Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs)

These devices are typically small, handheld computers that serve as basic organizers. Data cataloged in PDAs usually includes calendar and appointment information, contact details, and various notes and to-do lists. While these portable devices do not have the computing power of desktops and laptops, they do have the very important feature of simple connectivity and synchronization with conventional computers. This allows users who enter data while traveling to transfer that information to that person's main computer with relative ease and no double-entry.

pda-10.jpgA Compaq brand PDA. From Howstuffworks.

The earliest PDAs appeared in the late 1980s, and included such products as the Sharp Wizard. Apple followed in the early 1990s with its Newton personal organizer, which was well-hyped but failed badly with the key feature of handwriting recognition. In 1996, 3com introduced the PalmPilot handheld PDA, which at $300 appealed to an entirely different (and much larger audience). Other entrants from Handspring, Casio, and various manufacturers followed in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

A key feature of the PDA is their touch-screen. Most PDAs on the market today lack a full keyboard, and so employ a stylus for data and selection entry. Data entry is done either via a virtual keyboard displayed on the PDA's screen, or through character recognition software. Recently, Blue Tooth wireless has added a new dimension to ad hoc networking. This has added a brand new security wrinkle for people that accidentally or unknowingly leave their device wide open to anyone in range.

There is a convergence in the PDA, Personal Communications, Mobile Phones, and Personal Digital Entertainment fields where these devices perform many or all of the functions from these various areas.

According to Matrix: The Magazine for Leaders in Education eight faculty members have used PDA's as a presentation device. This was a pilot program that was slated to start in 2002. Read more in this article.

Some educators believe the PDA is the way to put a computer into the hands of every student in the US. They claim that the portability and price are influencing factors in using a PDA rather than a Laptop or Tablet PC.


This particular video illustrates an educational application of a Palm Z22 done by a teacher who uses the device in the classroom