PalmDB is a download catalog for Palm OS applications opened in 2018 to preserve the legacy of this highly influential piece of pre-smartphone tech history.
From the early '90s to late '00s, Palm pioneered many technologies we enjoy in modern smartphones today. Unfortunately, with the popularity of iOS and Android, Palm failed to gain a foothold in the smartphone market and was shut down in a series of acquisitions. In the years following, Palm OS's massive library of applications was nearly lost. With no first-party store and almost all third-parties dropping support, for a time it was virtually impossible to find any trace of what was once a thriving digital economy.
This began to change thanks to Reddit. A small community of Palm enthusiasts slowly found each other on /r/Palm, some of whom had archives of their old software ready to share. These were first collected on PalmArchive.com, where my own archive was featured among a handful of others. But I wanted to take things a step further. Shortly thereafter, PalmDB was launched as a fully-featured download catalog using apps sourced from this community archive.
In 2020, PalmDB was rebuilt from the ground up on a custom platform based on HTMLy. HTMLy was reformatted as a download catalog with an open membership structure, giving PalmDB the collaborative edge of a wiki while retaining tight content moderation. Its community is now several hundred members strong.
PalmDB is one of the most unique projects I've ever worked on. It encompasses an unrepeatable period of history I personally lived through, and fills a gap I never thought would fall to me. It also features a unique backend and frontend design configured from the ground up for sustainability. As a preservation effort, it's imperative that PalmDB stand some chance of surviving long-term, and thanks to a portable file structure, custom platform, and supportive community, I believe it will do just that.
Don't have a Palm device of your own? No worries! Thanks to PalmDB community member Cuttlefish, it is now possible to emulate Palm applications through Mu as part of RetroArch!