Back to the Future with iPhone Typing

Reading a review of Documents To Go, a Microsoft Office-compatible document creater/reader app for the iPhone (as well as many other PDAs/smartphones) made me think of the old “laptops” that first appeared in the early 80’s. When typing on the iPhone in landscape mode you only get a few lines of text remaining visible, and Documents To Go exacerbates this further with additional menu bars that take up more vertical real estate (though they can be invisible-ized when not needed).

Here’s a screenshot from the MacWorld review. As you can see, there are only 3 lines of text visible (perhaps 5 with the menu bar off):

Here’s what the old Tandy TRS-80 Model 100 looked like, perhaps the world’s first true laptop computer from 1983:

Two and a half decades later and we’re back where we started…

If you’re just typing a quick message then such a letterboxed view is perhaps acceptable, but for working properly on a multi-page Word doc it’s just horrible. I would sometimes use my old Palm Tungsten T3 (which had one of the larger Palm screens) along with a fold-up keyboard, and it actually wasn’t too bad. But that’s my minimum for a tolerable experience when writing anything even moderately lengthy.

I have to admit that I find myself less and less enamored of the forced compromise that the iPhone creates between keyboard and content by placing both on the same screen. I don’t find any of the permutations satisfactory for what I need. Obviously I’m in a minority however, as most people love their iPhones according to one recent very small-scale survey.