Advantages of Personal Digital Assistants

By Chris Blank

Personal digital assistants, known as PDAs, perform many functions which formerly required paper and pen. Other uses for PDAs make it possible for individuals to keep their personal information sorted while away from their computers. While smart phones and ultra small netbooks have cut into some of the market for PDAs, they still hold a number of advantages for their users.

Personal Digital Assistant

PDAs use one of two separate operating systems, or OS: Palm and Windows CE. They are the equivalent of palm-sized computers, and perform such functions as downloading email for reading offline, Internet access and organizing personal calendars. PDAs can also be synchronized to use with an individual's personal computer. The Newton, an Apple PDA, went out of production in 1998, although the NewtonTalk community of enthusiastic Newton users is still active online, and developers continue to introduce applications and innovations for the Newton.

Organizing Personal Information

A PDA is much lighter in weight and easier to slip into a backpack or a purse than the size of an appointment book, which would be needed to accomplish the same purposes. In addition, users can also upload information from their computers into their PDAs, or download information from their PDAs into Word or Excel documents. PDAs can also establish bluetooth connections with other PDAs, allowing for the exchange of electronic business cards.

Multiple Functionality

PDAs can store and play music or serve as Power Point presenters or GPS devices with the proper accessories. Wi-Fi enabled PDAs can send and receive email and surf the web. These accessories require sufficient memory and storage capacity; however, PDAs are relatively inexpensive in comparison to smartphones which perform similar functions.

Handwriting Recognition

One of the major advantages of PDAs is handwriting recognition. Smartphones and other devices often feature tiny versions of the standard QUERTY keyboard found on most computers marketed in the United States. PDAs, by contrast, work with a stylus and software designed to translate the strokes made on the display pad into standard typeface for later retrieval or downloading onto the user's personal computer. Many people find this system to be much easier to use than a keypad.

Medical Uses

An article written in 2002 by John Luo, M.D., Robert E. Hales, M.D., Mark Servis, M.D. and Mona Gill, M.D. and published in in the journal "Psychiatric Services" suggested that PDAs could replace a manual sign out system for on-call medical workers. The system would provide the on-call physician or medical worker with a PDA device loaded with the information on patients and duties assigned during the on-call period. This system would ensure that entries were legible, because they would be electronically generated, and mobile, freeing the health care workers from the need to be able to access a computer to retrieve relevant information.