PDA Meaning & Definition

A personal digital assistant (PDA) is a handheld device that combines multiple organization features. Although now considered obsolete, a PDA historically combined the functions of a cell phone, fax machine, Web browser, and personal organizer with calendar, note taking, and address book features. PDAs have also been referred to as palmtops, hand-held computers, and pocket computers.

History of PDA

In 1984, most PDAs began as touch-based devices that used a stylus rather than a keyboard for input. This means that they also incorporated handwriting recognition features. Some PDAs reacted to voice input by using voice recognition technologies, but most relied on either a keyboard or touch screen for accuracy and ease of use.

Apple, which introduced the Newton MessagePad in 1993, was one of the first companies to offer PDAs. Shortly thereafter, several other manufacturers offered similar products, including Huawei, HTC, Acer, Sony, and Toshiba. One of the most popular brands of PDAs was the series of Palm Pilots from Palm, Inc.

With the rise of smartphones and tablet computers, PDAs became obsolete. By the late 2000s, the mobile operating systems for PDAs (namely PalmOS, Windows Mobile, and Newton) had been largely replaced by the Android platform and Apple iOS.

PDA vs. smartphone

The modern smartphone and outdated PDA share some resemblances. Both devices are portable and make it easier for users to be more productive and efficient. This may be because many of the original PDA manufacturers eventually entered the smartphone and tablet market or were bought out by larger companies. For example, Palm was purchased by HP and the operating system used in a line of early HP TouchPads.

However, today’s smartphones are considerably more advanced than PDAs. Although PDAs could perform a variety of functions, they were relatively clunky and not intended to be competitive platforms for application development. Today, developers create robust applications that add new functionality to smartphone devices and offer unique value to users. Smartphones are also more powerful than PDAs, have more refined, compact form factors, and primarily rely on cutting edge touch screen technology to operate.

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Kaiti Norton
Kaiti Norton is a Nashville-based Content Writer for TechnologyAdvice, a full-service B2B media company. She is passionate about helping brands build genuine connections with their customers through relatable, research-based content. When she's not writing about technology, she's sharing her musings about fashion, cats, books, and skincare on her blog.

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