Personal digital assistant

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Personal digital assistant
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{{Redirect|PDA}}{{redirect-distinguish|PDAs|PDAS}}{{distinguish|Virtual assistant (artificial intelligence)}}{{more citations needed|date= November 2012}}
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The Palm TX
File:Apple Newton MessagePad (1993) - Computer History Museum.jpg|thumb|Apple NewtonApple NewtonA personal digital assistant (PDA), also known as a handheld PC,WEB,weblink The History of Personal Digital Assistants 1980 â€“ 2000, Viken, Alexander, April 10, 2009, Agile Mobility,weblink" title="">weblink 30 October 2013, 22 September 2017, WEB,weblink History of the HP 95LX computer, Hewlett-Packard, HP Virtual Museum, February 18, 2011, is a variety mobile device which functions as a personal information manager. PDAs have been mostly displaced by the widespread adoption of highly capable smartphones, in particular those based on iOS and Android.BOOK, CompTIA Strata Study Guide, Andrew Smith, Faithe Wempen, 2011, John Wiley & Sons, 978-0-470-97742-2, 140, July 5, 2012,weblink Nearly all modern PDAs have the ability to connect to the Internet. A PDA has an electronic visual display, letting it include a web browser. Most models also have audio capabilities, allowing usage as a portable media player, and also enabling most of them to be used as telephones. Most PDAs can access the Internet, intranets or extranets via Wi-Fi or Wireless Wide Area Networks. Sometimes, instead of buttons, PDAs employ touchscreen technology. The technology industry has recently recycled the term personal digital assistance. The term is more commonly used for software that identifies a user's voice to reply to the queries.The first PDA, the Organiser, was released in 1984 by Psion, followed by Psion's Series 3, in 1991. The latter began to resemble the more familiar PDA style, including a full keyboard.WEB, The Protea Story,weblink The Register, WEB,weblink 3-Lib History of Psion, 9 June 2015, The term PDA was first used on January 7, 1992 by Apple Computer CEO John Sculley at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, referring to the Apple Newton.Newton, Reconsidered - Time magazine, June 1, 2012 In 1994, IBM introduced the first PDA with full telephone functionality, the IBM Simon, which can also be considered the first smartphone. Then in 1996, Nokia introduced a PDA with telephone functionality, the 9000 Communicator, which became the world's best-selling PDA. Another early entrant in this market was Palm, with a line of PDA products which began in March 1996.

Typical features

A typical PDA has a touchscreen for navigation, a memory card slot for data storage, and IrDA, Bluetooth and/or Wi-Fi. However, some PDAs may not have a touchscreen, using softkeys, a directional pad, and a numeric keypad or a thumb keyboard for input. To have the functions expected of a PDA, a device's software typically includes an appointment calendar, a to-do list, an address book for contacts, a calculator, and some sort of memo (or "note") program. PDAs with wireless data connections also typically include an email client and a Web browser, and may or may not include telephony functionality.


File:Palm-IMG 7024.jpg|thumb|PalmPilot organiser on display at the Musée Bolo, EPFL, Lausanne]]Many of the original PDAs, such as the Apple Newton and Palm Pilot, featured a touchscreen for user interaction, having only a few buttons—usually reserved for shortcuts to often-used programs. Some touchscreen PDAs, including Windows Mobile devices, had a detachable stylus to facilitate making selections. The user interacts with the device by tapping the screen to select buttons or issue commands, or by dragging a finger (or the stylus) on the screen to make selections or scroll.Typical methods of entering text on touchscreen PDAs include:
  • A virtual keyboard, where a keyboard is shown on the touchscreen. Text is entered by tapping the on-screen keyboard with a finger or stylus.
  • An external keyboard connected via USB, Infrared port, or Bluetooth. Some users may choose a chorded keyboard for one-handed use.
  • Handwriting recognition, where letters or words are written on the touchscreen, often with a stylus, and the PDA converts the input to text. Recognition and computation of handwritten horizontal and vertical formulas, such as "1 + 2 =", may also be a feature.
  • Stroke recognition allows the user to make a predefined set of strokes on the touchscreen, sometimes in a special input area, representing the various characters to be input. The strokes are often simplified character shapes, making them easier for the device to recognize. One widely known stroke recognition system is Palm's Graffiti.
Despite research and development projects, end-users experience mixed results with handwriting recognition systems. Some find it frustrating and inaccurate, while others are satisfied with the quality of the recognition.JOURNAL,weblink Apple's Newton Just Won't Drop, Kahney, Leander, August 29, 2002, Wired, Condé Nast Publications, August 21, 2010, yes,weblink" title="">weblink September 2, 2010,
  • WEB,weblink" title="">weblink April 16, 2008, Kibbles&Bytes 29: Don's Review of the Newton Message Pad 2000, Small Dog Electronics, Mayer, Don, July 1, 1997, February 18, 2011,weblink
  • WEB,weblink The Postgraduate Newton: a month in academia with Apple's new handheld computer, May 1997, Geoffrey, Klingsporn, The History and Macintosh Society, August 21, 2010, note-taking,
  • WEB,weblink What's Right With The Newton: Part I: Handwriting recognition, Michael C., Wittmann, August 21, 2010, yes,weblink" title="">weblink September 8, 2006,
Touchscreen PDAs intended for business use, such as the BlackBerry and Palm Treo, usually also offer full keyboards and scroll wheels or thumbwheels to facilitate data entry and navigation. Many touchscreen PDAs support some form of external keyboard as well. Specialized folding keyboards, which offer a full-sized keyboard but collapse into a compact size for transport, are available for many models. External keyboards may attach to the PDA directly, using a cable, or may use wireless technology such as infrared or Bluetooth to connect to the PDA. Newer PDAs, such as the HTC HD2, Apple iPhone, Apple iPod Touch, and Palm Pre, Palm Pre Plus, Palm Pixi, Palm Pixi Plus, Google Android (operating system) include more advanced forms of touchscreen that can register multiple touches simultaneously. These "multi-touch" displays allow for more sophisticated interfaces using various gestures entered with one or more fingers.

Memory cards

Although many early PDAs did not have memory card slots, now most have either some form of Secure Digital (SD) slot, a CompactFlash slot or a combination of the two. Although designed for memory, Secure Digital Input/Output (SDIO) and CompactFlash cards are available that provide accessories like Wi-Fi or digital cameras, if the device can support them. Some PDAs also have a USB port, mainly for USB flash drives.{{Dubious|date=August 2010}} Some PDAs use microSD cards, which are electronically compatible with SD cards, but have a much smaller physical size.

Wired connectivity

While early PDAs connected to a user's personal computer via serial ports or another proprietary connection,{{Specify|date=August 2010}} many today connect via a USB cable. Older PDAs were unable to connect to each other via USB, as their implementations of USB didn't support acting as the "host". Some early PDAs were able to connect to the Internet indirectly by means of an external modem connected via the PDA's serial port or "sync" connector,WEB, Palm PDA Cables,weblink August 21, 2010, DeepWave, Patrick, December 14, 2006,weblink" title="">weblink August 30, 2010, Patrick Khoo, or directly by using an expansion card that provided an Ethernet port.

Wireless connectivity

Most modern PDAs have Bluetooth, a popular wireless protocol for mobile devices. Bluetooth can be used to connect keyboards, headsets, GPS receivers, and other nearby accessories. It's also possible to transfer files between PDAs that have Bluetooth. Many modern PDAs have Wi-Fi wireless network connectivity and can connect to Wi-Fi hotspots.WEB, MC55A0 Rugged Wi-Fi Enterprise Mobile Computer,weblink January 26, 2013, All smartphones, and some other modern PDAs, can connect to Wireless Wide Area Networks, such as those provided by cellular telecommunications companies. Older PDAs from the 1990s to 2006 typically had an IrDA (infrared) port allowing short-range, line-of-sight wireless communication. Few current models use this technology, as it has been supplanted by Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. IrDA allows communication between two PDAs, or between a PDA and any device with an IrDA port or adapter. Some printers have IrDA receivers,For example: WEB,weblink HP LaserJet 5P and 5MP Printers â€” Product Specifications, HP Business Support Center, Hewlett-Packard, August 21, 2010, allowing IrDA-equipped PDAs to print to them, if the PDA's operating system supports it. Universal PDA keyboards designed for these older PDAs use infrared technology.{{Citation needed|date=August 2010}} Infrared technology is low-cost and has the advantage of being allowed aboard.


Most PDAs can synchronize their data with applications on a user's computer. This allows the user to update contact, schedule, or other information on their computer, using software such as Microsoft Outlook or ACT!, and have that same data transferred to PDA—or transfer updated information from the PDA back to the computer. This eliminates the need for the user to update their data in two places. Synchronization also prevents the loss of information stored on the device if it is lost, stolen, or destroyed. When the PDA is repaired or replaced, it can be "re-synced" with the computer, restoring the user's data. Some users find that data input is quicker on their computer than on their PDA, since text input via a touchscreen or small-scale keyboard is slower than a full-size keyboard. Transferring data to a PDA via the computer is therefore a lot quicker than having to manually input all data on the handheld device.{{Citation needed|date=August 2010}}Most PDAs come with the ability to synchronize to a computer. This is done through synchronization software provided with the handheld, or sometime with the computer's operating system. Examples of synchronization software include:
  • HotSync Manager, for Palm OS PDAs
  • Microsoft ActiveSync, used by Windows XP and older Windows operating systems to synchronize with Windows Mobile, Pocket PC, and Windows CE PDAs, as well as PDAs running iOS, Palm OS, and Symbian
  • Microsoft Windows Mobile Device Center for Windows Vista, which supports Microsoft Windows Mobile and Pocket PC devices
  • Apple iTunes, used on Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows to sync iOS devices (such as the iPhone and iPod touch)
  • iSync, included with Mac OS X, can synchronize many SyncML-enabled PDAs
  • BlackBerry Desktop Software, used to sync BlackBerry devices.
These programs allow the PDA to be synchronized with a personal information manager, which may be part of the computer's operating system, provided with the PDA, or sold separately by a third party. For example, the RIM BlackBerry comes with RIM's Desktop Manager program, which can synchronize to both Microsoft Outlook and ACT!. Other PDAs come only with their own proprietary software. For example, some early Palm OS PDAs came only with Palm Desktop, while later Palm PDAs—such as the Treo 650—have the ability to sync to Palm Desktop or Microsoft Outlook. Microsoft's ActiveSync and Windows Mobile Device Center only synchronize with Microsoft Outlook or a Microsoft Exchange server.{{Citation needed|date=August 2010}} Third-party synchronization software is also available for some PDAs from companies like CommonTimeWEB,weblink CommonTime - Cross platform mobile app development tools, CommonTime, 9 June 2015, and CompanionLink.WEB,weblink Sync calendar, contacts, tasks and notes to Android, iPhone, iPad, BlackBerry - CompanionLink, 9 June 2015, Third-party software can be used to synchronize PDAs to other personal information managers that are not supported by the PDA manufacturers (for example, GoldMine and IBM Lotus Notes).

Wireless synchronization

Some PDAs can synchronize some or all of their data using their wireless networking capabilities, rather than having to be directly connected to a personal computer via a cable. Devices running Palm's webOS or Google's Android operating system primarily sync with the cloud. For example, if Gmail is used, information in contacts, email, and calendar can be synchronized between the PDA and Google's servers. RIM sells BlackBerry Enterprise Server to corporations so that corporate BlackBerry users can wirelessly synchronize their PDAs with the company's Microsoft Exchange Server, IBM Lotus Domino, or Novell GroupWise servers.WEB, BlackBerry â€” Enterprise Server â€” BlackBerry BES Server,weblink August 21, 2010, Research In Motion, yes,weblink" title="">weblink July 13, 2012, Email, calendar entries, contacts, tasks, and memos kept on the company's server are automatically synchronized with the BlackBerry.WEB, BlackBerry â€” Business Software Features,weblink August 21, 2010, Research In Motion,

Operating systems of PDAs

The most common operating systems pre-installed on PDAs are: Other, rarely used operating systems:
  • EPOC, then Symbian OS (in mobile phone + PDA combos)
  • Linux (e.g. VR3, iPAQ,WEB,weblink Ernest Khoo: Alternative operating systems on your PDA, yes,weblink" title="">weblink 2012-08-10, Sharp Zaurus PDA, Opie, GPE, Familiar LinuxWEB,weblink Highlights: Knowing the differences in PDA operating systems, 9 June 2015, etc.)
  • Newton
  • QNX (also on iPAQ)

Automobile navigation

Some PDAs include Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers; this is particularly true of smartphones. Other PDAs are compatible with external GPS-receiver add-ons that use the PDA's processor and screen to display location information.WEB,weblink Palm Support: Palm GPS Navigator 3207NA, August 21, 2010, PDAs with GPS functionality can be used for automotive navigation. PDAs are increasingly being fitted as standard on new cars. PDA-based GPS can also display traffic conditions, perform dynamic routing, and show known locations of roadside mobile radar guns. TomTom, Garmin, and iGO offer GPS navigation software for PDAs.


Some businesses and government organizations rely upon rugged PDAs, sometimes known as enterprise digital assistants (EDAs) or mobile computers, for mobile data applications. These PDAs have features that make them more robust and able to handle inclement weather, jolts and moisture. EDAs often have extra features for data capture, such as barcode readers, radio-frequency identification (RFID) readers, magnetic stripe card readers, or smart card readers. These features are designed to facilitate the use of these devices to scan in product or item codes.Typical applications include:
  • Access control and security
  • Capital asset maintenance
  • Facilities maintenance and management
  • Infection control audit and surveillance within healthcare environments
  • Medical treatment and recordkeeping in hospitals
  • Meter reading by utilities
  • Military (U.S. Army)
  • Package delivery
  • Park and wildlife rangers
  • Parking enforcement
  • Route accounting
  • Supply chain management in warehouses
  • Taxicab allocation and routing
  • Waiter and waitress applications in restaurants and hospitality venues
  • Wildlife biologists

Medical and scientific uses

{{Refimprove section|date=August 2010}}Many companies have developed PDA products aimed at the medical professions, such as PDAs loaded with drug databases, treatment information, and medical information. Services such as AvantGo translate medical journals into PDA-readable formats. WardWatch organizes medical records, providing reminders of information such as the treatment regimens of patients to doctors making ward rounds. Pendragon and Syware provide tools for conducting research with, allowing the user to enter data into a centralized database using their PDA. Microsoft Visual Studio and Sun Java also provide programming tools for developing survey instruments on the handheld. These development tools allow for integration with SQL databases that are stored on the handheld and can be synchronized with a desktop- or server-based database. PDAs have been used by doctors to aid diagnosis and drug selection and some studies{{Who|date=August 2010}} have concluded that when patients can use PDAs to record their symptoms, they communicate more effectively with hospital staff during follow-up visits. The development of Sensor Web technology may lead to wearable bodily sensors to monitor ongoing conditions, like diabetes or epilepsy, which would alert patients and doctors when treatment is required using wireless communication and PDAs.

Educational uses

{{Refimprove section|date=August 2010}}PDAs and handheld devices are allowed in many classrooms for digital note-taking. Students can spell-check, modify, and amend their class notes on a PDA. Some educators{{Who|date=August 2010}} distribute course material through the Internet or infrared file-sharing functions of the PDA. Textbook publishers have begun to release e-books, which can be uploaded directly to a PDA, reducing the number of textbooks students must carry.WEB,weblink 10 tips to save on college textbooks, Centre Daily Times, August 20, 2010, August 21, 2010, yes,weblink" title="">weblink August 23, 2010, Brighton and SUSSEX Medical School in the UK was the first medical school to provide wide scale use of PDAs to its undergraduate students. The learning opportunities provided by having PDAs complete with a suite of key medical texts was studied with results showing that learning occurred in context with timely access to key facts and through consolidation of knowledge via repetition. The PDA was an important addition to the learning ecology rather than a replacement.JOURNAL, Mobile Medical Education (MoMEd) - how mobile information resources contribute to learning for undergraduate clinical students - a mixed methods study, Bethany S., Davies, Jethin, Rafique, Tim R., Vincent, Jil, Fairclough, Mark H., Packer, Richard, Vincent, Inam, Haq, 1 January 2012, BMC Medical Education, 12, 1, 10.1186/1472-6920-12-1, 22240206, 3317860, Software companies have developed PDA programs to meet the instructional needs of educational institutions, such as dictionaries, thesauri, word processing software, encyclopedias, webinar and digital lesson planners.

Recreational uses{{Anchor|Sporting uses}}

PDAs may be used by music enthusiasts to play a variety of music file formats. Many PDAs include the functionality of an MP3 player. Road rally enthusiasts can use PDAs to calculate distance, speed, and time. This information may be used for navigation, or the PDA's GPS functions can be used for navigation. Underwater divers can use PDAs to plan breathing gas mixtures and decompression schedules using software such as "V-Planner".



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  • American Industrial Systems (Mil-Spec, IP67)
  • Bluebird WEB,weblink Pidion, 9 June 2015,
  • CatchwellWEB,weblink CATCHWELL - Handheld Mobile Computers, CATCHWELL, 9 June 2015,
  • Datalogic Mobile
  • ecom instruments
  • Getac
  • Honeywell (Hand Held Products)
  • Intermec
  • M3 MobileWEB,weblink M3 Mobile,
  • Motorola (Symbol Technologies)
  • Psion Teklogix
  • Skeye (Hoeft & Wessel AG)
  • Trimble Navigation
  • Two Technologies, Inc.WEB,weblink Rugged Handheld Computers and Android Devices - Two Technologies, Two Technologies, Inc., 9 June 2015, (Ultra Rugged Handheld Computers)
  • UnitechWEB,weblink unitech - Global Website. Worldwide leading ADC manufacturer.,
  • ChainwayWEB,weblink Chainway, {{div col end}}

See also

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External links

{{Commons category|Personal digital assistants}} {{Table mobile operating systems}}{{Computer sizes}}{{Authority control}}

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