Palm Portable Keyboard

When one of your most geek-free employees tells you she's got serious jones-ing for one of your gadgets, you know that you've locked into something cool. The fact that this particular piece of hardware replaced something that I already thought was poppen fresh, and there you have it: cool incarnate.

What piece of gear could I possibly be talking about? Step a little closer my friend. It's this little plastic box you see before you. Bet you can't guess what it is.

Give up? Well, you're looking at the Palm Portable Keyboard (PPK), my friend. Yes, that's right, I said keyboard. Yes. Keyboard.

Whoever thought this baby up must have logged some serious Rubic's Cube time. Let's see, you fold the red square up over the yellow, twist, rotate, twist. Actually, it's simpler than that. You start with a small box about the size of a Palm III, flick a latch at the side, and unfold the keyboard like you were stretching an accordion. Push the two ends of the keys towards the center so that they lock the board in flat position, pull out a small plastic piece from the back, prop it up, insert your Palm, and voila, you can type into your Palm. This all sounds more difficult than it is, and I guarantee you that the first time you pull off this bit of transformation in front of the uninitiated, they'll be saying "no way." Way. Really Way.

Not only is the folding trick magical, the keyboard it unveils is full-size and has a decent touch, even if the key throw is a little shallow (no more so than the PowerBook I'm typing this on, though). Assuming you can set the fragile thing down onto a stable, flat surface, there's no reason why you can't touch type at your full speed, whether that's hunt-and-peck or secretariat.

Previous to getting the PPK, I used the Landware keyboard. While I was quite happy with it, the differences are fairly jarring. Instead of downsized keys, I now have plenty of room for my fingers to fatten up. Instead of teeny chicklet function keys, today I bask in full-size function keys, plus a handful of useful, additional keys. Instead of having to stretch my right pinky to jump over the Down Arrow key to find the Right Shift key, I now enjoy a nice standard QWERTY layout. Add to that the PPK folds to less than half the size of the Landmark, and it's almost like moving from a Corolla to a Lexus. I'm not dumb, I'll drive the Lexus, thank you (I would have settled for a Camry, guys, but thanks anyway for the upgrade).

You'll need to install a small file from the supplied CD-ROM before using the keyboard, but that's it. Hmmm. 24K file, 630MB CD-ROM. You'd think Palm could have put something useful or at least entertaining on the remaining space. Hey guys, invest in an iMac and a Sony DV camcorder and film a little dance or something to put on the CD next time, eh?

I have no idea how the PPK will hold up to the kind of abuse I subject my gadgets to in the field, but I'm sure looking forward to finding out [so far, so good; so far it's been into the woods in Montana, Alaska, Utah, and California].

Now, let's see, take off the Palm, fold the little stand back into the back, slide the ends of the keyboard to the edges, and fold the whole thing back up into it's shell. Find another victim. "Hey, bub, bet you can't guess what this is..."

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