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The Pda: not a Notebook Replacement…yet

PDAs are not yet hand-held PCs, but have been used by many people over the years. PDAs are better-known as pocket pc’s or palmtop organizers. PDAs have many uses including: mathematics, use as a timekeeper with calendar subroutines, browsing cyberspace, sending and receiving e-mail, video, typewriting and word processing, name and address book functions, making and compiling spreadsheets, reading bar codes, receiving radio broadcasts or stereo listening, playing computer games, entering poll results, and GPS. More modern PDAs also have color screens, MP3 music and telephony capabilities, allowing them to be employed as cellphones (smartphones), web browsers, and portable media players. Several now also include cameras that can photograph scenes which can then be uploaded to Flickr and mySpace accounts. Virtually all newer PDAs can surf the Net, intranets or extranets via Wi-Fi, or Wireless Wide-Area Networks just about all PDA’s utilize touch screen displays leaving out Smartphones which depend upon menu systems attributable to their tinier display screens.

PDA’s Past

The term “personal data assistant” was first used on Jan 7th, 1992 by then Apple Computer Chief Executive Officer John Sculley at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada, concerning the Apple Newton.

PDAs are occasionally denoted as “Palms”, “Palm Pilots” or “Palm Tops” so-named after an early personal digital assistant produced by USR and Palm Inc called the “Palm Pilot”. Today however, the term is much more encompassing and includes a very diverse range of products developed by a host of many manufacturers including HP, Dell, Blackberry and Sharp to name a few.

.Characteristic capabilities

Presently, a regular PDA has a touch screen for data entry, a memory card slot for data storage and at the least one of the following for device-todevice communication: IrDA, Bluetooth and/or WiFi. All the same, many PDAs (normally those used primarily as cellular phones) may not have a touch screen, alternatively using softkeys, a directional pad and either the numerical computer keyboard or a thumb keyboard for idata nput.

In order to meet the PDA definition, standard software should include an appointment calendar, a task list, an address book for business and personal contacts and some kind of notes program. Internet connected PDAs also usually include E-mail and Web support.Most units also include memo recording software for audio notes. Very handy for remembering important details.

Not Quite A Laptop Replacement…Yet

Possibly, to a higher degree than any other computer device, the personal digital assistant lacks the raw computing horsepower and Wireless Broadband capabilities of a desktop or notebook computer. Presently, costs of laptop computers are coming down. Although a good deal bigger in size, laptop computers have more full-size screens and keyboards and are have greater computing power.

However, the OQO Model 2 has been brought out in recent times as a fully desktop PC compatible PDA with a USB port so that people can use their normal work and business software or play computer games compatible with ubiquitous operating systems such as Windows XP. It can also connect to regular PC peripherals. Costs still have a way to fall prior to mass adoption takes place in the market but OQO is no longer the exclusive manufacturer of these types of units, so costs should fall possibly within the next few years.


The PDAs strength is that it is easy to transport and less bulky than full-sized computers.It slides easily into a dress shirt or trousers pocket. The additional features like cameras, Global Positioning System, telephony and MP3 player make it flexible unlike any other type of computers in the market.

Many people do not require full desktop capabilities while on the go. As long as they can access their information and sync their data to a full-sized computer when they arrive at their homes and offices, that’s really all they need and want to do. So at least in the short run, the PDA will most likely remain as a portable helper for millions of users for years to come.

About the Author

The originator of this article has worked as a Pocket PC software programmer for over 5 years. He updates his web log weekly and addresses many areas of mobile computing including PDAs. To view videos and read more information about PDAs, Smartphones and other mobile devices visit:

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