by March 12, 2000 0 comments

In
concept, the PDA, or the Personal Digital Assistant, is a combination of a
scaled-down personal computer and a digital organizer. Before the PDA evolved to
its present form, both approaches were actually tried. Psion 1, launched in 1984
by UK-based Psion, was an upgraded organizer with a single-line display.
Computing power was added through the optional Science Pack that let you create
your own programs. On the other hand, sub notebooks like the LG Phenom were
attempts at scaling down the PC.

It was in 1993 with Apple’s Newton MessagePad that the PDA
really emerged as a device that was effective. Apple’s approach was a new one.
It created a device that functioned differently from a computer. The Newton did
not use a keyboard or a mouse for data input; instead it used a stylus and
depended on handwriting recognition. The stylus as the means for input has,
since then, defined the PDA. The Newton also used its own operating system, the
Newton OS, which was later discontinued. Anyhow, like the stylus, the Newton OS
defined a new approach to OS design. Today, popular PDAs use one of three OSs:
Pocket PC, PalmOS, or Symbian. Some use other OSs, but these have not had any
impact worth mentioning here.

Pocket PC

This year Microsoft launched its Pocket PC to take on the
Palm platform. The Pocket PC OS is faster and different, when compared to the
earlier WinCE, and a number of devices running the Pocket PC OS have already
appeared, like Compaq’s iPAQ H3600, Casio EM500, Casio E-115 and E-125, HP
Jornada 540.

WinCE, which was meant more for the sub notebook than the PDA
never really took off, and Pocket PC is Microsoft’s fresh attempt to storm the
PDA market. Going by the initial reports, Microsoft is sitting on a pretty
wicket here.

PalmOS

Any
PDA that runs the PalmOS from Palm Inc, is referred to as a Palm device. Many
companies manufacture Palm devices–Palm Inc, IBM, Symbol Technologies,
Qualcomm, TRG, and HandSpring. Products from Palm Inc (Palm Pilots) and
HandSpring are the most popular. Incidentally, the suffix from Palm Pilot has
now been dropped for trademark reasons and it is now widely known as the Palm.

We are beginning to see devices using the PalmOS undergo
changes: they are becoming more stylish, getting expanded functionality, and are
getting used for more creative uses. The Palm is also the first PDA to be
infected by a virus.

Make way for style

Recently, Palm took the stylish route, when it introduced
fashionable accessories, including colorful snap-on covers. A striking model
here is the metallica-acqua finish edition, called the Claudia Schiffer edition,
which will be available only through the super model’s Website.

Extend your Palm

Handspring introduced the Springboard slot to the Visor
(Handspring’s Palm device), giving it expandability. The Springboard slot is a
hardware expansion slot, like the PC card slot on a notebook, which is there on
every Visor. You can add or remove modules easily without having to load drivers
or turn off the Visor. These modules increase the functionality of your PDA so
that you can use it as anything from a radio, digital camera, to a phone.

You can, for instance, listen to music on your favorite radio
station and receive traffic alerts, personal messages and e-mail notifications
through the radio module or connect your digital camera with your Visor and
view, edit, print, and e-mail JPEG files. With some Visor models now coming with
color display, you can even view images in color.

Paint with the Stylus

The
Palm saw extensions to its usage when the first serious contemporary artwork was
done entirely on the Palm. Artist Tom Kemp used the Palm Vx with TealPaint
software to create this one.

Virus attack!

A trojan called Liberty Crack, Palm.Liberty.A, Trojan.Palm.
Liberty, got the infamous distinction of being the first to infect a Palm
device. The trojan can enter a PDA from a host computer via infrared during a
hotsync operation and delete all data from the Palm.

Earlier versions of anti-virus protection for Palms ran from
the desktop, which protected the Palm user only during synchronization. However,
since Palms receive information from a number of sources other than a computer,
anti-virus programs can now run on the Palm itself.

Symbian

Symbian is the new name for the EPOC OS. The Symbian OS is
developed and marketed by Symbian a company of Psion. Symbian is working in
partnership with Nokia, Ericsson, and Motorola to develop Symbian as an OS for
mobile computing and communications devices. The recently launched Ericsson
R380, running the Symbian OS, offers the features of a mobile phone, a PDA, and
Mobile Internet Services.

Seeing where technology in mobile devices is heading, expect
to see all-in-one PDA, cell phone and camera soon.

Juhi Bhambal

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