PDA . . . Man has that acronym taken on new meaning in the past 25 years! Or perhaps that's only an inside joke to others who've attended private schools in their youth. In those days PDA meant "Public Display of Affection". These days it stands for Personal Digital Assistant. Though to see people caressing and fondling their PalmPilots you'd think the original meaning still holds true to this day.
But perhaps there are good reasons why it should. These tiny little hand-held computers are
just about the cutting edge of digital utility here at the turn of the millennium. Starting out as nothing more than electronic address books, they now have enough horsepower and speed to perform the tasks that laptops did less than 3 years ago. Example: My HP Jornada 430se has a Hitachi
mobile Pentium-class 133 Mhz processor, 32mb of ROM, 32mb of RAM, a 256-color DSTN display, will take an IBM 450 Mb micro-drive, will take a 56K V.90 modem, and can read even my sorry handwriting better than most humans. By contrast, one of my favorite laptops of the past 3 years has been my IBM ThinkPad 365XD, with its 133 Mhz Mobile Pentium processor, a 540 Mb hard drive, 32 Mb of RAM, a 256-color DSTN display, and a 56K
modem. That computer cost $3300 new, weighs over 8 lbs, and measures 12" by 8" by 3" in
size--and my handwriting means nothing whatsoever to it. The Jornada is about 6" by 4" by 1 ½", can fit in my shirt pocket or on my belt, and cost $495. How phat is that? Pretty ph'ing phat if you ask me.
And now to answer the obvious question, "Why didn't I go with the Palm V like everyone else lately?" Well I have two words for you--James and Bond. Heh. Well not really. Truth be told, with all the hoopla about this being the PDA that James Bond used, it all turned out to be a pack of lies.
To paraphrase a great satirist, there are lies, damn lies, Hollywood lies, and
Computer Industry lies, and this lie eclipsed all four. Hundreds of thousands of died-in-the wool James Bond fans rushed out to scoop one of them up in time for the
late November release of TWINE (Only to find out in the course of the movie that
007 never even got near it). If memory serves me, at one point in the movie his face was as close as 2 feet away from it. But that's as close as he ever got to it in the movie. Perhaps MGM, HP, and Microsoft would have us believe that in fact after James and the good Doctor Christmas settled down for a long winter's nap, they got up and played solitaire on it together in the afterglow. About the only thing that's preventing MGM, HP, and Microsoft from collectively having the nation's largest class-action suit slapped against them, is the fact that the little Jornada really is a cool little computer.
a Windows CE 2.0 based box, much to Bill Gates’ delight, I’m sure, since
just about every other attempt to compete with the PalmPilot so far has met
with almost total failure. Windows CE 2.0 is such a pig that not even the fastest
PDA’s around could really make it usable. But with the advent of 133 Mhz boxes
and beyond now, Windows CE’s “robustness?” (heh) can finally be handled by
a fast enough machine. And handle it, it does. The Jornada navigates around CE
like its not even breathing hard, and just to show off a bit, it does graphics
images as well as recent laptops do them, and it can store and play MP3’s in
the bargain. Even so, the playback often skips a bar or two, but the fidelity is
excellent. And this is, after all, still a very small platform on which to play
such processor-intensive media. For my money, or to be accurate, for my dearest friend
Michele’s money (thank you Miche), this is about as good as a PDA can get at the
turn of the millennium.