Magazine article Sunset

Handheld Computers

Magazine article Sunset

Handheld Computers

Article excerpt

Once upon a time, computers weighed several tons and filled entire rooms. Now they weigh just a few ounces and fit in your pocket. More important, these machines that were once only about function are now about freedom, traveling with you wherever you go. Handhelds have evolved from toys for the gadget-crazed to truly useful devices. Some current models can send e-mail, get to the Web, and even perform as digital cameras, cell phones, or MP3 music players. No wonder they're becoming ubiquitous.

Basic features

Whether based on the Palm operating system or Microsoft's Windows CE, these handheld computers share basic characteristics. Pocketsize and weighing from 4 to 9 ounces, they are personal organizers with an address book, a date book, a to-do list, a memo pad, and a calculator. While they can't run desktop programs, handhelds are able to run thousands of programs designed specifically for them, from games, electronic books, and business applications to ones that let them act as TV remotes through a built-in infrared feature.

You can connect, or synchronize, your handheld with your desktop

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computer via a cable. This allows you to transfer information between the two, allowing your handheld to act as an adjunct to your desktop (though it can't fully replace it).

Comparing pocket-size computers

So far, Palm is the leading producer of handhelds. Palm's family of handhelds and Handspring's Visor series both run on the Palm operating system, while Casio and Compaq offer handhelds based on Microsoft Windows CE. Here's a selection of handheld computers that ranges in cost from $149 to $600.

Casio (www.casio.com). The Cassiopeia E-115 ($599.95) comes with versions of Word, Excel, Internet Explorer, and Money financial management software; its high-resolution color screen can display 65,536 colors. …

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