I remember being frustrated that the only means of technical support was a terrible walled garden web forum. There was no email gateway, so one had to keep checking that site for answers. I would have much preferred mailing lists and a public website indexable by search engines.
The bigger frustration was that T-Mobile was the gatekeeper for app distribution. If you wanted to get an app to a phone, it had to be on the store, you had to get T-Mobile's blessing, and they had no plans to support free apps. The carriers were very much still oriented around the ringtone economy and were terrified that you might put something on your phone without getting a cut of a fee.
People complain now about Apple and Google and the processes that impede app distribution, but the iOS and Android ecosystem is way better than what existed when the carriers were in charge.
I remember thinking that the Danger folks were very responsive and very sharp, but it didn't matter because they were in the end beholden to T-Mobile and T-Mobile didn't get it. There's an ecosystem lesson in there for anybody trying to build a new platform.
> the world owes a debt of thanks to Jeff Bush who was the first person we know of to get a full TCP/IP stack working on a cellular data connection
IP is natively supported by GPRS and worked from day 1, and before that regular GSM-data had been used for TCP/IP for a long time.
If I remember correctly we had it up and running around Q1 2000 which seems to be before this (Not quite sure though, the article doesn't mention specific dates)
If all you needed was a few dozens of seconds of connectivity — such as, I'm guessing, to update a sign — that was probably just dandy. However, that's not how the hiptop worked; it generally aimed to open a connection to the "mothership" soon after boot, and it would hold it open, for hours or even days, network willing.
I'm pretty sure that's less a historical side-note and more an invitation for Sun to subpoena you to testify the next time Google says their version of Java was a clean-room implementation.
Developers try so hard these days to implement push notifications from their apps & services and boast about all the IFTTT stuff.
Carries here in India used to provide email-to-sms
as a free service. You would just send an email to +91PhoneNo@xyzprovider.com and that message would be sent to PhoneNo as an SMS (160 chars from subject).
Now a days if you want to send a message, you need to have developer accounts, install Software on the devices to receive the notifications, need to have a data connection on the phone, talk to push notifications clouds and a few other things.
Sometime in 2007, I setup a forwarding rule in my GMail account for my long-distance friend's address. When she mailed, I would get it as an SMS on phone and run back home to chat if I was out.
It stopped working after sometime. I'm not sure what happened. I remember reading it was made an enterprise-only service by some telecom operators. If they the service back up and running, I'm sure there are many ideas waiting to be built on top of it.
I still miss that General Magic bunny though.
Pre iPhone and Android carriers really did run the show because they owned the access to the customer.
T-Mobile was trying to differentiate with the Danger stuff, which is why they allowed it to run a better browser. AT&T/Cingular and Verizon were big enough that they wouldn't have allowed it.
Many pre-iPhone Nokias (and other devices) would disagree with you there
I probably still have one or two in a box in my parents' house somewhere...
Edit: I remember using it at graduation, too. My wife was in the audience and I was so engrossed in our Cybiko chat that I took a wrong turn on the stage and ended up getting into the procession line twice. That was embarrassing. Glad I didn't try to use the thing while driving :-)
Personalised homepages? And they all were just a bit broken? iGoogle seemed to kill them all off.
And then was killed off in its turn ...
I have that. Minus the web part. It's all in terminal, in one screen, that I access over SSH. Haven't changed my workflow since ... 1998 ?
You'd be surprised how fast email is when you don't have to mouse around...
I knew about many of the Android team having worked for Danger, but I had never seen one "in the field." When she stopped for a moment, I asked her about the device. It was apparent she was deaf, so we used my pocket notebook to communicate. She told me all her deaf friends had Danger Hiptops.
There was even an unofficial ASL gesture for "smartphone" now which mimicked the "flip screen" of the Hiptop since they were so pervasive in the community.
Nokia's Symbian phones always struck me as trying to be "little big computers." The hiptop was different; it wasn't trying to be a stripped-down version of a desktop (or laptop) computer. It really embraced its form factor whole-heartedly.
Rather than aiming to be (something like) a Nokia Symbian clone, the hiptop struck me as coming from the same place the original Palm Pilot did, but with the benefit of several years of industry advancement in terms of its technology base. E.g., beyond what you saw in the Pilot, we managed to get into the base system: real internet networking, true preemptive multitasking (though not address space isolation), and a much "realer" web browser.
Also, I miss pcmcia cards. Just saying.
But I'll have to give it up and there are virtually no Android devices with a physical keyboard.
I'll really miss one-handed operation (I could perform all the actions with only one hand, including typing an SMS), and not having to watch the screen (touch-typing). But they don't seem to be a necessity for people these days.
"Jim and I believed in the Jeffersonian ideal that a inventor has a lock on an idea for a limited period of time. There were many ideas in this code that could have been patented, however we chose not to pursue it. We chose the Trade Secret route. Because of that, this code did not end up in the hands of a Patent troll. Now it can be mixed back into the culture, to be recycled and reinvented."
One friend was on his 5th hiptop in 18 months, and another was on his 3rd in about the same amount of time.
If you drop an iPhone on concrete, it survives just fine so long as you don't shatter the glass. As for a wood floor or carpet, my various iPhones have survived several falls this way without any issues.
As for Danger, the devices would break frequently, even minor drops would result in the screen cosmetically undamaged, but something got loose internally and the device would stop working entirely.
I wanted a Sidekick / hiptop, but the perceived fragility was too much to overcome.
If anyone reading this worked at Danger, was my perceived fragility of the phone more anecdotal than real?
The forums were full of people complaining. Just normal wear and tear would break them. Not sure if they ever really resolved the quality issue before folding. You really felt like a beta tester with the Danger device.
The screen was gimmicky, but oh-so-cool... it got everyone's attention, and allowed me to show people what it could do. Everyone was impressed - until they asked about ringtones. T-Mobile's laser-focus on hip-hop was a real blow there... I'm not into it, nor were any of the people I showed the device to. It really turned people away from it when they realized the target market was teenagers (even though it was an awesome techie's device).
The terminal program was my favorite part (I was a Unix Systems Architect at the time) and it got a great deal of (ssh) use.
I loved reading through the various descriptions of the apps being developed on the developers site (skdr?) and waited so patiently for T-Mobile to give the green light to so many of them (including a super-simple one, the voice-note-recorder), which they never did. I tried to get my own developer status (can't remember the term they used) so I could get a key and load the apps directly onto my device (via usb), but that was shortly after T-Mobile had made the process extremely difficult with huge forms to fill out and some catch-22 requirement that you had to already have a program published to get the dev kit (or something like that). I read a lot of complaints about that.
The best part of the device was the keyboard. It had the best layout and by far the best feel (and spacing) of any phone thumb-keyboard I've used since. Better than the Nokia N800 (NIT, not phone), better than the original Android G1, even better than the N900. It's the only thumb-keyboard I ever used that I could type on without looking at the keyboard, and quickly... far more quickly than anything remotely similar that I've tried.
After they cut the service, I used mine as a dumb-phone for a while until the microphone finally stopped working. That forced me to finally get a replacement (my N900).
One thing that's pretty impressive about the SideKick II... mine is still running (never been rebooted) since before T-mobile cut the service! I've had it plugged in the entire time for fear that if the battery dies, it will lose the games and programs I have installed (it acted sort-of as a thin client and downloaded all apps you had allocated upon powerup).
Pretty darned amazing uptime, considering what it was. :)
While Danger had a very basic implementation running internally (pretty cool, see ), they surely didn't have a clue of the potential/value of lifestreaming/public status updates.
Neither did I. As an initial beta-tester in May/June of 2002 I too had developed a HipTop mobile blogging site for private use (CF/SQL/Email, mostly cat and food shots!) -- demoed it to Om Malik who introduced me to T-Mobile -- but it was really Mike Popovic's HipTopNation , the first communal moblog launched on Oct. 4th 2002 and his Oct. 31 Halloween Photo Scavenger Hunt that sparked the popularity and showed the potential.
After HipTopNation quickly gained traction  with 1000+ mobloggers, Danger decided to launch a "hiplog" service/site to consumers on Jan 13, 2003 . Joi Ito has a nice timeline 
That was all great until a storage area network upgrade failed and destroyed all data for many customers. When those phones stopped synchronizing, T-Mobile recommended a hard reset. That meant the data was gone forever.
My real issue was that we missed out on a lot of the value added features that US customers got. Our app store was pretty sparse, software updates came many (many) months after US customers, and since so much data was proxied through Danger in the US we had many additional points of failure.
I vaguely remember griping about not being able to get a direct net connection during a period of transatlantic network instability. It was a bit like BIS (Blackberry Internet Service) in this regard.
I also remember the spate of high profile celebrity account hacks at the time. I think the always-on sync feature really was revolutionary but it did highlight the risk of sharing everything, all the time, with a service provider.
That said, the device was really ahead of its time. In the UK, BIS Blackberry devices were very uncommon. Sure, we had things like the Sony P800  but the push service, IM functionality and world-class hardware keyboard of the Hiptop were unparalleled. And it's difficult to underestimate the utility of the RGB LED and the ability to set the notification color depending on device events.
The sidekick was a phenomenal device. Battery lasted all day -- I could text and had unlimited data over GPRS (maybe EDGE?) - and I was one of the only students who could Google and read in class. I browsed forums, looked up answers, even started essays on that keyboard.
You had a persistent AIM -- and the interface was prettier and more fluid than Android (up to the latest release).
What a delight that device was.