Palm Pilot hand held computers represent a significant area of computing - that of making the personal computer a highly personal object. The way a person uses a computer the size of a large mainframe, or even a desktop computer, is quite different to the way one uses a palm top computer. A palm top is an object that can be carried and used almost anywhere. Thus, the way the user behaves when using it could be quite different to the way one would behave in a plant or office environment. An analogy is of course the way the mobile telephone has greatly changed the way we use the telephone. The fixed-line telephone is an object of communal use - be it in the home or office - where the mobile telephone is an object of highly personal significance. The palm top has also become a useful tool in some areas of business - enabling people to have access to electronic files while in the field, increasing productivity.
The first mass-produced portable computer was the Osborne 1, of which the Powerhouse Museum has an example of in its holdings; it was released on the market in 1981. There were earlier portable computers, such as the Xerox NoteTaker, but this computer never made it to production. Laptop, or notebook computers were introduced in the early 1980s, although they did not become commonly used until a decade hence. Despite the laptop's quite portable size, smaller and much more portable computers were in constant development. The first successful 'palm top' was the Apple Newton or Message Pad. It was manufactured and marketed from 1993 to 1998. It featured handwriting recognition and other software included word processing and spreadsheet programs. The Palm corporation (initially a division of US Robotics) began producing Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) in 1996. Although the word 'Palm Pilot' has entered the vernacular, and generically refers to many hand-held computer devices, only the first generation of the Palm corporation's PDAs were marketed as 'Pilots', due to a law suit against them by Pilot Pens in 1998. The official name for the Palm corporation's devices since 1998 has been Palm Connected Organizers. Palm top computers have become increasingly sophisticated and many now feature functions such as MP3 players and cameras and the ability to connect to many other devices.