This Collection of Handheld Computers Is the Roadmap to the Modern Smart Phone

Modern phones are some of the most sophisticated pieces of equipment ever built, but the iPhone wasn’t developed in a day. From backlit screens to weird keyboards, the development of the smartphone got us more than a few strange devices. Their oddities are what makes Dave Shevett like the early personal handheld computers so much. As he told Gizmodo, by comparison, modern cell phones are “actually pretty boring.”

Shevett is attracted to more than just the aesthetic design of classic handheld computers. He creds his connection to PCs to his father, a fellow early computer nerd. At computer conventions, people enjoy his collection from a time when handheld computers were an exciting new phenomenon and nobody knew what the next flagship product was going to be.


Shevett, who is a systems engineer by day, has started moonlighting as a curator—setting up similar computer displays for others who want a little nostalgia every time they go into their office or home. The rarest handheld computers, like his prized Atari Portfolio, are saved in his Massachusetts office for safekeeping.

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I’ve never liked laptops, so I’ve had a few cool handheld electronic devices over the years that I wish I still had. One was the Rolodex Rex. A credit card sized device that kept all your contacts, calendar, notes, to do list, and a couple other functions. I used it quite a bit for work when I was on the road. Between that, my Motorola MicroTAC cell phone, and alpha numeric pager, I could conduct business from almost anywhere, which was good for those days I decided to play hooky and go sailing or skiing or wine tasting. [Ah the good’ol days] It actually fit in my wallet. The Rolodex that is...

It came with a small docking devise that allowed you to update everything with your laptop/desktop. It was actually very functional.

One of my other favorites was was the folding HP 620LX “palmtop” computer. It ran windows CE and included a “lite” version of MS Office. It could do just about everything a normal Windows computer could. It even had a mini VGA port that allowed me to run my PowerPoint presentations on a projector at client sites.

In retrospect, I guess it’s no surprise I was one of the stooges who paid full price for the first gen iPhone the day after they came out. [Two days later they dropped the price by $200, so those of us who paid full boat got a $100 credit.] At least I wasn’t stupid enough to wait in line on the first day. ;)