I’m in love. Sadly, as affairs of the heart go, this particular love can’t be reciprocated. For the object of my affection is the Palm III, the latest and best incarnation of 3Com’s hugely popular and successful line of personal digital assistants. But more than a mere PDA, for me — and, I assume, a million-plus other Piloteers around the country — the Palm III ($399) has quickly become a constant companion, a repository for my hopes and fears, an entertaining distraction that never judges me, even when my pocket protector clearly does not match my plaid suit.

It’s geek love of the highest sort, a boy-meets-machine romance that began late last year, first as a product demo (I picked Palm III’s digital gal pal, the PalmPilot Professional, as one of EW’s Best of Multimedia in 1997) that then bloomed into out-and-out devotion, fully realized when I began keeping my Pilot at my bedside.

Nary a day passes that I do not pay homage to my beloved. My daily ritual supplications include checking my appointments with the nifty datebook, finding telephone numbers and addresses in the versatile and comprehensive address book, and playing a boffo game of Invaders (which I downloaded from, one of many Palmware sites) or practicing Graffiti, the helpful shorthand language with which I can input vast amounts of information (and adoration) into my Pilot.

While it felt like I was cheating on my Pilot Pro when Palm III first sashayed into my life, it clearly was time for me to move on: Our nine-month courtship — a whirl of bleeps and doodles — was a blast, but we were running out of digital space. People change. I changed. I needed more memory (two megabytes with Palm III; only 1 MB with Pro). I needed infrared capabilities (for instant info transfers). I needed an operating-system upgrade. And Palm III offered all of those things, plus a sturdier metal- and-nylon stylus (I had grown weary of the cheap, nylon-only one that came with the earlier Pilots) and a sexier, more streamlined design, which includes a hard plastic cover that makes the Palm III look like a Star Trek communicator (excuse me while I wipe the drool from my chin).

Okay, I’ll admit it. I was taken in by Palm III’s new curves and brighter screen, which make older sister Pro look like a blocky matron by comparison. But more than good looks, Palm III fulfills my every databasing need (6,000 addresses! Five years worth of appointments!) and gaming whim (Palm Tetris, anyone?).

My friends can’t understand my infatuation. My mother wishes I would interface with a human being instead of that ”Palm whatchamacallit.” But what do they know of true love? Seeking solace, I can attend the monthly unofficial PalmPilot Users Group (the New York City chapter meets at RCS Computer Experience; others have sprouted up nationwide), where fellow Piloteers and I can be out and proud, where a boy and his favorite toy can live the love that dare not speak its name. PalmPilot Professional: A Palm III: A+