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The modern smartphone and outdated PDA share some resemblances.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.

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.
Get the Free Newsletter
Subscribe to Daily Tech Insider for top news, trends & analysis
This email address is invalid.
Get the Free Newsletter
Subscribe to Daily Tech Insider for top news, trends & analysis
This email address is invalid.

Related Articles

Complete List of Cybersecurity Acronyms

Cybersecurity news and best practices are full of acronyms and abbreviations. Without understanding what each one means, it's difficult to comprehend the significance of...

Human Resources Management System

A Human Resources Management System (HRMS) is a software application that supports many functions of a company's Human Resources department, including benefits administration, payroll,...

How To Defend Yourself Against Identity Theft

Almost every worldwide government agency responsible for identity theft issues will tell you the same thing: The first step to fighting identity theft is...


An infographic is a visual representation of information or data. It combines the words information and graphic and includes a collection of imagery, charts,...


ScalaHosting is a leading managed hosting provider that offers secure, scalable, and affordable...


Human resources information system (HRIS) solutions help businesses manage multiple facets of their...

Best Managed Service Providers...

In today's business world, managed services are more critical than ever. They can...