From Neurosurgery to Education: The Second Life of PDAs

PDA phone with touch screen and stylus in handFirst developed in the 1990s and immortalized in dozens of films and music videos, Personal Digital Assistants or PDAs were the choices of businesspersons and college students who need more than pen and paper to organize their contacts lists and affairs.   As the years passed by, more capabilities were added to PDAs, truly transforming them into digital, electronic assistants for the busy modern man and woman. Psion and other companies launched their own PDA lines and made tidy profits over sales and repairs.

With the improvement of mobile technology, PDAs have somewhat been eclipsed by smartphones and laptops in the work, school, and recreational arenas. However, the use of these neat, specialized devices continues to be prevalent in several fields.

What Exactly is a PDA? How is it Different From Smartphones?

Small, mobile, and usually rectangular in the ’90s, PDAs were as much of a status symbol as beepers in the end of the 20th century. Initially little more useful than digital address books, later models made full use of their tiny keyboards and touch-sensitive screens for note entering, scheduling, and similar office functions.

Smartphones took technology from pagers, weighty cellular telephones, and PDAs and crammed them into antenna devices. These devices eventually became more complicated and began to eschew keyboards in favor of completely interactive touchscreens. Several models have also come up with their own digital “PDAs,” software that can recognize voice or text prompts and perform the tasks dictated to them.

Which Device Works Best For Me?

The use of smartphones is almost inescapable now, but there may be reasons to opt for PDAs as your go-to handheld device. PDAs are drastically more cheaper in overall costs than smartphones. All you need for your PDA are reliable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth hot spots. Independent of cell carriers, you can change your network provider at any given time with PDAs. Most cell carriers will require you to subscribe to a data plan in addition to a voice plan with lock-in periods.

PDAs are also focused on secretarial functions. They may not be able to play the latest mobile game, but they can help you look over spreadsheets and presentations before an urgent meeting. Battery life and processing power are also less of an issue for PDAs. Data can still be accessed in case of minor accidents.

Health Care and Education

doctor reading through patient's status

PDAs are still alive and thriving in several fields, especially in two important sectors: health care and education. These handheld devices are used to manage patient information, clinical diagnosis, reference materials, calculators, contacts, and scheduling applications. Medical software is also being developed for PDAs for medical professionals to use in their daily rounds.

Students use PDAs for nearly the same reason, though in a non-professional capacity. Textbooks can be revised without additional costs for students. Notes can also be taken on these devices and shared with other students. Professors and fellow students are a tap’s reach away. Teachers also benefit from PDAs as they can plug lesson plans and requirements and take them around without bulky equipment weighing them down.

Like any good piece of hardware, the PDA has been reinvented, repurposed, and fit into a niche where it is irreplaceable as a piece of technology. In the years to come, it will undoubtedly continue to roll with technological advancements and find new forms to exist in.

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