[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Sharp Pocket Locker

December 5th, 2011 by Benj Edwards

Sharp Pocket Locker Electronic Organizer Teen Girl Ad -1995Two teen girls compare notes on vampires that attend their high school.

Ah, the dedicated electronic pocket organizer — an ever-present, seemingly useful device for want of a market.

Since the early 1980s, electronics manufacturers have produced pocket-sized computer gadgets that store databases of phone numbers, addresses, calendar appointments, and not much else. These electronic organizers reached their peak (in terms of number of devices in the market) in the mid-1990s. At that time, the technology involved became cheap enough to market to kids.

Despite manufacturers’ best efforts, such devices have continuously failed to gain widespread use for a simple reason: none have demonstrably improved upon the paper address book. Not even the socially-hungry teen girl market, as targeted by Sharp in this 1995 ad for the Pocket Locker, could push them into the mainstream.

It was only when manufacturers rolled electronic organizer functionality into a more general-purpose device (think palmtop computer, PalmPilot) that the idea of electronically maintaining personal contact records in a mobile setting took off. Address books, calendars, and phone databases became separate programs that lived in a larger ecosystem of applications that could be run on the device.

Most palmtop computer-style PDAs offered significant advantages over the paper organizer. They synchronized with PCs to back up information, and they could use the stored data in conjunction with other programs for more useful effect — for example, you could actually email someone directly from a record stored in your digital address book.

Contrast that experience to the dedicated pocket organizer model, where the the information you entered became trapped in a tiny plastic box with a crummy display and a kludgy interface that would lose its memory if its batteries ran out.

Today, the organizer-as-software clearly won over dedicated units, and anyone with a mobile phone now carries an organizer software suite in their pocket. It’s only one of many functions that cellphones have absorbed on their quest to become the ultimate multipurpose pocket device.

[ From Pop-Sci For Kids, September-October 1995, back cover ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Have you ever used a dedicated electronic pocket organizer device? Tell us about it.

8 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Sharp Pocket Locker”

  1. technotreegrass Says:

    Sharp Pocket Lockers were actually very popular among girls in my middle school, and a few of my cousins’ schools as well. There was a great scandal where some bully stole someone’s device, changed the password, and gave it back. The owner was worried about the information the bully may have learned and the fact that she would lose everything if she reset the device. The fad died within a year though some students were reported to still use their Pocket Locker but kept it at home.

  2. BRIK Says:

    I remember my parents brought me one of those (a generic branded one) just before I started high school so I could keep track of classes and such. I think I used it for about two days before the novelty wore off.

  3. anachostic Says:

    I used a Franklin Rex Pro for years and loved it immensely. Prior to that I had another device that I am unable to find info on. It was a folding aluminum case with a multiline monochrome screen on top and a soft rubber membrane keyboard on the bottom. I thought it was by Franklin, but I can’t find it now. It had no connectivity to any other devices.

  4. Arlandi Says:

    never used any of these. but my grandpa used to collect these back in the late 80s. he owned a lot of these. from the one with calculator to those that you can wear as a watch. i remember few of them, you can record melodies for alarm. kinda like ringtones in today phones. also 1 has a hangman game in it.

  5. BB Says:

    My family used Palm OS Devices sine the ,500 / m505 Generation. Before that I made good use of my Siemens Phones. THe Business-lineup they produced around 2000 still is one of the best thought out Cellphones ever made. I still have a Sony clie that is terribly beat-up, but works like a charm. All other efforts in this direction i have never tested. THe earlier generations were not interesting to me while the latter for me are iOS devices. And the development in markets is pretty obvious. If one device can do it all tehy are very well accepted by the consumers. Weather or not people actually use the functions (just thinking of proper use oc calendar or address book), most are still overwhelmed and only play games on it use Facebook and short messaging services. At least something still I guess …

  6. Sarah Says:

    Does anyone know where I might be able to buy one of these? I am dying to get my hands on one!

  7. charlotte Says:

    I want to buy one. I used to have one when I was in middle school. If anyone knows please email me at: blueyez22218@hotmail.com

  8. kool konceptz Says:

    Sarah and Charlotte I have 2 of these which I will be auctioning on ebay Australia. koolkonceptz@gmail.com

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