A Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) is a small mobile device offering data storage, computing, and retrieval capacities. PDAs are also known as palmtops or handhelds. Some users interchange the term PDA with (Hewlett-Packard’s) Palmtop or (3Com’s) PalmPilot.

Recent releases of PDAs have colored screens and high-quality audio features. These PDAs function as mobile phones, portable media players, smartphones, and Web browsers. Many PDAs are able to access the Internet via Wi-Fi, as well as intranets or extranets via Wireless Wide-Area Networks (WWANs).

PDAs may use small keyboards or touch-screens (electronically sensitive areas for input). Some may even ‘understand’ handwriting through the touch-screen interface. Many applications have been developed for PDAs, including games, e-books, and even links to telephone and paging systems. Many current PDAs can allow synchronization of data with personal computers.

Palm and Pocket PC are a couple of the main operating systems for PDAs. Some even use a variant of the Microsoft Windows OS called Windows CE.

The PDA has these basic features:

  • Datebook – an integral portion of the organizer which allows input of information for appointments, birthdays, meetings, reminders, etc.
  • Memo Pad – for notes, ‘to do’ lists, etc.
  • Calculator – for basic calculating functions
  • Address Book – for keeping track of all contacts and subsequent information
  • Keyboard – for typing (with the touch-screen and stylus or the basic keyboard)
  • Grafitti (Palm)/Character Recognizer (Pocket PC) – for handwritten input
  • E-mail – for composing, sending, and receiving e-mail
  • Backlight – for PDA use in dim or no lighting

Popular PDAs:

  • Blackberry
  • HTC Touch Series
  • iPhone
  • iPod Touch
  • Palm (Tungsten, Treo, TX, Zire)
  • Sidekick

Sales of smartphones have been on the rise from roughly 60 million yearly, heralding in more mobile phone users purchasing PDAs with telephonic capability.