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(Last updated June 17, 2018)

It struck me recently that I've chewed through a rather long list of portable and mobile devices so far in my life. This page supplements my computers page and gives you the low-down on all the sub-notebook computing devices I've used over the years. I still have most of these devices, somewhere -- usually in boxes in the basement.

1988 Casio FX-7500G Graphics Scientific Calculator A calculator? Yes, but this was no ordinary calculator. In an era when graphing calculators were the latest thing and most models were big hulking devices that looked like ordinary calculators to which huge screens had been bolted on, the FX-7500G was elegant and sleek. It had a folding design that made it look like a tiny laptop, and memory that could be used for programming and storing data. I used it through high school and into college.
1995 Sharp Zaurus ZR-3000 The Zaurus was my first real personal digital assistent (PDA). It was like a tiny laptop, maybe six inches long, and had the usual assortment of functions like notes, a calendar, calculator, and so forth, with PC backup and synchronization software and a whopping one megabyte of on-board RAM. It sported a 320x240 touch screen, which required a plastic stylus that slipped into the convenient storage slot. I even upgraded it with a better stylus, but eventually the hinge started wearing out, and I retired it.
1997 Motorola Pagers When I became a consultant with CoreTech Consulting Group I got my first networked mobile device, a Motorola pager, of who-knows-what model. For those who don't remember, pagers could receive very simple text messages, or could be called by a telephone so that the pagee could find a phone and call back. I hardly ever used it. When I started consulting at Comcast Cellular, they gave me another pager! Software developers didn't really need pagers.
1997 Motorola MicroTAK (Comcast Cellular / Metrophone) Once I started doing consulting work at Comcast Cellular (formerly Metrophone), I got a genuine cellular phone -- one of the slim and light (for the time) MicroTAKs. I'm not sure exactly which model, although it looked like a MicroTAK Elite. The main thing I remember about it is that one time in an elevator I called in a sandwich order, and some older guy in the elevator (still a techie) was surprised that I would use a cellular telephone to do something so trivial. Times do change.
1998 Everex Freestyle Around the time that my Sharp Zaurus was dying, and the Palm Pilot was dominating, a company called Everex came out with (supposedly) the very first Windows CE Palm PC device, called the Freestyle, and I got one. It was quite a cool device, especially compared to the Zaurus, and suited my Microsoft inclinations, but it was quickly discontinued. I liked it, but the battery cover broke and that was that.
1998 Motorola Digital StarTAC ST7760 (Verizon) Ah, the StarTAC -- the tiny, elite clamshell cellular phone of its era. I lusted after it for a while, and finally got one; it served me faithfully for a number of years. It was cool, and its only flaw was the flimsy extendable antenna.
2000 Xircom Rex 5000 "Wearable Information Accessory" Around this time I was anxious for something I could take everywhere to keep contacts, notes, phone numbers, and the like - enter the Xircom REX. It was the size of a credit card, although thicker, and was designed for exactly this function. In practice it never really lived up to the billing, because it was too big to put in my wallet and seemed too fragile to stick in a pocket. It remains one of the smallest such devices I've ever seen, to this day.
2002? Motorola V60 (Verizon) I don't remember exactly what variation of the V60 I had (V60i, perhaps), but it replaced my StarTAC when the StarTAC just wasn't cutting it anymore. The V60 was a decent enough phone, and otherwise unremarkable. I think it supported texting.
2002? Research In Motion Blackberry R957M-2-5 I was a Blackberry guy for a while, and this was my standard device for a few years. This was one of the thumbwheel, type-with-thumbs, monochrome screen devices that was so popular for a while. It wasn't a phone, so I also had to carry around a phone to make and receive calls. How primitive! How awful!
2003? LG VX6100 (Verizon) Eventually the V60 wasn't cutting it either, so I got the LG phone, which was basically just "a phone" at the time, with a crappy camera and a crappy web browser, both of which seemed new and cool and amazing. I wrote a mobile version of my key web site pages just for this phone, because in the days before full-fledged web browsers in phones, browsing from a phone sucked and there were specific standards to support stripped-down, mostly text sites for phones. I did quite a bit of texting on this phone.
2007 Research In Motion Blackberry 8830 World Edition (Verizon) When it came out, the Blackberry 8830 was the shit! It dispensed with the thumb wheel in favor of a multi-directional trackball, and it could actually make calls! The real reason I got it is that our IT group was decommissioning the old Blackberry server and network, and my old Blackberry was the last one on it. The 8830 was my first truly integrated mobile device. I got a cheapo rubber sleeve for it so I wouldn't drop it.
2008? Microsoft Zune 8GB I hemmed and hawed about getting my first MP3 player. As a semi-audiophile, I'd had a problem with MP3 files from the beginning. In the early years almost all the files were 128kps or lower quality, which sounds awful compared to uncompressed CD-quality music or better. At one point I did an exhaustive test and found I could hear the difference between original tracks and MP3s encoded even at more than 300 kbps. Around the time I was shopping, Apple also still had problems with gapless playback and lossless compression on iPods, so I settled on WMA lossless compression to encode my CD collection and a Zune as my player. It's still going as of 2012, but replacement by an iPod always looms as a threat. The Zune does have great battery life and is really not a bad little device. My wife wound up with a Zune as well, later replaced by an iPod.
2009 Apple iPhone 3GS 8GB (AT&T) A cousin of mine who is an email server tech got the very first iPhone model when it came out. I had seen it and was aware of it, but (like many Blackberry users) was somewhat skeptical of the virtual keyboard. Eventually I caved and agreed to have the company get me an iPhone. Needless to say, RIM has not been doing well since then.
2009 Amazon Kindle 3G (2nd generation) My wife and I got each other Kindles for Christmas in 2009. Although very rudimentary (basically worthless) as a general computing device, the Kindle's e-ink display makes all the difference for reading, and it's much easier on the eyes than bright LED screens. I use mine all the time.
2010 Apple iPhone 4 16GB (AT&T) Once I had an iPhone, I knew that I wanted a 4 to get the retina display and have real web browsing in my pocket. My IT manager offered to do a trade and give someone else my 3GS, and it was done, with a sleek new black iPhone 4 powerhouse clutched to my greedy bosom.
2011 Apple iPod Touch 32GB My wife became quite jealous when I got my iPhone and she saw how cool it was, so I got her an iPod for Valentine's Day. It's basically an slimmed iPhone 4 without the phone, and equally cool.
2011 Apple iPhone 4S 16GB (AT&T) I find it interesting that both Apple and Nikon release "s" increments of their products. I've never actually had a Nikon "s" model, usually jumping to the next generation instead (I skipped the D70s and D300s), but I definitely went for the iPhone 4S and gave my iPhone 4 to my Level 2 Support manager, who wondered whether anyone had ever used it because it was in such great condition. Siri voice control turned out to be a useless gimmick, especially if one keeps the phone locked. I got my 4S soon after release, and so made do with a white model instead of my preferred black, although I did get a black case for it.
2011 Apple iPad 2 16GB (WiFi) About the same time I was upgrading my iPhone, one of my three bosses (the Executive Chairman this time) decided that I should get one of our three marketing/giveaway iPads. I was genuinely interested to see what all it could do and thought I could use it to replace my paper notebooks for taking notes in meetings. Unfortunately, the iPad's screen resolution and mainly touch responsiveness and precision have really not evolved to that level yet. I write quite small and quickly on college-ruled paper, and it just wasn't working. The idea of writing larger than normal on a tablet to take notes is frankly just dumb. So far the iPad has been more useful as a portable web browser, email reader, and entertainment device than for productive applications, although it's great to have with me on the sofa.
2012 Amazon Kindle Paperwhite Wi-Fi Having become a Kindle fan, Amazon's Paperwhite technology sounded intriguing, mostly because my wife did a lot of Kindle reading and kept a light on to do it. Paperwhite: problem solved.
2012 Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 3G No reading household can have just one Kindle Paperwhite.
2014 Apple iPad Air 64GB (WiFi) Around my birthday in 2014, I went on a bit of an upgrade frenzy for my devices (somewhat fueled by my parallel frenzy for Clash of Clans), and first up was a brand new fully loaded iPad, in Space Gray instead of the horrendous white I'd been dealing with. Along with the iPad itself I got the standard Apple Smart Cover, the magnetic one that automatically wakes the iPad. The Air is a pretty amazing device, incredibly thin and light for what it does (at least by 2014 standards), with plenty of space for movies on long flights and power for multitasking. I kept the old iPad to use for... a second instance of Clash of Clans (and to have by the TV whenever needed, of course).
2014 Apple iPhone 5S 32GB (AT&T) Immediately following the new iPad, and as soon as I converted my old company phone to a personal account, it was time for a new iPhone -- and I went just about all out with a 5S loaded with 32GB of RAM, mainly so I'd have plenty of space for images, documents, and a gigantic device cache for Amazon Cloud Player. After buying and returning a bulky InCase case, I ordered 5 different cases from Amazon and picked one to use and a couple others to keep. The 5S was a really nice improvement over the 4S, thin and light and with that wonderful fingerprint unlock feature. I kept my old 4S as an iPod (replacing my old Zune) and to have conveniently located right next to where I sleep. Oh, and... Space Gray of course, with a nice black case!
2014 Google Nexus 7 16GB (WiFi) After upgrading both of my Apple devices, I figured -- what the hell -- why not try an Android tablet too? Especially given the insanely low price of $199. So far I find the 7" screen to be a bit too small, although it has plenty of resolution, but otherwise the Nexus is a pretty nifty little device that can handle all the standard tablet tasks like web browsing, email, and, yes... Clash of Clans.
2015 Apple iPad Air 2 64GB (WiFi) Having gotten used to using a pair of iPads, I was really getting tired of the low-resolution display and low power (and worried about the coming obsolescence) of my original iPad 2, so I got another iPad, treating myself to an iPad Air 2.
2016 Apple iPhone 6S 64GB (AT&T) My wife wanted an iPhone, and for a while was using my old 4S -- but the limited memory and increasing performance and compatibility issues convinced her that she wanted a new one. The 4S was relegated to light bedside iPod duty.
2017 Apple iPad Mini 128GB (WiFi) This is actually my wife's iPad. She decided a regular iPad was too big and so opted to buy her own mini instead of use my original iPad Air. It's basically an iPad Air, but... mini.
2018 Apple iPhone SE 32GB (AT&T) For months after the announcement of the iPhone X and 8's, I'd been watching the battery on my trusty old 5s drain away, and its aging processing power struggle mightily with iOS 11. Four years is a long time between smartphone upgrades, but the X was awfully expensive, and the longer I waited, the closer we were getting to even newer phones from Apple. Finally I had a day where the battery flat out died and I knew it was time -- and also realized that an easy and cheap stopgap solution was available: the SE. I got a brand new battery and the processing guts of the 6s, and didn't even have to get a new case, since the 5s and SE are virtually identical.
All content copyright(c) 1993-2013 by Anthony Ruggeri. All rights under copyright reserved. 0.0 seconds.