utilware.com - art, productivity, stories, technology
homegetting sh-t donetoo damn tallabout

The original Palm mirror.

Reflecting upon oneself in seat 18F

How it started

It all started one grey winter day in the mid 1990s, during a lonely Friday afternoon flight from Charlotte, NC to Chicago. It had been a long week at the client, and it was time to get back home to my lovely wife and a Dos Equis or two at the Clark’s Tacos.

So there I was, folded uncomfortably into seat 18F, trying to update my To Do list on my PalmPilot. But there was a problem: the setting sun was streaming through the window, reflecting my face in the screen of the Palm and making it nearly impossible to use.

Writing the app

And then it dawned on me - the PalmPilot might just make a handy little mirror. I turned the contrast all the way down, and wouldn't you know it, I could see myself pretty well. That weekend I hacked out some code to turn the screen black, and posted it to the web as the "Palm Mirror."

A Palm V device with a black screen

Little did I realize that that little app would eventually be downloaded over 1,000,000 times and get written up in newspapers as far away as Madrid. I produced a custom version for the the beauty section of an early iteration of the iVillage website.

Old screenshot of the iVillage website mentioning the Mirror app

I even came >this close< to getting an endorsed version from Claudia Schiffer, exchanging e-mails with her agent and everything.

What people said

And people who downloaded the application from PalmGear.com and Fandango left all sorts of feedback, ranging from "The best Palm app ever" to "I can't believe I downloaded this stupid thing":

"A waste of human potential." - Los Angeles, California

"I was so happy with the performance of this program that I threw out all of the mirrors in my house and replaced them with a PDA running the mirror app. Man, is it great living in the digital era." - Sydney, Australia

"The most Zen program I have ever seen. Useful or useless? Perhaps both. I use it every day." - Somewhere in France

"I am only a messenger, a simple Reflection off the Mirror Itself: Are you of the Mirrored? I think it's about time. Looking over the many reviews here, I see adoration and hatred. Apathy and enlightenment. This plucky little application has created quite a following for itself, as well as many critics. So we've got the object of worship. We've got the loving supplicants. We've got the vengeful enemies. It's time to form the religion of MIRROR. All who believe in Mirror, all those whose souls have been divinely Reflected by our dark and shining host, install Mirror on your PalmOS - from the lowliest 512K Pilot to the flashiest color Visor. Are you reflected, my brother? It's about time you were. Let me show you where to Look. How about you, sister? Have you gazed into the all-enlightened Mirror? If you do, you may realize that the great Mirror looks back at you! Until we meet again... Keep Mirror in your hearts and on your PalmOS. I leave you with the Mirrored mantra: 'The Reflection of Mirror is a divine Reflection of Mirror is a divine Reflection of Mirror is a divine Reflection of Mirror is a divine Reflection of Mirror is a divine...'" - Calgary, Canada

"The next killer app." - Davidsonville, Maryland

"Yup this is it. Fabulous. Einstein would have been proud." - Dublin, Ireland

"How sad that the humor-deprived intellectual elite cannot appreciate the simple brilliance of this amazing little program. The sole reason to buy a Palm." - Baton Rouge, Louisiana

"This very small in size program is fabulous ... If you apply lipstick on the go, you must have this program! Genius!" - Brandenburg, Germany

"Doesn't work for me ..." - Transylvania

Quote about Mirror from the Spanish-language newspaper ‘El Pais’
El Pais, Spain, January 11, 2001: "One of the most curious applications that have been developed for these devices is called Mirror. Its operation is very, very simple."

How it went

Palm Mirror went on to become one of the world's most popular Palm applications. It stayed at the top of the download charts for good amount of time, including nearly half a year on PalmCentral.com in 1999.

As life would have it, Mirror spawned a dozen imitations across a decade of devices, and after five or six years finally mostly disappeared from the public mind. That said, it still got downloaded 700-800 times a year from here for years after the Palm went out of style.

Want a copy of mirror.prc? Contact me!


» See what else there is is on útilware.com