This page was a comparison between PDA fantasy and PDA reality in 1998.
The first place I remember seeing a PDA was on the television show Star Trek, The Next Generation (STTNG). Crew members could be seen toting them around. In later episodes, they became so common that some of the extras on the show began to refer to them as “hall passes” (Perhaps as PDA’s become more popular in every day life, this term may catch on within major corporations). I even remember one scene where Captain Picard had a pile of PADD‘s on his desk.
I think that the first device I owned in this form-factor was a Nintendo Game Boy. Mine did not have PIM capabilities (though I recall seeing a keyboard and PIM cartridge that may have seen the market in Japan), nor the ability to synchronize with a desktop computer – but this did not matter to me because I was 14 years old and had no PIM data. I also had no computer.
After graduating from high school, I got a job at CompUSA and was exposed for the first time to the Apple Newton. This was truly an ingenious device – a half-decade ahead of it’s time. Unfortunately, despite many rumors to the contrary, Apple has not announced plans to compete again in this space.
At the moment, the device that comes closest to matching the functionality of a PADD from STTNG is the Windows Mobile (WinMo) device. WinMo devices were made by a number of different manufacturers. For the purposes of this demonstration, I have compared the PADD to a Casio E-125 Pocket PC (an early version of WinMo). As devices better suited to this comparison surface, I may replace the Casio, at the time this article was written it came the closest to the parameters set forth in the STTNG Technical Manual.
In STTNG, the PADD was designed to allow crewmembers to do two things:
- execute hardware functions in a variety of locations
- manipulate visual information and communicate that information to others aboard ship
In a PADD, there are three replaceable parts:
- the sarium power loop – we’d call this a battery
- isolinear memory chip – or for us, a memory card
- and subspace transceiver assembly (STA) – a cellular modem
In STTNG, the PADD’s are recharged via “induction charging”, though I must recharge my Pocket PC via the synchronization cradle or some other cable based power adaptor. User security is implemented on the main computer system, and this carries over to the device.
Interestingly, with a properly configured PADD, a crewmember could pilot a starship while walking down a hallway on the Enterprise. Admittedly, it would probably be difficult on a small screen, but this gives you an idea of the flexibility of the device.
This can be accomplished because the computer systems in STTNG are viewed as an integrated organism where each component is seen as a cell in a body directed by a central brain. Much as in our own human brains, the processing capabilities are spread throughout the network. Because of this, information can be shared and transferred between devices with ease.
|OS:||Unknown||Unknown||Microsoft® Windows® for Pocket PC|
|Display:||4.25 times larger than Tricorder||2.4 x 3.6 cm||6 x 8 cm LCD (240×320 dots), Hyper Amorphous Silicon TFT color liquid crystal, 65,536-color, touch-panel display|
|Display area:||36.72 cm²||8.64 cm²||48 cm²|
|Expansion:||Isolinear Chip||Unknown||Card slot – CF Card Type II x 1|
|Interfaces:||STA||Unknown (STA?)||Serial port -RS-232C, USB (Client), Infrared – IrDA 1.2|
|Communications speed:||4.3 Kqs maximum||Unknown||115.2 Kbps maximum|
|Power source life:||16 hours||18 hours||Main battery – approx. 8 hours (when repeatedly operated 1 min. and displayed 10 min.) Battery backup – approx. 5 years (when main battery is recharged soon after charge warning message)|
|Size:||10 x 15 (L) x 1 (H) cm||8.5 x 12 (L) x 3 (H) cm||8.36 x 13.12 (L) x 2.00 (H) cm|
|Weight:||130.02 g||353 g||250g (including battery)|
|Volume:||150 cm³||306 cm³||219.37 cm³|
|Density:||0.87 g/cm³ (est.)||0.87 g/cm³||0.88 g/cm³|
|Case:||Boronite whisker epoxy||Unknown||Plastic|
|Max Drop Height:||35 m||Unknown||Unknown|
|Sound:||Input – Audio pickup sensor||Unknown||Input – Internal microphone (mono), Output – Internal speaker (mono), headphone jack (stereo)|
SOURCE: Star Trek The Next Generation Technical Manual by Rick Sternbach and Michael Okuda.
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