In this case, it is a hardware accurate PalmPilot emulator.
In an IMAX theater, the m130’s job is to control the quick turn reel unit, or QTRU for short. (For many years, it appears, a non-emulated m130 sat holstered in most theaters.) The QTRU’s job is to control the platters, which are those large horizontal shelves where all of a film’s many reels are stitched together, stored, and then quickly spun out to and from the projector. The IMAX 1570 projector moves film at a little under six feet per second, so it’s all happening really fast.
The m130 is apparently crucial to keeping the thing humming — “PALM PILOT MUST BE ON ALL THE TIME,” reads a notice above an image of a different m130 that has since been passed around the internet — but doesn’t often need to be used. “I’ve never had to interact with the Palm Pilot,” says one person familiar with the technology. “It’s really just a status screen.” Its job is to keep the QTRU moving at a consistent speed and to help keep the film’s video in sync with its audio.
Oh, is this perhaps an actual palm spotted at 107s in the IMAX at the Science Museum?
(The linked Verge article links us to a collection of Palm software at the Internet Archive which can all be run on an in-browser emulator.)
Now also on Ars Technica:
I see from the linked aquarium POV video that the projection gear is 30 years old, and from the article that the PDA model is 21 years old. And Wikipedia tells us the Palm Pilot was out in 1996, so that’s about 27 years at time of writing. And I think it feels retro to me.
The Pilot uses a Motorola 68328 processor at 16 MHz, and had 128 kB (Pilot 1000) or 512 kB (Pilot 5000) built in Random-access memory.
I think, discontinued technology does feel “retro” sooner. We can still connect to a Windows PC or a Mac from the mid or late 1990s, there’s still a connection and a legacy, but the Palm is already stranded in time. (Much for the same reasons, I’d consider a mighty DEC Alpha machine retro by now, while it’s 64-bit.)
I’d agree (with the principle and with the example)… just checked, and Alpha implementations date from 1992 through to 2004. Which is not bad really.