Wednesday, July 14, 2004

"Beam me up, Scotty"

I need a PDA/handheld computer so that I don't forget appointments, birthdays, etc. (My memory grows worse every day.) It's a bewildering process to select a system that's right for me, even though I'm no stranger to the devices.

My history with PDAs goes way back to the beginnings. I was an "early adopter" of the original PalmPilot. While I liked it very much, the amount of information that could be stored wasn't sufficient for my needs. Moreover, while the PalmPilot's screen worked great on airplanes but poorly outdoors: I could improve my digital Yatzee scores on cross-country flights, but I couldn't pull information out of the little grey box the other times I needed it. So I quit using it 5+ years ago.

My second PDA was a used MessagePad 2100. It was an Apple Newton on steroids. Its handwriting recognition was very good, and its text-to-speech feature wowed other PDA owners. Unfortunately, linking it to my desktop calendar and email was forever a challenge. And it consumed batteries (which is not good, given its NiMH power cells cannot be replaced). So the 2100 now sits in the corner of a bedroom, charging its batteries in case I might need it again.

This time, it looks like I will be buying a Hewlett-Packard. HP handhelds run Microsoft's Mobile 2003 operating system, and I hate giving money to Microsoft. Still, I need compatibility with Windows, Wifi connectivity, and a decent web browser, and reliability. I trust HP to give me all of that, even if the price is slightly unreasonable.

On July 27, HP announces its new hx4700. The good news is that it has all that I want--a tiny VGA (640 x 480) screen, stereo sound, touch pad, WiFi, more memory than most of the computers I've owned, and a powerful processor. The bad news is the price and, as somebody noted, the fact that it "looks like a bad prop from Battlestar Galactica."

picture of HP hx4700