What a great device! And my Centro is still in use. Though not as my main phone. Obviously ;-)
Good memories!
@webOS Nation, what about throwing in storys like this every once in a while?

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