I have a lot more to say about this project later (and how it relates to my Amiga adventures). But these past few weeks I've been working on a ton of hand-held electronic organizer projects. And I wanted to share the crazy journey I took for just one small piece of it.
Off and on for the past 2 years I've been working on an Amiga project to "Make your data mobile". It started with the Sharp Wizard electronic organizers, then moved on to the Palm III (pre-USB, this uses a serial port). I even got a gorgeous Atari Portfolio but that might wind up only making it to my Mac depending on how things play out. Anyway, weeks ago I landed a "brand new" NOS shrink-wrapped Palm III for $50. Thankfully the 2 batteries that came with the palm were in a tight plastic cocoon and separated from the device in the box, so they did what they do in a relatively harmless fashion and didn't hurt anything after all these years.
I also got a NOS foldable keyboard for it for $15.
The problem? To use the keyboard you have to install software onto the Palm. You either needed to use an old PC or, potentially, a Mac, to install the necessary software.
I settled on using my Quadra 700 to be the host, which has serial ports - albeit proprietary Apple ones.
Supposedly, from what I'd read, the Mac base requirements asked for macOS 7.5.3, an 040, 16MB of RAM and hard drive space. Even though the Palm III was released in 1998 and my Quadra was from 1991 it came with an 040 (and I've upgraded it from 25 Mhz to 40 Mhz), has 64 MB of RAM (which I upgraded it to myself from 4MB iirc) and just so happened to have 7.5.3 (which I also upgraded it to myself from 7.0).
My machine sounded perfect. I thought to myself, "No sweat. How hard could this be?"
First, I needed to connect the Palm's cradle to the 700. That required an adapter, which I found on Ebay - shipped - NOS for $12. Check
That "MacPac" also came with "Palm Pilot 1.01" software for the Mac on 4 floppy disks. So I installed that and connected everything up and - lo and behold - the Palm III hot synced! The software said it was written for older 1st gen devices made 2 years earlier, but the software worked perfectly with my Palm III. I was quite pleased.
Have to admit the Palm 1.01 Desktop software is simply gorgeous on a Mac, too. The UI is absolutely beautiful. It made some of my recent experiments with calendar software on my Amiga seem ... visually crude.
OK! So next I popped in the Keyboard software CD-ROM. It wanted me to move a Palm "PRC" file over to an Add Ons folder. There was no such folder. My 1.01 software was way too old!
So I popped in the CD that came with the Palm III. It was PC- only software. Arg!
After searching on MacintoshGarden.org, I found Palm Desktop 2.1.6 which said it could be used on 68K Macs like mine. Sweet!
Except the file was 6MB big. How the HECK do I get that file over to my Quadra? It was a single installer file. I couldn't put that on a 1.44 MB floppy. The Quadra has no USB ports. And there's no way to drift the data over via null modem cable to my knowledge.
After a while, I came to realize my only hope was via CD-ROM, of course. But how to burn a CD-ROM that the old Mac will accept?
It took me a lot of trial and error. My WinXP laptop with a built-in burner would not burn a CD the Mac could use no matter how I fiddled with settings.
Finally, I decided to purchase (for cheap) an external Firewire Lacie CD-R. I have an iMac DV Ruby (2000) model that has both USB and Firewire ports.
I had to take the archived Stuffit SIT file from MacintoshGarden and put that on a FAT32 USB stick. If I unpacked the file before moving it to the older Mac, it didn't understand it. So I rolled the dice and just kept it as a SIT file and moved that over on the USB. It understood it! I then un-archived it on the iMac, and moved that folder onto the blank CD using Toast Titanium 5 (which cost $100 back in the day).
After burning the CD I moved it over to the Quadra 700, which then saw the files correctly and proceeded to install Palm Desktop 2.6.1! "Oh man," I thought, "I hope this works as well as the really early connection software..."
Once that was behind me, I quickly looked for the Add-on folder and there it was! I copied the PRC file over and then tried to Hot Sync again. It worked! At this stage I could move any PRC file over I wanted to - not just keyboard software. So I additionally moved over Subhunt, Solitaire, Minesweeper, some calculator programs and Sync'd again.
Boom! The new programs had their icons on my Palm III. Woohoo!
Then I plugged the Palm into the Keyboard. I quickly discovered I needed to "un-hook" 4 of the keys that had been somehow mashed flat and locked the last 20 years. After a bit of fiddling with dental tools and small flathead screwdrivers (I had to removed one of the keycaps entirely, which was a major PITA to get back on) I was back in business.
And after all of that, I now have a fully functioning Palm III and foldable keyboard.
Why??? Because the journey is fun! And I just love it when a long adventure like this comes together with a happy ending.