Yes, I am playing Dope Wars on a Palm Pilot inside my iPhone. It’s thanks to The Internet Archive, which is once again launching a giant collection of software you can instantly play on any web browser, up to and including your touchscreen-equipped phone. There are currently 565 classic Palm apps in all, including games, widgets, and even free trials from both the greyscale and color eras.
Reach out and touch a 1996 pocket computer with your 2022 pocket computer
And it’s more than just the individual apps, too: the entire Palm OS is loaded with each launch, including its full selection of default apps (like the calculator and memo pad) and a working Graffiti touchscreen writing system. I cannot emphasize this enough: you can reach out and touch a 1996 pocket computer with your 2022 pocket computer and it works like a charm. It’s a tiny interactive window into the pre-iPhone era, and what lived in the proto-App Store.
For me personally, it’s like taking a trip back in time to high school, when I read cached copies of Slashdot, played Space Trader and Flappy Bird predecessor SFCave during passing periods, showed off my tricorder to anyone who’d bite, and occasionally even took valuable class notes with a stylus. Other generations can now see what those were like with a single tap.
Archivist and historian Jason Scott tells The Verge that it only took six months for the existing CloudPilot emulator to be ready to embed, and credits both its developer Christian Speckner and the POSE emulator that came before. (I’m reading that even POSE was based on an earlier project, Copilot, so quite a few people deserve thanks for the result.)
Scott says his own favorite Palm software was a GPS app he used on his Palm III — but I don’t want to spoil why. You’ll understand immediately when you try it for yourself.
You may also find some comedy gold in his dedicated collection of Palm Pilot trialware, back when developers were trying to figure out what would make people pay for an app. A calculator where “you can’t do any math calculations with the number 7” seems like it belongs in a certain circle of hell.
Scott says he’s soft-launching the Palm Pilot emulator collection because he’s “kind of tired of people finding that I missed a spot,” and it genuinely still needs some work — mostly pulling out metadata like the names of each app’s creator. He also hopes to add the instructions for each app.
If there’s a particular game or app that got you through school or work and it’s mysteriously missing, reply to me in the comments or shoot me an email? Scott says he’s still adding a few, and I’ll happily pass along requests.