When Palms Go Thermonuclear

I was driving home on Friday when I dug my Palm Tungsten C handheld out of my jacket pocket and nearly dropped the thing in surprise. It was hot — excruciatingly hot. It was so hot that that I literally couldn’t hold it in my hand, at least not the portion where the computer’s battery was. I half expected it to start uttering a self-destruct message. Visions of the Enterprise exploding above the Genesis planet flashed before my eyes.

My first thought was that the Palm had been resting on the floor of the Wrangler, which can get fairly warm during my commute, but my jacket had been on the Jeep’s back seat. The thing continued to get hotter and hotter and was completely unresponsive to my attempts to turn it on (or off) using the power button. With no way to force a reboot using the annoyingly awkward, pin-holed hard-reboot button on the back, I decided to put the Palm on my dashboard and blast it with my air conditioning.

That cooled it down, and by the time I got home, whatever malfunction it was suffering had fully drained the battery, leaving the thing powerless and lifeless for the weekend. Back at work on Monday, I put it on the charger, and an hour later the Palm was working again. The machine had reset itself, and all my data had been lost, but since I had synched it recently, nothing important was trashed.

So what happened? Near as I can figure, a button must have been mashed while the Palm was in my pocket, and that somehow caused it simultaneously lock-up and overheat. It’s been working fine since then, so I’m hoping this was a one-time glitch.

I did learn one important thing from this incident though — after relaying my story to a friend, he told me that every Palm has a tool for hitting that recessed reset button. If you unscrew the plastic top of the stylus, you’ll find a tiny little poker that’s perfectly sized for insertion into the reset button. That’s pretty nifty, but I wonder how many Palm owners go years without ever realizing that?