T-Cellular Sidekick's Leap button makes cellular multitasking simpler


Earlier than the iPhone, earlier than Android, earlier than webOS, a revolutionary cleaning soap bar of telephones made it extremely straightforward to get issues executed. The Hazard Hiptop, higher often known as the T-Cellular Sidekick, has made the Web extra moveable and reasonably priced than any telephone earlier than.

It launched cloud sync lengthy earlier than iCloud, popularized limitless knowledge and true net shopping on cellular, and made prompt messaging and e mail straightforward because of its panorama {hardware} keyboard.

However the Sidekick doesn't get sufficient credit score for the one bodily button that ties the complete telephone collectively: the Leap key.

Most keep in mind the rotating display, however the Sidekick had much more to supply.
Picture by Shawn Hollister/The Verge

On fashionable telephones, opening an app normally means tapping on a notification or on the lookout for the correct homescreen icon. To to doyou need to Look, Earlier than the Sidekick, hunt-and-peck was even tougher than it’s immediately: it meant bodily urgent down with a resistive Palm Pilot or a stylus on a Home windows Cellular touchscreen.

However in 2002, Hiphop's leap button turned multitasking into muscle reminiscence. Each Sidekick ships with each preset and programmable keyboard shortcuts, letting you “leap” to any app.

I'd sort my notes in between faculty courses, leap+B to an internet browser to look one thing up, leap+N again to my notepad, leap+I to speak with buddies on AOL Prompt Messenger, then leap + Will I’ve to e mail the notes to myself on the finish of sophistication. My thumb by no means left the keys.

Leap + B will convey up the online browser. Sadly, I couldn't discover a battery and charger for this outdated telephone.
Picture by Shawn Hollister/The Verge

It was so handy that I ended up carrying most of my faculty notes over to the Sidekick II – in all probability save all of the Japanese.

Unusually, T-Cellular didn't make a lot effort to elucidate the Sidekick's seamless task-switching functionality. Actual folks knew, however in official person manuals, the Leap key’s nearly at all times described as a glorified Residence button. “Urgent JUMP returns you to the Leap display, which is your start line for launching all machine purposes,” reads a typical instance.

I discovered these leap shortcuts on web page 38 of the 2003 person guide.
Picture: Hazard

However former Hazard director of design Matias Duarte, who designed the feel and appear of webOS and Google's Android, tells me that Leap was by no means a substitute for Residence. it was designed wired, Press a number of keys at a time to unlock its means. “That was actually its energy, the factor that made it greater than only a dwelling button, if you’ll.”

“We labored on them, we trusted them,” he says of the keyboard shortcuts. Hazard will file bug experiences, arrange conferences, chat in ICQ and e mail, copy them into Notes, all of it. It will likely be from Hiptop solely. “I lived on it as a result of I commuted on Caltrain into city on daily basis,” says Duarte.

“Leap” truly appeared on the unique leap key within the first era Hazard HipHop/T-Cellular Sidekick.
Picture by Matias Duarte

Initially, the leap key was born to offer you a technique to leap out and in of cellular app notifications, which have been pretty new in themselves on the time. “There wasn't this idea of launching a program and quitting this system, it was that you would go to the notification and return to what you have been doing.”

Not like the Palm Pilot, BlackBerry and flip telephones of the period, the Sidekick didn’t kill apps when closed, he says – it had a “true multitasking structure” the place they saved operating within the background, linked to the Web. (Each telephone does this nowadays.)

“The cutting-edge of notifications at all times felt like they have been obnoxious lights that didn't respect you,” he says of notification lights on different telephones, “so it was necessary that they pop up, have banners and allow you to know.” Let's you already know who they have been. You possibly can leap on it in case you care about it, or ignore it in case you don't. Collectively they have been fixing the person's downside of not truly being interrupted, however successfully multitasking.

A former Hazard engineer discovered this historical Sidekick II in a memento bin.
Picture by Shawn Hollister/The Verge

But it surely doesn't shock Duarte that the Leap button was marketed as one thing easy, only a technique to get again to the homescreen the place you would use the Sidekick's dial to scroll by way of apps — as a result of. The button was truly presupposed to do each. “The philosophy was that we wished to make it actually accessible, however we didn't suppose that making it accessible would make it much less highly effective.”

And to maintain it easy it was known as “Leap”. “We wished to create one thing that was for regular folks, the place you didn't want to grasp any of those ideas of launching or quitting or multitasking.”

Leap wasn't the one button that offered Sidekick energy customers with a corded keyboard shortcut. You possibly can reduce, copy, paste, go to a particular chat, or begin a brand new e mail with out having to launch the e-mail consumer first by urgent the Menu key (and pre-fill the textual content you copied!).

Duarte says he struggled to justify including the menu button as a result of he was making an attempt to maintain the telephone easy — however the hazard was there. Too Attempting to maintain it low-cost, Solely Providing you with buttons and a one-dimensional scroll wheel as an alternative of paying for an costly (on the time) touchscreen. Repeatedly rotating the wheel and clicking to pick every command appeared like an excessive amount of to ask for customers.

“That's why we would have liked the menu button: so we weren't at all times drilling out and in of the whole lot,” he says.

Above: T-Cellular's anime advert marketing campaign for the Sidekick hinted at task-switching however didn’t explicitly present the shortcut.

Sidekick ultimately died a tragic loss of life, celebrities deserted it after Paris Hilton's telephone was hacked, some customers deserted it after Microsoft's new proprietor misplaced large quantities of person knowledge in a server failure, and my Prefer it was changed by Android for the lots (which, crucially, was created by among the identical individuals who launched Hiphop).

However lots of Hazard's helpful keyboard shortcuts nonetheless exist. Once I purchased my first Android telephone I discovered them ready for me like outdated buddies. Peering sideways, I seen a small magnifying glass key on the T-Cellular G1's sliding keyboard. I pressed Search+B, noticed an internet browser pop up, and smiled.

My T-Cellular G1, initially the HTC Dream – the primary Android telephone.
Picture by Shawn Hollister/The Verge

For extra on Hazard Hiphop, I like to recommend Co-founder Joe Britt's 2007 Stanford lecture the way it was made, Essay by Chris DeSalvo On its improvements and retrospective from mrmobile And TheUnlockr,

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