Palm and PalmPilot applications live on thanks to the Internet Archive

The Internet Archive is promoting a new trip down (tech) memory lane by bringing hundreds of Palm OS applications to the web for your emulation pleasure. Reliving the past of mobile computing forerunners has never been easier.

The Internet Archive (IA) is once again busy saving the history of computing and digital culture with a new preservation project: a “software library” is full of Palm and PalmPilot applications. Thanks to Palm OS emulation, users can now experience how people were managing their digital stuff on the go before the smartphone came to be the world’s most beloved (loathed?) electronic gadget.

The Software Library: Palm and PalmPilot collection was brought online by Jason Scott, the IA archivist who has been busy with old computer stuff and files for decades now. The library consists of more than 500 applications spanning classic games, shareware programs and system apps. To run an app, an entire emulated instance of Palm OS must be loaded on the browser.

Scott said it took six months to embed the existing CloudpilotEmu – a web-based emulator for PalmOS – into the IA web platform, bringing along a rich list of features including realistic emulation of timers and device speed, continuous state saves, direct installation and export of .prc and .pdb files, audio emulation, keyboard input and clipboard integration. For a truer experience, users can load the apps on a smartphone using a mobile browser.

Palm developed a line of “personal digital assistant” (PDA) devices and mobile phones released in 90s. Many years before the original iPhone, Android or even the venerable BlackBerry, Palm’s PDAs ushered in the “handheld computer” concept.

Palm Inc. was purchased by Hewlett-Packard (HP) in 2010, which eventually sold the trademark to a Chinese shelf corporation after giving the platform a last (and failed) chance with the Palm-developed webOS project.

According to Scott, the PalmOS emulation hosted by the Internet Archive still needs a bit of work especially on the metadata side of things. The digital archivist is even planning to add the instructions for each one of the apps already made available to the public.