Jeff Hawkins, PalmPilot Inventor (click for larger image)
<TD>We continue our fascinating discussion with the the father of the PalmPilot in Part 2 of The PalmPower Interview with Jeff Hawkins. Jeff shares with us interesting insights into the design and execution of the PalmPilot, along with some ideas for the future.
I was listening to one of the lectures at the developers conference. One of the things I found kind of curious was that Rob Haitani, one of your senior product guys, said that your early interface prototypes were developed using HyperCard. Please share with us some interesting "early development" stories like that.JH:
It's hard to remember these things. I have a brain that sort of washes things out. Well, the HyperCard thing was sort of interesting. Rob worked very heavily on the user interface of the PalmPilot. We went through a tremendous number of iterations. Almost minute by minute we would modify things and test them with people because he got very facile at using HyperCard.
"I'm putting a stake in the ground and saying I'm not going to build something bigger."
If I look back, I think one of the real big insights we made in the product design process, which is not one we had coming in, is the use of these buttons. You don't want to have hard wired functions when you're building a platform that's programmable to do various things. You don't want to have lots of buttons, because buttons are confusing. We had an original prototype which had one button. We kept trying to do more and more with this one button.
Then we sat back one day and said "What do people really, really want to do?" because we were counting the steps it took to do things they really wanted to do. We basically said "You know, there are a number of things that people want to do so often and so commonly, were willing to print pictures of them and put them on dedicated buttons and put them on the machine," which was kind of against the computer design philosophy if you think about it. That's not the way desktops and laptops are produced.
Of course, we didn't go overboard. We kept the number of buttons down, we thought very hard about where they were going to be placed. Made sure that they'd work well with games and things like that. But that was an insight that came through by sitting there watching people using the product and watching them use paper. And we said, "Gee, we're not as quick as paper, what can we do about this," over and over and over again.DG:
Can you share one or two more?JH:
Let me just think for a second. We had a tremendous amount of debate about things that people thought were absolutely necessary to have on the product. It was perceived at the time we did the PalmPilot that it was absolutely essential to have a PC Card slot for example. We didn't have one. I didn't want to put one in there. There was a lot of pressure to put one in there. We kept coming back to "What are people going to use it for? What works on it and doesn't work on it?"