A personal digital assistant (PDA), also known as a palmtop computer, is a mobile device which functions as a personal information manager and has the ability to connect to the internet. The PDA has an electronic visual display enabling it to include a web browser, but some newer models also have audio capabilities, enabling them to be used as mobile phones or portable media players. Many PDAs can access the internet, intranets or extranets via Wi-Fi, or Wireless Wide Area Networks (WWANs).
The term PDA was first used on January 7, 1992, by Apple Computer CEO John Sculley at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, referring to the Apple Newton. In 1996, Nokia introduced the first mobile phone with full PDA functionality, the 9000 Communicator, which has since grown to become the world's best-selling PDA and which spawned a category of phones called the smartphone. Today the vast majority of all PDAs are smartphones, selling over 150 million units while non-phone ("stand-alone") PDAs sell only about 3 million units per year. HTC, Apple, Palm, Nokia N-Series, and RIM BlackBerry are typical smartphone brands.
Touch screen: Many of the original PDAs, such as the Apple Newton and Palm Pilot, featured touchscreen for user interaction, having only a few buttons usually reserved for shortcuts to often used programs. Touch screen PDAs, including Windows Mobile devices, usually have a detachable stylus that can be used on the touch screen. Interaction is then done by tapping the screen to activate buttons or menu choices, and dragging the stylus to, for example, highlight.
Memory cards: Although many early PDAs did not have memory card slots now most have either an SD (Secure Digital) and/or a Compact Flash slot.
Automobile navigation: Many PDAs are used in car kits and are fitted with differential Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers to provide realtime automobile navigation. PDAs are increasingly being fitted as standard on new cars.
Ruggedized PDAs: For many years businesses and government organizations have relied upon rugged PDAs also known as enterprise digital assistants (EDAs) for mobile data applications. Typical applications include supply chain management in warehouses, package delivery, route accounting, medical treatment and record keeping in hospitals, facilities maintenance and management, parking enforcement, access control and security, capital asset maintenance, meter reading by utilities, and "wireless waitress" applications in restaurants.
Medical and scientific uses
In medicine, PDAs have been shown to aid diagnosis and drug selection and some studies have concluded that their use by patients to record symptoms improves the effectiveness of communication with hospitals during follow-up. A range of resources have been developed to cater for the demand from the medical profession which supply drug databases, treatment information and relevant news in formats specific to mobile devices and services such as AvantGo translate medical journals into readable formats and provide updates from journals.
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