Memory Lane (Dell Axim X51v)

A few weeks ago, one of the BYOT specialists I follow on Twitter posted a picture of an AximSite t-shirt (don't look for AximSite, it no longer exists). Here's the tweet:

Ironically, I was the person that put together that t-shirt order. I've actually been looking for a used (cheap) Dell Axim X30i, as it was simply a device I loved. I had mentioned this to some people, and just yesterday I was given a Dell Axim X51v, free. I've been tinkering with it a bit, but since I no longer have PC computer in the house, I can't do much with it. It's just a nice “heritage” piece to have, just as I hope to someday own one of the first iPhones. AT&T will close down the Edge network in 2017 (the network that phone runs on–very slow), and I imagine that those units will be available, rather inexpensively.

Prior to the iPhone in 2007, the Internet on any cell phone wasn't a great experience. I had a Handspring Treo which I took along on a chaperoned trip to Washington D.C. during the first days of the second Gulf war. I was barely able to keep track of news and to peck out a few e-mails on the device. The BlackBerry was ideal for e-mail, but I didn't want one of those phones. Microsoft then developed an operating system for hand held computing called Windows Mobile. That OS was the foundation of the all the current Microsoft mobile operating systems, including the upcoming Windows 8. Several manufacturers made these devices, including HP and Dell. These little devices, like an iPhone, allowed users to access the internet via wi-fi on a handheld device, and they became quite popular gadgets in spy TV shows, such as Alias. My first Axim was a Dell X30i, and I used it in my classes, and even tried to do presentations with it in my graduate programs.

I eventually moved up to the X50v, and also discovered the the original model, the X5, was often sold because it would stop working. There was a ribbon cable underneat the main buttongs that would short out, causing the device to stop working. You could carefully open the device, put a piece of tape under the button, and the device would work. As a result, I eventually bought six X5s, at a price of $15 or less for each device. I also bought some portable cannon speakers (iHome iH5 or something like that), and we used those devices in my choirs. It required training, however, and Windows Mobile was not very easy to use. I even presented a session on the Pocket PC at the MMEA MidWinter Convention (you can find a PDF of that presentation in the “past presentations” category).

Now that I look back at that presentation and see how involved and complex it was to use those devices, it becomes instantly clear how much better the iPad is for education. Granted, someday there might be something better–but everything on the iPad is 1,000,000 times better than it was on the Pocket PC.

I eventually left the Dell Axim when Dell abandoned the product line, and sold all the devices while they still had some value.

It was a fun experience to work with the Dell Axim X51v, which was the top of the line (and last) Pocket PC made by Dell. It was fast and capable at the time, but compared to my iPhone 4, there's no comparison. The Dell Axim won't even load Google so I can do a search. It be limited to G wireless (if not B). And as I mentioned previously, there's no way for me to load other programs on the device. I remember being very fond of Hot Hoops (I wish it were on the iPhone) and Snails (which has been ported to the iPhone, but doesn't work as well). It is crazy to work (or to have to work) with a stylus (there is no way you could physically type on the screen) again–whereas I'm used to using a stylus on the iPad when I want to actually write or draw. It's certainly a case where my love of the Dell Axim was shaded by the limited technology of the time. Still, it's a nice toy to have–and it's not very large, so it is easy to store.

Someday, my kids will have to clean out my stuff when I'm gone, and they're going to find that Pocket PC and think, “What in the world was THIS?”



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