Some thoughts on Personal Digital Assistants

Firstly, let me suggest that there is a significant difference between a PDA and a Handheld Personal Computer (HPC).

The concept of a PDA, as coined by John Sculley and created by Apple with the Newton MessagePad, has some fairly basic properties that distinguish it from desktop computers.

The available screen real estate of a PDA will always be smaller than what is possible to support in an essentially stationary device.
PDAs cannot be expected to equal the storage capacity of a desktop machine which has greater physical size and mains power.
Without the physical room to support a standard bus and/or drive bay system of expansion, PDAs will be less expandable and upgradeable than a desktop (or even laptop) machine.

Baring these limitations in mind, what can a PDA usefully do?

Use of PDAs

Since owning a Newton, I have found that I use in three basic scenarios:

At my desk, either at home or work, where the Newton is connected to the transformer and could be connected serially with minimal effort.

At home or in a workplace, but not at my desk. Normally at someone else's desk or in a meeting. This situation is distinctive in that it is feasible to consider a reasonable bandwidth wireless connection.

Neither at home, nor at work. In the bus, at a restraunt, etc. In this case, cellular modem is probably the best bandwidth that could be achieved, and that at relatively high cost.

Proposed Extensions for Newton OS 2.x

Address Book

Calendar and Diary

Web and File Access


Usenet News



Unix Notepad Translator

One of the most useful features of the Newton is the Notepad's ability to store mixed text and images. However, once done, there is no useful way of handling these objects on a desktop machine.

The only widely used format that is vaguely capable of handling such mixed media objects is a web page. With appropriate use of tables and images, the contents of a Notepad page could be rendered into HTML. While there is still no good editor for these pages on Unix, at least it's viewable ...

Of course, it would then be necessary to support a reverse translation, from HTML to Notepad. This is of course useful in itself, and ties in with the cut and paste formating for the web browser.