What is a palmtop?

A palmtop, or a PDA, is a small computer that you can hold in your hand and carry in your pocket. That’s why it is also often called a handheld computer or a pocket computer.

‘PDA’ is the abbreviation of ‘Personal Digital Assistant’, the term originally introduced by Apple Computer in 1992 concerning its Newton NotePad (later renamed into MessagePad). In the end, this device didn’t win much popularity, but it sort of typed all the successive palmtops: Apple’s Newton was the first PDA to have a touchscreen. Up to 1998 Apple gladdened its devotees by the new models of the Newton series: MessagePad 110, MessagePad 120, MessagePad 130, MessagePad 2000 and MessagePad 2100. But then they closed the whole project and stopped the development of PDAs. It is said, it all happened because of the frequent hiccups of the handwriting recognition system on the Newtons. Apple decided that no other manufacturer would ever be able to avoid such problems and stated that the PDA direction had no prospects.
Unlike big full-blown PCs, a pocket computer is a small integrate and fully enclosed unit looking sooner like a mobile phone and serving to perform the number of specific functions. Nevertheless, a palmtop always features a full-fledged operating system, where you can work with documents and tables, run games and multimedia applications. By the way, handhelds don’t take much time to switch on, and any applications load on them almost immediately. PDAs possess the capacity of synchronizing with PCs; they have expansion slots and communication ports as well.
As a rule, a modern PDA has a full-color liquid-crystal touch-sensitive screen. You can work on it either with a stylus or with your fingers. Besides the touchscreen, a PDA may have a full physical QWERTY keyboard. It also may have various complementary modules: Wi-Fi, IrDA, Bluetooth, GPS etc.
So, today a typical PDA, even in a base configuration, can serve not only as an organizer for storing and accessing personal information, but also as an e-reader, a translator, a navigator, a portable game device, a video and audio player etc. This list can be extended if to plug in some external peripherals.
There also exist PDAs featuring GSM/GPRS complementary modules and thus having the functionality of mobile phones, often called ‘communicators’. They are a bit bigger and heavier, the battery life of such devices is much shorter, while the price is much higher. But despite the fact that conventional PDAs (without GPS and GSM/GPRS modules) are noticeably cheaper, people today won’t buy them too willingly.
PDAs can run different operating systems. Palm OS and Windows CE have been the most popular so far. Both platforms have their own benefits and shortcomings, so let anyone decide for oneself.


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