Twenty years ago today (May 22nd, 1996) I published my first mobile app that went commercial. PilotMoney, later renamed to MicroMoney (USR/Palm didn’t like us to use their name in our apps) was bought and sold commercially by LandWare, Inc. and became their basis for Pocket Quicken in November 1998.
MicroMoney original marketing shot from USR PalmPilot Professional Booklet
Thanks to the way back machine, you can see one of the later web pages and even get the last free version here.
Since then I have had apps out for various platforms including WindowsCE as well as iOS and Android. I still am active in mobile with over 100,000 app downloads on the Apple App Store alone, but I thought I would be self indulgent and take a walk down memory lane.
At the time the original US Robotics PalmPilot was launched I was working for a computer reseller in Southern California, Creative Computers (Also known as PC Mall, Mac Mall etc). I was responsible for running their network, internet presence and desktop apps at the time, and had been coding for years.
Since I had been at Creative since 1991, I knew the senior leadership very well and in 1996 I was called into the executive boardroom to come look at a new product that US Robotics wanted us to carry. There, on the table, was the original PalmPilot. After a quick test drive it was clear this new platform was going to be a huge hit. Up till then, all the competition was very fixed and inflexible (Think personal information managers and electronic purpose-built address books versus a device with a real pixel-driven screen and stylus input with the revolutionary Graffitti input).
This thing was very different. My input was a big thumbs up for carrying the device.
I had to get my hands on one, and I did exactly that. Soon the Pilot would also sport “an SDK” with CodeWarrior for developers to write to.
The development kit was released and as a result of my personal need for managing my money, I wrote what became the first productivity app for the platform alongside DinkyPad, a drawing app. Around the same timeframe two games, Invaders and BlackJack, were released. I got in very early and had an advantage over any other apps trying to do financials:
The original Pilot had no floating point math library. There was no way to use anything other than whole numbers. I engineered my own pseudo-floating-point code to solve the issue and we were all told that floating point calculations were coming. By the time a floating point system was released it was clear that it would be horrifically slow and recalculating hundreds of register entries in a money app was still best done using my method… so my app library remained, and the app became very popular as a result.
I set up one of the first mobile websites, under the StingerSoft name, which became one of the first hubs for mobile app distribution back in 1997 and was very successful in its own right, but also as a platform for me to draw enthusiasts to my software. As a result of this platform I was interviewed for magazines and such, as an early pioneer of the platform.
Even when Cisco Systems rolled out shiny new Treo 650 mobile phones to us employees years later, my faithful MicroMoney still ran on the device. It was, of course, a lot more capable than it had been, it was in color and resident on my first “Smart Phone”. I had also ported the app to WindowsCE as “Dollars and CEnts” but by the time the iPhone came around I was doing banking online and so my handy financial mobile app faded into obscurity.
From the PalmPilot Pro accessories booklet:
I have had two decades of experience with mobile, and there are a lot of parallels today to the original Palm ecosystem I was very successful with. The Palm was a small devices with great battery life which was software-extensible. The device could be synced with the rest of your data (Palm conduits and the companion MoneyView app is a post for another day), and it had an internet-based App distribution platform. The more things change the more they stay basically the same.
As for my app… I also have a pretty early PalmPilot and my original .prc file. We’ll be sitting down together, hotsyncing and I will give it another run…. Just for old times’ sake.
Happy 20th anniversary to PilotMoney.
I bought a shrink-wrapped copy of Pocket Quicken from eBay last week… I’ll be unwrapping it today… but I am still hunting for an original package for MicroMoney.
The saga begins.
I have a copy of MicroMoney.
I have a copy of Pocket Quicken:
I have a USB-to-Serial adapter.
I have Palm Desktop installed.
I have no working driver for the serial adapter Welcome to Windows