Where have all the cradles gone?

In the early years, when portable electronic devices were considered wonderful miracles of technology, they used to come equipped with cradles. These would at a minimum charge them – the case with the “dumb” cellular phones of the day – and later also provide cabled connectivity to a computer, as in the early Palm Pilots. The cradles were meticulously designed to be functional as well as good looking; I remember a cellphone I had that had a two-slot cradle – one for the phone, the other for charging a spare battery. And it was indeed utterly convenient to plop or push the device into the cradle before bedtime and forget it until the next morning.

So where have all these cradles gone? These days, even the smartest devices charge through one cable and connect through another; connecting a cable is no major problem, but it is still less comfortable than dropping a device into a slot, and it leaves the device flopping about on one’s desk with much less dignity than the cradle afforded. Some manufacturers do make cradles as accessories, or you can get them from third party manufacturers, but they are much less common today.

Palm PDA in a Cradle and HTC smartphone with a charger's cable

Of course, a cradle is less portable; when I had my Palm V I had to buy a separate “travel kit” that replaced the cradle with a cable and plug arrangement. But when I would return home from a trip I’d be greeted by the more permanent arrangement, hooked up to my notebook’s docking station.

I was never certain whether the cradles of yesteryear were eliminated to reduce manufacturing costs, or because users preferred the flimsier cable system. What is your view on this choice?

2 Responses to “Where have all the cradles gone?”

  1. 1 TDDPirate

    From my experience, there is one big problem with cradles:
    A cradle fits only one product.
    It has been my experience that the cool cradle, which I had for my Nokia 9110 cellphone did not fit the Nokia 9210i, to which I upgraded later, even though those two products have almost the same form factor and connections.

  2. 2 Nathan Zeldes

    Sad and true. An industry standard is called for… though I wouldn’t hold my breath!

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