I noticed in news coverage this evening that Vindigo had closed up shop. I first ran into Vindigo when the agency that I worked for launched their London guide. The software ran on Palm PDAs in glorious monochrome. At the time we were Palm’s EMEA agency of record, so were speaking to all the right people and could preload Vindigo on to journalist review units.
In terms of functionality the software provided recommendations on restaurants, clubs and bars (the play section in the picture), shopping and the closest public toilet. It also had maps that provided point-to-point directions and was updated by syncing via serial port or USB connected cradle. Think of Vindigo as a chimera of a listings magazine like Time Out and the directions functionality of Google Maps.
This was back in 2000, way before Google Mobile and GPS chips in everything. Palm was still a respectable technology company and the internet was going to change everyone’s lives but we just weren’t sure about the business model yet.
Vindigo worked on dead reckoning for its turn-by-turn directions and it was considerably more helpful than its rival. A spiral bound atlas of London streets by publisher A to Z. It was some five years ahead of where 2.0 technologies that would revolutionise how we found our way around the world. Vindigo’s navigation function was a clever hack that made the most of the technology then available. This all required a large amount of information, which would have to be created manually. This is why the city directories took time to create. It used APIs to pull across information like restaurants and cinema listings. All of this was kept in a compressed database that the Palm device would decompress in real time to access the relevant information stored on it.
Ignoring the personal information management software that comes as standard on a Palm for the moment, AvantGo (a kind of pre-RSS mobile newsreader) and Vindigo were the essential software that I carried on my PDA. More on Vindigo here.