EEVblog #334 – History of PDA Teardowns

Teardown Tuesday
A teardown chronological history of PDA Organisers spanning 17 years.
The 1986 Psion II Organiser
The 1996 Palm Pilot 5000
The 2003 HP iPAQ 5550

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  1. Fascinating teardown! I’ve got a box full of old PDAs, including some linux based ones that never really made it and a whole range of IPAQs.

    Some IPAQs did accept a SIM so you could use them as a phone, or with data. I was never keen on IPAQs, or windows mobile, I was always more taken with Palm devices. Trying to cram a desktop OS into a mobile device just seemed a bad idea.

    Great to see a teardown of these devices, and the change in designs over the years.

    Just one thing, HP didn’t buy palm until 2010, they aquired the IPAQ technology from the Compaq take over. Palm were still hanging on until about 2009, with the Palm TX.

  2. I’m pretty sure those black “marks” at 13:45 are resistors, probably just pull ups so the value doesn’t matter a great deal.

  3. FYI – HP only bought Palm sometime in 2010 or so. Palm was probalby still a part of USRobotics/3Com back then in 2003 or so, or may have split out and become Palm Inc. (or PalmOne/PalmSource).

    HP bought Palm for its WebOS technology which only was really released in 2010-ish.

    The GPS antenna is designed that way as the GPS signal is a right-hand circularly-polarized signal. To receive a circularly polarized signal requires a helical antenna (and yes, you can do a left-hand polarization as well. This technique is very popular with DBS TV dishes – a DC signal is sent from the satellite receiver to the LNB which provides power to the LNB AND tells the LNB the polarization it should downconvert). The flex cable provides a cheap and effective way to create a helical antenna that’s also fairly robust.

    As for the black marks on the Psion – they reminded me more of feature straps – how much RAM, how much ROM, clock speeds, etc. During production, the straps would be added or not added depending on the desired configuration.

    • I’m guessing the black marks are screen printed resistors, probably 4.7 or 10 kohms. Not something you see much but it did reduce assembly cost a little.

  4. In those Psion times you really didn’t bother about those bypass caps. Nobody cared about EMC then -at least if your design worked.

    At 27:39 the A/D converter is, i guess, for the touchscreen system.

    At 29:40 they maybe had several lcd models or vendors to use, at 30:08 you see in the smaller board has printing “seg-n-optrex”. So it may be just interface board for that model.

    At 36:24 so they finally got back to using those spring contacts.

    Great review, thank you.

  5. The big connector on the HP is more akin to a PCMCIA connector. I’ve got an iPaq backpack that has a PCMCIA (or CF, can’t remember) slot. I use that for WiFi. It was somewhat standard across the iPaqs.

  6. Wow, this is some great stuff and a blast from the past.

    I was a bit of a fan of the palmOnes back in the day. I even owned a palmOne Tungsten T5 which came with a storage capacity of 256 MB.

    It’s also interesting to see the design progression of these devices. There doesn’t seem to be a huge amount of innovation between each model in terms of aesthetics.

    Also even up until recently, Microsoft has a bad habit of almost forcing users to buy new phones to get a software upgrade. Even the jumps between windows mobile 6.5 to 7 and then to 8 require you to get a new phone. I hope this changes.

  7. FYI – those warranty stickers are a big deal because there are plenty of people who would break their devices then claim warranty repair. It’s not people like you and me on the EEVBlog, because we know if we break it, we don’t go and try to claim warranty that it was defective to begin with.

    And as devices get smaller and harder to repair, it seems the set who think they can fix anything with a butter knife for a screwdriver and a 75-100W soldering gun seems to grow. Of course, they are usually careful enough to close up the case so the damage they’ve done isn’t obvious (it’s on the circuit board).

  8. iPAQ iPAD !

    Why did HP never claim name rights?

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