Time dilation

Here’s the striking thing about the Palm-Handspring nerger. Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky were at Palm for six years. They were at Handspring for five. Yet the Palm saga seems vastly longer than the Handspring saga. By the time the two left Palm, the company was on top of the world, having created an entirely new market category that was growing like wildfire. It had already gone through two acquisitions (US Robotics and 3Com). Handspring, by contrast, now seems like a short detour.

I feel like we’re experiencing something similar to the effects of Einstein’s theory of special relativity, where time dilates as objects approach the speed of light. For those inside the Internet bubble, time passed in an instant. But looking back from the outside, it seems like an eternity.

The world I remember in 1994, where people who read Wired and used Mosaic were either geeks or members of the Bay Area counterculture, had totally disappared by dotcom boom days of 1999. Yet the 1999 world remains strangely familiar today, despite the massive change in the market. Browsers, IPOs, VCs, and all the other stuff that suddenly hit the public consciousness during the boom haven’t gone away. That may be part of what keeps people from seeing that we’ve moved from the downslope of the Web era to the run-up period for What Comes Next.