Here’s what’s up, 90s rememberers: Palm OS is back, kind of. Thanks to the Internet Archive, you can now load up a suite of 569—and counting—apps (opens in new tab) from the golden age of the Personal Data Assistant. Though it’s only a soft-launch right now because many games are missing descriptions or manuals, the depth of what’s going on in here is incredible. It’s a catalogue of hundreds of apps and games I’d have figured were completely lost to the mists of time. I’d have thought wrong.
Alright, for everyone younger than 30 that is very confused by the prior paragraph, here’s the rundown: The Palm and Palmpilot were basically devices that were computers for your pocket—they called them Personal Data Assistants, or PDAs. They were smartphones before smartphones, or “the original smartphones” if you prefer, devices to run productivity apps and business organization for yourself.
Also probably to play games on even though you were supposed to be in a meeting and/or class.
In order to emulate the Palm apps, the archive actually loads up the entirety of Palm OS, the software that drove the early smart devices. Jason Scott, the archivist and historian behind the project, told The Verge (opens in new tab) that it only took six months to get the CloudPilot emulator up and running on the archive—all hail preservationists working in emulation, and big thanks to CloudPilot, POSE, and Copilot developers for carrying the torch.
If you want to click away a few hours in some classic late-90s time wasters, I’d recommend jumping right in to the archive of PalmPilot games. (opens in new tab) There’s a lot of good stuff in there, like Space Trader (opens in new tab), an adorably simple space sim about trying to get stupid rich and buy a moon to retire on.
Which, honestly, says a lot about the audience of the Palm PDAs and who was writing these games: People who would one day retire.