Picture this, it’s 12:15pm and you stop at Joe’s Snack shop for a quick bite to eat. While enjoying that great sandwich you’re wondering if you got time to stop by that prospects office before you head back to the office for your weekly staff meeting. Unfortunately you can’t remember if the meeting starts at 1:30 or is it 2:30.
You think to your self, “I’ll open up my laptop and check my calendar”, but you quickly remember it’s out in the car and it’s pouring down rain, you think, “boy there must be a better way”. As you look around Joe’s Snack shop disappointed you didn’t bring your laptop with you, you notice that some young hot-shot has just pulled something out of his shirt pocket that looks like a pocket-size calculator. You gather up the courage to walk over to him and you ask, “What is that thing?” Without looking up from it he says “It’s a Palm, dude, where have you been? I am just checking my schedule for the afternoon.”
A Palm, What’s a Palm? The only palm that you are familiar with are the ones attached to your hands. As you walk back out to your car to use your laptop continue to wonder: What’s a PDA, Palm or whatever? And how do I get my hands on one?
Just as the notebook computer freed the world from the desk and office, new breakthroughs in technology such as the Personal Digital Assistant, so often called a PDA (or Palm or handheld) is revolutionizing the way mobile computing is performed.
What is a PDA?
Official name: Personal digital assistant
Nick Names: Palm Pilot, PDA, Handheld
Defined: A remarkable, tiny, fully functional handheld device, kind of like a computer. Its beauty is that it is only about the size of a calculator, small enough to hold in the palm of one hand. Unlike a paper organizer or planner, a PDA can also hold your downloaded e-mail and play music.
History Of PDA’s
One of the first PDAs to be commercially available was actually designed by Apple Computer during the 1980s. It was named the “Newton Message Pad”. However, the Newton proved to be too big, too complicated and expensive. In addition, its handwriting recognition program was poor. A handful of other companies attempted to make a PDA with little success.
It was not until the 1990s that the idea of making a small hand-held computer for storing addresses and phone numbers, taking notes and keeping track of daily appointments really blossom.
In 1996, the original Palm Pilot was introduced, and it was a big hit with consumers. It was small and light enough to fit in a shirt pocket, ran for weeks on AAA batteries, was easy to use and could store thousands of contacts, appointments and notes. More importantly, it was affordable. Today, you can buy Palm-like devices from major PC hardware manufacturers such as: Palm, Inc.
Though originally intended to be simple digital calendars, PDAs have evolved into capable machines for crunching numbers, playing games or music and downloading information from the Internet. All have one thing in common: They’re designed to complement a desktop or laptop computer, not replace one.
How Do PDA’s Work?
Hardware – Palm Devices
PDAs are classified into two major types: palm-sized computers and hand-held computers. The major differences between the two are size, display and mode of data entry.
Palm-sized computers are smaller and lighter. They have smaller liquid crystal displays (LCD) and rely on stylus (touch-screen) technology and handwriting recognition programs for data entry.
Compared to palm-sized computers, hand-held computers tend to be larger and heavier. They have larger liquid crystal displays (LCD) and use a miniature keyboard, usually in combination with touch-screen technology, for data entry.
Software – Operating System
The operating system contains the pre-programmed instructions that tell the microprocessor what to do. The operating systems used by PDAs are not as complex as those used by PCs. They generally have fewer instructions and take up less memory. For example, the Palm operating system fits in less than 100K of memory, which is less than 1 percent the size of Windows 98 or the Mac OS.
PDAs typically have one of two types of operating systems, Palm OS (3Com) or PocketPC (formerly called Windows CE, Microsoft). At current, Palm OS dominates the market, but the PocketPC is challenging. Palm OS takes up less memory and runs faster, and most users say it is easier to use.
PocketPC easily supports color displays, graphics, miniaturized Windows packages (Word, Excel), and other devices (such as built-in MP3 players or MPEG movie players). The PocketPC takes up more memory and consumes more battery power. Some owners have mentioned that it is more complicated.
Software – Applications
All PDAs come with some kind of personal information management (PIM) software for the following tasks:
- store contact information (names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses)
- make task or to-do lists
- take notes
- write memos
- keep track of appointments (date book, calendar)
- remind you of appointments (clock, alarm functions)
- plan projects
- do calculations
- keep track of expenses
However, not all of these functions are included in every package, so check this before you buy. Also, make sure that your PC has similar software so that you can easily exchange information between your PDA and PC. Sometimes, PC PIM software is included with the PDA software.