So, Marc Weidenbaum from Disquiet (you might remember he wrote a very nice interview with me) emailed me a question about using some old Palm PDAs. In fact the three palm devices in question were, a Palm IIIxe, the Clie SJ20, and the Tungsten T3. Marc suggested that I reply to him in the form of a post, so here we are with “there are some very cool things you can still do with an old Palm device”.
Let’s start off with the Palm IIIxe.
The IIIxe is actually a very interesting device. Even though it’s old, it actually has a lot of potential, especially for anyone who wants to use it for MIDI. There are a few MIDI apps available for the older Palm OS. But before we go there, just a little history about the Palm OS and devices.
Palm devices like the IIIxe used Palm OS 3 or 4 and these devices used serial outputs which are generally speaking very good for old five pin MIDI. After Palm OS 4 came Palm OS 5 (not a big surprise there), and OS5 was more USB focused and not quite so good at MIDI either. However, it did have its other benefits and we’ll see those in a while.
For now let’s have a little look at the different possible MIDI apps you could find for a Palm IIIxe:
For starters there’s MixPad:
MixPad is great if you want to play MIDI files and mix them. It came from miniMusic who were real pioneers in the mobile music world. MixPad works well, but doesn’t allow you to change the MIDI file unfortunately. There were plans to do this, but sadly it didn’t come about.
Next let’s look at BeatPad. This is a Palm OS app that will be a bit more familiar. It has a drum part and a bass or mono part too. However, there’s a lot you can do to control what BeatPad does.
BeatPad is pretty cool and lots of fun to and gives you some nice control if that’s what’s important to you, but we don’t end there.
Another notable Palm OS app in the same series is NotePad, which is, as you might expect, a notation app. NotePad also has MIDI capabilities too so is worth a look.
The last of the miniMusic apps to look at is SpinPad which is a more interesting interface altogether.
SpinPad also has the added benefit of being free too. It was a miniMusic app that I’d always hoped that they’d do more with, but sadly that is now very unlikely.
So those are the miniMusic apps. But before we leave the IIIxe, and I hope that I’ve proved so far that there’s life in the old dog, there’s another group of apps that I need to mention. These are the Capers applets or demos. These are a group of apps that were meant to demonstrate some of the functionality for a replacement OS for the Palm OS which would have been a musical operating system. Sadly, it never saw the light of day,
But the Capers applets / demos are still available. One of my favourites amongst the applets is the Hedgehog. Here’s what it looks like in action:
The last video here bridges the gap between Palm and iOS with the old IIIxe driving an iPad app, Magellan. That about does it for the IIIxe. If you do take a look at the applets from Capers you’ll also find a PDF on how to use Hedgehog. Hopefully it’ll be useful.
Next we move on to the Palm Tungsten T3, and now it gets really interesting …
So, what can you do with a Tungsten T3 these days. Well, it’ll come as no surprise to many that I’m going to mention Bhajis Loops. Bhajis is still one of the most versatile and complete mobile music apps around, even though it has been out of development for years and years now.
I went looking for a few videos of Bhajis, but couldn’t find too much actually. However, this video from artist Transient.
Bhajis was, and still is for that matter, a unique a brilliant app for the Palm OS. I’d probably go so far as saying that it’s only relatively recently that apps on iOS have gone further, and there are still some things that Bhajis does way better than iOS. Add that Bhajis is now free, as is it’s little brother Microbe (which is also worthy of a look) and you’ve got a simple and cheap way to get a mobile music machine going. So if you want a cheap mobile music device, get yourself a Pam Tungsten T3 from eBay or a Palm Tungsten TX for that matter, then grab Bhajis for free, and Microbe of course, then, when you need some instruments and sample libraries, head over here for an Aladdin’s cave of Bhajis richness!
So Marc, does that give you enough to go on? I hope it does. In my view both your T3 and your IIIxe are very useful indeed. You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the Clie SJ20. Well, of the three, in my opinion this is the least interesting. It was running Palm OS 4.1 which was ok, but not with serial so not much good for MIDI. It’s an ok device overall but for musical applications, not so good.
So, to recap, both Bhajis Loops and Microbe are still completely excellent mobile music making apps for Palm OS, and as you’ve already got a Pam Tungsten T3 which was arguably the best Palm for running Bhajis then you’re good to go!
I think that there are still some quite interesting things that can be done with Palm devices these days, and I hope that I’ve gone at least a little way to showing that.