A personal digital assistant (PDA), also known as a handheld PC, is a variety mobile device which functions as a personal information manager. PDAs were largely discontinued in the early 2010s after the widespread adoption of highly capable smartphones, in particular those based on iOS and Android.
Nearly all 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 Organizer, 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. 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. 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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. Some PDAs use microSD cards, which are electronically compatible with SD cards, but have a much smaller physical size.
While early PDAs connected to a user's personal computer via serial ports or another proprietary connection, 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, or directly by using an expansion card that provided an Ethernet port.
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. 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, 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. 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.
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:
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. Third-party synchronization software is also available for some PDAs from companies like CommonTime and CompanionLink. 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).
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. Email, calendar entries, contacts, tasks, and memos kept on the company's server are automatically synchronized with the BlackBerry.
The most common operating systems pre-installed on PDAs are:
Other, rarely used operating systems:
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. 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:
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 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.
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 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. 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. 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.
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".
The Newton is a series of personal digital assistants (PDA) developed and marketed by Apple Computer, Inc. An early device in the PDA category – the Newton originated the term "personal digital assistant" – it was the first to feature handwriting recognition. Apple started developing the platform in 1987 and shipped the first devices in 1993. Production officially ended on February 27, 1998. Newton devices run on a proprietary operating system, Newton OS; examples include Apple's MessagePad series and the eMate 300, and other companies also released devices running on Newton OS. Most Newton devices were based on the ARM 610 RISC processor and all featured handwriting-based input.
The Newton was considered technologically innovative at its debut, but a combination of factors, some of which included its high price and early problems with its handwriting recognition feature, limited its sales. Apple cancelled the platform at the direction of Steve Jobs, after his return to Apple, in 1998.Archos PMA400
The Archos PMA400 is a personal digital assistant (PDA) from Archos, with a hard disk drive and audio and video playback and recording capabilities, so it also functions as a portable media player (PMP). The PMA400 was the most expensive within the line of products that they supplied.
Based on the Linux Qtopia Embedded operating system, the device is more like a personal digital assistant than a normal media player. The PMA400 features the following:
Software (pre-installed or from online feed)
PIM: E-mail client, Agenda, Calendar, Contact Directory
Text Viewer and Editor
Opera and Konqueror Embedded web browsers
Most Qtopia apps that work out of the box are available.
Games using the Mophun engineThough it remains Archos's only dedicated PDA, some of its features can be seen on the later 604WiFi including touchscreen and web browsing.EMate 300
The eMate 300 is a personal digital assistant designed, manufactured and sold by Apple Computer to the education market as a low-cost laptop running the Newton operating system. It was the only Newton Device with a built-in keyboard. The eMate was introduced March 7, 1997 for US$799 and was discontinued along with the Apple Newton product line and its operating system on February 27, 1998.Garmin iQue
iQue was a line of Garmin devices which combined personal digital assistants (PDA) with integrated Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers. It was discontinued by mid-2008.Handango
Handango was one of the first online software stores to sell mobile apps for personal digital assistants (PDAs) and smartphones. Handango offered worldwide distribution, support, and e-commerce services to its partners. The cmpany's customers included consumers, software developers, mobile operators, and original equipment manufacturers. Supported mobile devices included Android devices, Palm handhelds, Windows Mobile devices, Symbian OS devices, and BlackBerry devices.
Handango was founded in 1999 by Randy Eisenman. Early founding employees of the company included Eric Matzinger, James Lowe, Andrew Blake, Gabe Bass, Will Pinnell, Rusty Butler, Lindsay Rall, Laura Rippy, Jason Wells, Dustin Brown and Bob Weber. Handango was a pioneer of mobile software distribution and is widely credited with many "firsts" in the distribution of mobile apps including a self-service developer management and reporting portal, the business model of a 70/30 developer revenue split (changed to a 60/40 split in 2005), over-the-air distribution of software with Palm, the industry's first digital rights management deployed with Nokia, and the Handango Commerce Engine that facilitated ecommerce on behalf of the software developer directly from their website.
Handango InHand, available from 2003 for Symbian UIQ, from 2004 for Windows Mobile and Palm OS, from 2005 for Blackberry and from 2006 for Symbian S60, is an on-device application store for finding, installing and buying software for your mobile device. Application download and purchasing are completed directly on the device so sync with a computer is not necessary. Description, rating and screenshot are available for any application. Software for using Handango InHand is available for free for Palm OS, Windows Mobile, Symbian UIQ & S60, Blackberry, Android. Handango pionereed this on-air business model for smartphones which achieved great success some years later with similar Apple Inc.'s App Store and Google's Android Market.
On February 23, 2010, Jud Bowman of Motricity, a Durham, North Carolina supplier of software and games for mobile phones, acquired Handango, making PocketGear third behind Apple and Google in the app market. While PocketGear remained in Durham, the company kept the Handango offices in the Dallas, Texas area. PocketGear.com, LLC was started in 1998 by Nathan Miller as a teenager, and was later acquired by Motricity. Bowman bought back the smart phone application business in 2008 when Motricity moved from Durham to the Seattle area. Bowman remained a Motricity investor.
In February 2011, Handango's new owner PocketGear, Inc. rebranded itself as Appia
and shifted its focus to "white label" mobile app stores - i.e. on-device OEM-branded store apps. Handango's traditional website at www.handango.com as well as www.pocketgear.com appear to have been taken offline no later than December 2013, but it has since returned.Inkwell (Macintosh)
Inkwell, or simply Ink, is the name of the handwriting recognition technology developed by Apple Inc. and built into the Mac OS X operating system. Introduced in an update to Mac OS X v10.2 "Jaguar", Inkwell can translate English, French, and German writing. The technology made its debut as "Rosetta", an integral feature of Apple Newton OS, the operating system of the short-lived Apple Newton personal digital assistant. Inkwell's inclusion in Mac OS X led many to believe Apple would be using this technology in a new PDA or other portable tablet computer. However, none of the touchscreen iOS devices – iPhone/iPod/iPad – offers Inkwell handwriting recognition.
Inkwell, when activated, appears as semi-transparent yellow lined paper, on which the user sees their writing appear. When the user stops writing, their writing is interpreted by Inkwell and pasted into the current application (wherever the active text cursor is), as if the user had simply typed the words. The user can also force Inkwell to not interpret their writing, instead using it to paste a hand-drawn sketch into the active window.
Inkwell was developed by Larry Yaeger, Brandyn Webb, and Richard Lyon.KaeilOS
KaeilOS is an embedded linux GNU GPL distribution maintained by Italian company KOAN and composed of a collection of the best publicly available Open Source packages.
Version 4.00 available from January 2009 has joined OpenEmbedded project offering a wider selection of packages and recipes for a variety of embedded devices.List of Windows Mobile Professional games
This is a list of games released for the Windows Mobile Professional operating system (formerly known as Pocket PC).Magic Cap
Magic Cap (short for Magic Communicating Applications Platform) is a discontinued object-oriented operating system for PDAs developed by General Magic. Tony Fadell was a contributor to the platform, while Darin Adler was an architect.Magic Cap incorporates a room metaphor, where the user navigates from room to room to perform various tasks, such as going to a home office to perform word processing, or to a file room to clean up the system files. Automation is based on mobile agents but not an office assistant.
Several electronic companies came to market with Magic Cap devices. The most notable are the Sony Magic Link and the Motorola Envoy, both released in 1994. None of these devices were commercial successes.Nokia Internet tablet
Nokia Internet Tablets is the name given to a range of Nokia mobile Internet appliances products. These tablets fall in the range between a personal digital assistant (PDA) and an Ultra-Mobile PC (UMPC), and slightly below Intel's Mobile Internet device (MID).OpenEmbedded
OpenEmbedded is a build automation framework and cross-compile environment used to create Linux distributions for embedded devices. The OpenEmbedded framework is developed by the OpenEmbedded community, which was formally established in 2003. OpenEmbedded is the recommended build system of the Yocto Project, which is a Linux Foundation workgroup that assists commercial companies in the development of Linux-based systems for embedded products.
The build system is based on BitBake "recipes", which specify how a particular package is built, but also includes lists of dependencies and source code locations, as well as instructions on how to install and remove a compiled package. OpenEmbedded tools use these recipes to fetch and patch source code, compile and link binaries, produce binary packages (ipk, deb, rpm), and create bootable images.
Historically, OpenEmbedded's collection of recipes were stored in a single repository, and the metadata was structured in a form now called "OpenEmbedded-Classic". By 2010, it had become increasingly difficult to manage the ever-growing number of recipes. To resolve this, recipe metadata was split into multiple layers. The lowest layer, which includes platform-independent and distribution-independent metadata is called "OpenEmbedded-Core". Architecture-specific, application-specific and distribution-dependent instructions are applied in appropriate target support layers that can override or complement the instructions from lower layers. Additionally, changes to the recipes at the core layer are now managed with a pull model: instead of committing their changes directly to the repository (as was previously the case), developers now send their patches to the mailing list. The patches, if approved, are then merged (pulled) by a maintainer.The OpenEmbedded framework can be installed and automatically updated via Git.OpenZaurus
OpenZaurus is a defunct embedded operating system for the Sharp Zaurus personal mobile tool PDA.Palm III
The Palm III is a personal digital assistant that was made by the Palm Computing division of 3Com. It went on sale in 1998 as a replacement for the PalmPilot handheld. It was the first Palm handheld to support infrared file transfer and a Flash ROM-capable operating system. At release, the Palm III was priced at US$400.Palm V
The Palm V was a personal digital assistant made by the Palm Computing division of 3Com. While functionally similar to the predecessor Palm III series of PDAs, it distinguished itself by its sleek design, anodized aluminum finish, and built-in rechargeable battery (the first for a Palm device). The Palm V's design was created by design firm IDEO. The Palm V series was succeeded by the Palm m500 series.Pocket Scheme
Pocket Scheme is an implementation of the Scheme programming language for Microsoft Windows CE for Handheld PC and Windows Mobile, developed by Ben Goetter.Qt Extended
Qt Extended (named Qtopia before September 30, 2008) is an application platform for embedded Linux-based mobile computing devices such as personal digital assistants, video projectors and mobile phones. It was developed by Qt Software, a subsidiary of Nokia, and when they cancelled the Qt Extended project, as it was free software, the community created a fork of it, the Qt Extended Improved project, and continued building. The QtMoko Debian-based distribution is the natural successor to these projects as continued by the efforts of the Openmoko community.Samsung SPH-M300
The Samsung SPH-M300 is a flip or clamshell style cell phone introduced in mid-2007 as a basic, low cost camera phone with limited multimedia capability for the North American market. The SPH-M300 is a personal digital assistant (PDA - as designated by the SPH model prefix) style handset with basic contact directory, notes, calendar, and other typical PDA functions and is also capable of rudimentary Web browsing, and SMS text messaging although it does not have a dedicated text keyboard.TomeRaider
TomeRaider is an ebook reader and cross-platform reference viewer for handheld devices (Android, Windows Mobile, Pocket PC, Palm OS, Psion, Symbian) and Microsoft Windows PC. TomeRaider was created by Yadabyte, a UK software and web development company. The first version of TomeRaider was developed in 1999, developed up to TomeRaider version 3.
There were over 4,000 free ebooks and reference books base available for the TomeRaider ebook readers, many of these reference books are not available in any other format. TomeRaider is the only software that supports the entire English Wikipedia:TomeRaider database (updated until December 2007) and the Internet Movie Database. (This file is updated on a regular basis.)
The last release is version 3, which included support for images category support, searching and compression. HTML is supported in the Pocket PC and to a lesser degree in the latest Palm version, where HTML tables and Unicode are not working yet. The TomeRaider format compresses text files to 45%–60% of the original size. Unlike other ebook readers and Wikipedia software, TomeRaider ebook reader features extremely fast searching, indexing and text compression.
The TomeRaider software version for personal computer supported on Microsoft Windows XP and Vista allows users to import and create their own TR3 files, as well as convert forward and backward between old TR file and the new TR3 version.Ångström distribution
The Ångström distribution is a Linux distribution for a variety of embedded devices. The distribution is the result of work by developers from the OpenZaurus, OpenEmbedded, and OpenSIMpad projects. The graphical user interfaces (GUIs) available are OPIE and GPE among other options.
The Ångström distribution is in "cooptition" with Poky Linux. Ångström is based on the OpenEmbedded project, specifically the OpenEmbedded-Core (OE-Core) layer. While both Ångström and Poky Linux are based on OE-Core, mostly utilize the same toolchain and are both officially "Yocto compatible", only Poky Linux is officially part of the Yocto Project.
Ångström primarily differs from Poky Linux in being a binary distribution (like e.g. the Debian, Fedora, OpenSuse or Ubuntu GNU/Linux distributions), using opkg for package management. Hence an essential part of Ångström builds is a binary package feed, allowing to simply install software distributed as opkg packages, without having to compile them first (just as one might install a binary package with aptitude or dpkg).