December 10, 2014

I registered before this year's high school graduating class was born

Geoworks Ensemble, Signature Edition
and GEOS Software Development Kit
I recently checked the whois entry on my personal domain,, and I discovered that I first registered it on December 9, 1997. Seventeen years ago. That was when domain names were still free to register and hosting services essentially gave you space on a Unix server. The rest was up to you.

I was also still working at Geoworks back then. The GEOS software still lives on at, it seems, which is a wonderful and curious thing to me. I still think the engineers that developed that software were among the smartest and cleverest people I have ever known.

I was Product Manager and
all I got was this certificate.
I had many jobs at Geoworks. I was hired as a technical writer and got my start in management there; I was product manager for software and content development tools, and I think I still have my product requirements document from Geoworks Bindery, a WYSIWYG content editor that made it (relatively) easy to create hyperlinked documents for the desktop systems and mobile devices we were deploying.

It was a fun time, and a difficult uphill climb in a brand new market. Our CEO coined the term "Personal Digital Assistant" (PDA).

I still have some of the products we developed, including the Signature Edition of Geoworks Ensemble and the Software Development Kit, in their shrinkwrap. Also Geoworks Writer, the standalone release of the word processor which is still better than Microsoft Word (okay maybe not after 17 years). And I have three pieces of hardware our operating system ran on:

Casio Zoomer/Z-PDA

The Zoomer came out in 1992, at basically the same time as the Apple Newton. Together, these handheld computers led the way into the future we have today. The handwriting recognition was spotty at best--Zoomer used true handwriting recognition, and Newton used "graffiti," a specially designed stroke set that worked better but took some learning. Both were market flops but huge technological and societal successes.

Zoomer with its top open and its stylus beside it.

HP OmniGo

This HP handheld computer was, I believe, the first to have a screen that rotated, allowing you to use it in different situations. It was designed with field use in mind, and at least a couple of prototype applications were developed for medical and fleet use. This was supposed to be an extension of the existing successful HP product line, and it accomplished many of HP's goals but never sold enough to get HP to invest in further models.


Proof that I was there!

Nokia 9000i

Not long after the Nokia 9000 was launched in Europe and the Nokia 9000i was developed for the United States, I was laid off from Geoworks and Nokia hired me as a contractor for a year to help them promote the product and support software developers around the world. Part of my contract work was to build one of my first corporate web sites. Unfortunately, if I wanted to keep working for Nokia after my contract was up, I had to move to Irving, Texas, and that was not going to happen. Anyway, the Nokia 9000 featured in the movie The Saint with Val Kilmer (and more notably Elisabeth Shue), and I got to travel to some pretty cool places in my work for Nokia including Tampere, Finland. The Nokia people were incredibly nice. The Nokia product was groundbreaking in its own way, combining real computing power with a phone. Pretty incredible for the time, even though we take it for granted today.
It's a phone!

It's a computer!

Proof that I was there!
It was a great time and a lot of fun. I imagine the people who are in the 3D printing industry have a similar feeling of unlimited future potential right now. And well they should. After all, look at those products of just 20 years ago and imagine where 3D printing could be in 20 years. That's not so far off.


Bob Palin said...

That's really cool Peter, I didn't know about that part of your past.

PJD said...

Thanks, Bob. Unless you're part of the group I worked with at Geoworks, you probably wouldn't know it. :) Those were some really great, interesting times, and it was an incredible collection of really brilliant people.

2309 Blake said...

what was the name of that Mac product that pre-dated all of these devices?
I saw a US journalist friend using one in 1995, I think. It can't have been later than '96.
As you will know, it failed in the market.
Did that have any influence on the work of your company?

PJD said...

Paul, you're not talking about the Apple Newton, are you? I guess it was officially called the MessagePad:

Released in 1993, right around the same time as the Casio Z-PDA.