Black-and-White Blues

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Both Palm and Handspring are releasing PDAs with color displays in 2000, and handheld users might feel like Dorothy leaving behind the monochromatic world of Kansas for the Technicolor splendor of Oz. But history shows that the leap from black-and-white to color isn't always a quick trip down the Yellow Brick Road.

- First Full-Length Technicolor Movie
When: 1935
What: Becky Sharp
Cost: 24 cents (average ticket price that year)
Result: A witty but sometimes ponderous adaptation of Thackeray's Vanity Fair...2.5 stars.--Leonard Maltin, film critic
Legacy: Paved the way for Ted Turner to colorize Casablanca 53 years later.
Widely Adopted: By the 1950s, in response to growing competition from television.

- First Regular Color TV Broadcasts
When: 1953
What: Dragnet
Cost: $1,175 (the price of a color-compatible Admiral television set)
Result: "You know, I never realized how healthy and pink Jack Webb looks."
Legacy: That creepy NBC peacock.
Widely Adopted: By the mid-1960s, as networks started broadcasting entirely in color.

- First Macintosh Designed for Color
When: 1987
What: Mac II
Cost: $3,898 (for basic system)
Result: Hardware enthusiasts reduced to quivering masses of covetous lust.
Legacy: From his exile at a mountain outpost, Steve Jobs was heard to wonder, "Why can't the outside of the computer come in color, too?"
Widely Adopted: By 1993, as Apple phased out production of monochrome desktop Macs.

- First New York Times Front Page in Color
When: 1997
What: Color photos grace the October 16 front page.
Cost: 60 cents (newsstand price in the New York metropolitan area)
Result: Just before the dawn of the twenty-first century, the Times joins the twentieth.
Legacy: Color photos are nice and all, but where are the comics?
Widely Adopted: A decade earlier.

- First Color Palm Device
When: 2000
What: Palm IIIc
Cost: $449
Result: Users thrill to 256 colors and wonder why Palm OS applications can't support them very well.
Legacy: Competition for rival Handspring, which promptly releases a color PDA of its own -- with 16-bit color, versus the 8-bit color in the IIIc.
Widely Adopted: In the future -- once prices fall and implementation improves.

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