Greg Gore is Vice President of Praxis International, Inc.
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PDAs Rapidly Growing in Popularity, Capability
Greg Gore


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Personal Digital Assistant capabilities are growing at an exponential rate. From simple organizers, PDAs have evolved into devices that combine the traditional organizer functions (address book, calculator, memo pad and the like) with telephone, Internet access, instant messaging, music playing, and scanning capabilities. The list of possibilities seems endless.

The Computer Industry Almanac, Inc. projects worldwide PDA sales will grow from 12 million units in 2000 to 61 million units in 2007. Much of this growth will be spurred by sales of PDA-phones that are projected to grow from 200,000 units in 2000 to 19 million units in 2007. (Press release issued in January 2002 and available online at In the same press release, the almanac predicts, “the hardware capabilities of the typical 2007 PDA will be similar to the 2001 low-end PC.”

In January 1995, I purchased a Dauphin DTR-1, a PDA that was truly ahead of its time in that it matched the hardware capabilities of a mid-nineties PC. My Dauphin DTR-1 is a battery powered 486SLC-based handheld computer with pen input. In a case measuring just 9” x 5.5” x 1.25,” it packs 6 MB of memory, a 40 MB hard drive, a 6” diagonal, backlit passive matrix VGA with 640 x 480 resolution, and an internal fax/modem. With its standard software package that includes MS-DOS 6, Windows 3.1, and Windows for Pen Computing, I can run a host of off-the-shelf software packages.

Because the Dauphin package came with a full-function mini-keyboard measuring 9” x 5,” I am not limited to using the pen for input. (The pen, by the way, is used as a mouse when using the keyboard.) Accessories also include an external 3.5” floppy drive, an AC adaptor, and a leather portfolio case. Moreover, standard I/O ports allow the Dauphin to be connected to a full-sized keyboard, external SVGA monitor, printer, and mouse.

The leather portfolio encloses and protects the Dauphin, the keyboard, and the pen in a package that is about the size of a Franklin Planner. It is not as small or as light as one of today’s PDAs, but it is about the same as a paper-based planner and has much greater capabilities.

Dauphin Technology described the Dauphin as “The only computer you need.” It was designed to be used not as a “companion” computer for use with your desktop and/or notebook computer, but as a replacement for them. Hence the name Dauphin DTR-1, meaning “desktop replacement.”

Like the GRiDPad, the first pen-based tablet computer introduced in the late 80s, and the Apple Newton, the Dauphin is no longer manufactured. Computer buffs have set up web pages to archive photos and information about these pioneering PDAs. These sites are,, and

These products were discontinued because today’s PDA users want more functions, more computing power, longer-lasting batteries, and smaller and lighter packages. While the Computer Industry Almanac projects that pen-based PDA unit sales will far surpass keyboard-based PDA sales through 2007, there are some dissenting views about the future of pen-based computing.

In “Hand-helds of Tomorrow,” (Technology Review, April 2002), author Claire Tristram interviewed several experts who are skeptical about pen-based computing. Tristram quotes Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group, “…pen-based computing has never taken off and never will…You have to check all the time to see if it’s working. It’s also difficult to correct mistakes. It’s the same with voice recognition. It will take 20 years before voice recognition technology is reliable enough for people to want it.”

Thumb-based miniature keyboards like those developed by BlackBerry, Handspring, and other manufacturers may be the wave of the future for PDAs. An excellent example is the Handspring Treo series of color, Palm-based PDA organizers and communicators with thumb keyboards ( Prices start at $299 for the Treo 90 organizer model that does not have cell-phone and wireless features. The Treo 180 lists for $399 (with service activation) and offers email and web capabilities. The top-of-the-line Treo 270 lists for $499 (with service activation) and adds a phone to the other features.


The Greg Gore Web Site on Computers and the Internet (

This column was published in the Daily Local News, West Chester, PA on August 21, 2002. Greg Gore can be reached at

© 2009 by Greg Gore. All rights reserved.