From the 32nd Floor: Campus PDA use growing; cost, versatility attract student buyers

It's not the newest technology, but it's finally hit the mainstream. Personal digital assistants (PDAs) are hotter on college campuses than ever.

You know at least one person in class who has one. I'd be that person. Sadly enough, it's my life. Between the Daily News, sorority, class projects, homework, and everything else, I really am lost without it.

PDAs can do just about anything. Cheaper models, like the Excelsior 384K PDA by Royal, have address storage and day planner capabilities. It retails for around $30.

I love my Handspring Visor. It is a Visor Deluxe and cost around $170 when I got it two years ago. Now, it's a hard model to find. It does about the same thing as the lower-end model: address book, expense keeper, to-do lists, calculator, planner, memo pads, etc. The advantage is it can be expanded.

Handspring offers expandable accessories for work and play. I could buy a PDA modem to receive and send email. Or I can get a new chip for expanding the memory. Handspring even makes a card that runs business presentations from the handheld. There are so many options. Digital voice recorders, a tiny digital camera, and mp3 players are things I can plug into my Deluxe.

And of course there are the modules that aid education. Why carry around the book when you can get the Merriam-Webster's dictionary in your handheld? Handspring also offers language translation and Bible modules on its Web site,

Aside from doing just about anything, PDAs are just about everywhere. Handspring, the No. 2 maker of hand-helds, has partnered with wireless phone provider Sprint PCS to make the Handspring Treo 300. It's a little pricey at $499.99, but it has a color screen with a Palm OS organizer. The base of the phone has a built-in keyboard for typing emails.

Handspring and Palm, the two biggest manufacturers of PDAs, use compatible software. This allows software to be interchangeable, and it gives customers a wider base of vendors or software.

The business applications for PDA are huge. Potentially, small businesses could run completely off a PDA and PC. With all the expanders, modules, and software available, possibilities of integration reach as far as the money.

For college students, PDA can offer more entertainment than help in education. At, owners of all brands of PDAs can download literally hundreds of games. Anything from PacMan to Solitaire Poker can be downloaded. Some games are free, others costs as little at $10.

And of course, PDAs are also helpful for school. Keyboards can be attached so students can type notes that will be stored in the PDA before transferring them into a PC. PDAs are perfect for keeping track of homework due dates, meetings, and notes. E-books, a trend that hasn't caught fire quite yet, can also be used with PDAs. The modules, like dictionaries and graphing calculators, can save space and time.

PDAs have become popular because it's become more affordable. Companies like Handspring, Palm, and Sony offer more business models, which are more expensive. Copycat makers, like Royal and others have jumped into the cheaper markets. Because manufactures have made a PDA for every budget, everyone is getting in the game.

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