iPAQ: A leading edge mobile device in its day

Rummaging in my magpie’s nest – aka the cupboard where old gadgets, cables and what not live – I came across this absolute gem: a Compaq iPAQ Pocket PC that was launched in April 2000.

My original recollection was that I bought this in 2002. However this model, the 3630, was released in April 2000. By 2002, Compaq had been acquired by Hewlett-Packard and further models were introduced in the following few years branded as HP iPAQ (and some were actually manufactured by Taiwanese tech firm HTC).

Up to the mid-2000s, this was the heyday of feature phones and devices like the iPAQ that tried to be “a Windows PC in your hand” (or pocket). The thinking was great but the tech and reality didn’t happen until the smartphone age dawned in 2007 when the iPhone first appeared.

The iPAQ was a terrific device, though. I used it a lot along with the pain of getting it to actually be something that really did help my productivity. Thinking back on it, I don’t think that really happened.

This example is in pristine condition. It has its stylus safely parked in its slot. It’s in a leather case, a genuine iPAQ accessory, and so kept away from dust, etc. And in that case is another stylus.

Does it actually work? Well, I need to find the charger for it although I see some for sale on eBay if I can’t find it.

And if I do get it to work? What would I use it for, I ask myself.

While the iPAQ was a groundbreaking device at the time, technology has advanced significantly since then, and many of its features and capabilities are now outdated.

In terms of usefulness, the iPAQ would have limited utility today. Its small screen and limited processing power would make it difficult to use for many tasks, and it would not be compatible with many modern software applications or operating systems.

Plus, many of the functions that were once unique to PDAs, such as calendar and contact management, are now integrated into smartphones and other devices that are more versatile and powerful.

That said, there may still be some limited applications where the iPAQ could be useful. For example, it could potentially be used as a basic e-reader (I have a Kindle for that, though) or for simple note-taking (I can do that on a smartphone), but its usefulness would be limited compared to modern devices.

Ultimately, the Compaq iPAQ Pocket PC was a product of its time, and while it was groundbreaking and innovative in its day, it has been surpassed by newer technologies and devices.

(An earlier version of this article was published on Facebook on March 3. The post here includes detail on the history of the iPAQ, researched via ChatGPT.)

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