True believers: The biggest cults in tech

You may be a member of one of these IT cults or simply know someone who is. Here's what makes each cult tick.

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Tech cult No. 1: The Way of the Palm
Established: 1996
Gathering of the tribes: The Palm Forums
Major deities: Jeff Hawkins, Donna Dubinsky
Sacred relics: Pilot 1000 and Pilot 5000
Mantra: The Pre will set us free

When Jonathan Ezor walked into a J&R Music store in the fall of 1996 and encountered his first Pilot 1000, it wasn't exactly a religious experience, but it was life-altering. He immediately began speaking in tongues -- or, more accurately, writing in flawless Graffiti, the Pilot's handwriting recognition alphabet.

"I picked up the stylus, was able to correctly write my name on the first try, and was hooked," says Ezor, an assistant professor of law and technology at Touro Law Center and an associate writer at the PalmAddict blog. "I became an evangelist shortly after that."

[ Good news for the Palm priesthood: Palm has ordained the Pre will run "classic" Palm apps. ]

Ezor says he's owned seven Palm PDAs in his life (he currently uses a TX) and estimates he's personally converted at least 200 people to the Way of Palm. He also admits that, on the rare occasions he uses pen and paper, he sometimes finds himself writing in Graffiti.

"Palm has just always gotten how people need to work," says Ezor. "They were open from the outset with their software. They had hot-syncing. Back then if you lost your Filofax, you lost your life. I can find every note I've ever taken back to 1996. I challenge anyone who uses legal pads to do that."

You can identify true devotees because they're the ones standing around beaming contact info and free apps to each other through their Palms' IR ports, says Ezor. Another bizarre ritualistic practice: Using their Palms as TV remotes.

But it's been a difficult few years in the desert for the Palmists. After a promising start, the company was acquired, reacquired, and spun off. The original Palm prophets, Jeff Hawkins and Donna Dubinsky, left to form Handspring, then later rejoined the Palm fold. The company opened up its hardware to heretical operating systems (Windows Mobile), causing dismay among the faithful, who watched helplessly as the BlackBerry and the iPhone passed them by. Now, with the coming of the Pre smartphone and WebOS, Palm's resurrection may finally be at hand.

Of course, there are the inevitable factions and feuds. Ezor believes Palm's rivalry with Microsoft in 1990s was overblown, but he sees Pre acolytes online eyeing St. Steven's Church of the Almighty iPhone with increasing vitriol.

"I think the true believers are the ones who had the Pilot 1000 or 5000, who jumped on the Palm before it went mainstream," he says. "And the orthodox sect belongs to people who prefer Graffiti 1 over Graffiti 2."

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