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My Addiction to PDAs: From Visor to iPod Touch

Visalia Direct: Virtual Valley
April 2009 Issue
March 2, 2009

My Addiction to PDAs: From Visor to iPod Touch

My life is digitized. Calendars, contacts, and various lists I need have been “in my pocket” for nearly a decade. I’d be lost without my personal digital assistant, better known as a PDA.

Before I had my first PDA, I carried around a Day Runner. I like Day Runner products, but they don’t fit into a pocket. I ended up leaving my planner behind more than once. If it can be lost, I will lose it.

Also, the Day Runner requires that you develop good habits that I never did master. I’d forget to check ahead for appointments, for example. My to-do list was never current. I ended up with a collection of business cards shoved between pages. The planner simply reminded me how unorganized I am.

My first PDA was a Handspring Visor. The Visor, created by former Palm employees, included an expansion slot for everything from memory to a GPS adapter. The black and white, unlit screen was difficult to read, but it served me well for nearly four years.

Currently, my life is on an iPod Touch, which replaced a seven-year-old Palm Tungsten E. Don’t let the “iPod” part of the name confuse you; the Touch is a serious PDA. Like many other PDAs, the iPod supports WiFi networking.

Connecting wirelessly to my home office network, I can receive e-mail on the iPod. I’d never write a long e-mail response to someone, but it is great to be able to read messages anywhere I can access a network.

I also read news updates when I am at work. Several major news organizations offer “mobile Internet” editions formatted for small screens. These are usually text-only editions, with larger type. It is surprising how easy it is to read a newspaper on a PDA.

The biggest reason I love the iPod Touch is that it synchronizes data wirelessly with my home computer and laptop. In combination with Apple’s Mobile Me service, any appointment I add to the Touch appears within minutes on my other computers. If I make an appointment at the ophthalmologist’s office, it’s on every calendar I might check later. I had to connect my Palm Tungsten to my computer via a special cable for the same result.

Admittedly, I do find myself playing solitaire while waiting for appointments. I realize there are many more games available, but I didn’t buy the Touch for games or even music.

That’s right — I bought an iPod and don’t even carry headphones with me.

For other people, maybe the iPod’s music and video features would be a selling point. For me, the reason for buying the Touch was simple: it is the best PDA on the market.

Dumb Phone vs. Smartphone

Because the same people who designed the Visor created the Treo, I thought about buying a “smartphone” to consolidate my gadgets. Then I learned that the wireless company wanted me to sign a two-year, $70 to $150 a month “data ready” contract. I could also pay $500 for an “unlocked” smartphone and keep my simple phone contract.

When I looked at the iPhone, I was impressed, but it had the same horrible contract catches that accompanied the Treo. I’d rather take my wife to dinner twice a month than pay for “Internet everywhere.” Who isn’t on a budget right now?

I simply need a phone that works. It doesn’t matter if the phone is “free” or costs hundreds of dollars, the truth is that most seem to drop calls along Highway 99 and Interstate 5. Heck, I’m lucky if my phone keeps a signal inside Home Depot.

For now, I’ll keep a small phone and a PDA.

The Netbook Option

Many of my colleagues have switched to small computers known as “netbooks.” A netbook is a small portable computer, usually with a 10-inch wide or smaller screen and reduced-size keyboard. These are great for using the Internet on the road, hence the name “netbook.”

The most popular netbooks are from ASUS and MSI. These are probably not familiar names, but you can locate them on most major Web retail sites.

One colleague has told me her ASUS operates for about seven hours per battery charge. She loves being able to use wireless Internet at home and school. The computer is not fast, but it runs the software she needs adequately.

For students and many business people, I love netbooks. Some netbooks support the Internet everywhere contracts available from cell phone carriers without additional hardware. If you are going to have the device with you on a regular basis, it offers far more features than any smartphone.

I know the netbook would be a bad idea for me. I make lists on the iPod Touch, which I take shopping. I can’t imagine taking a netbook to the hardware store. Nor am I willing to sacrifice the power of my MacBook Pro when I do need a computer.

Why I Love PDAs
Small enough for my jacket pocket;
Alarms keep me (closer) to on-time;
Calendars let me see the past and the future;
My address book is always up-to-date;
Internet access is fast and free;
No expensive monthly phone contract; and
The games are fun!


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