- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2000

For about as long as we have crossed paths, the better part of a decade, Richard Doherty has been ahead of the curve.
When he was an editor with CMP Publications, writing for one of their computer industry magazines, he'd whip out a pocket-sized computer at news conferences and start tapping out notes on a small keyboard. Later, he switched to a small video camera, capturing data for clients of his high-tech consultancy, The Envisioneering Group of Seaford, New York (www.teg.org/).
A couple of weeks ago, we were both at an industry seminar, and I asked whether he still carried that old pocket sized computer. No, he replied, explaining that a Palm Pilot device and folding keyboard are all he needs these days. And the folding keyboard offers a lot more typing room than that old device did. (At the end of the day, he can upload his notes to a portable PC, or slap on a modem and send them off as e-mail, directly.)
I cite Mr. Doherty's example because it seems that in many ways, small and large, the computer revolution is finally percolating through society in really tangible ways.
The availability of devices such as the $249 Handspring Visor Deluxe (www.handspring.com), which runs the Palm operating system, and a folding keyboard, stands poised to transform things in business and elsewhere.
Add in the soon-available folding "Stowaway" keyboard from Think Outside ($99 from Targus, Inc. at http:// www.targus.com) and you've got a great system for note taking, with a battery life measured across weeks, not hours. (Keyboards are also available for some Microsoft Pocket PC platform devices, such as the Cassiopeia E-115, from LandWare, www.landware.com.)
Need a wireless connection? Get the Palm VII ($449) and the folding Stowaway keyboard (sold for Palms by Palm Computing, www.palm.com) and you're able to easily stay in touch wirelessly. There's a range of wireless service plans, from $9.99 to $44.95 per month, that can meet your communications needs; the service is available in about 260 major U.S. cities. That means you'll have an easy time of communications in Washington, Baltimore, New York or Chicago; coverage is tougher in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., or Walla Walla, Wash.
So what, you say? Well, consider this: many of us imagined laptop computers as the zenith in portability and convenience. Now, here are affordable handheld computers that can handle these basic tasks (and others) without making many demands on space in your briefcase, or on your power resources. While I wouldn't want to write a novel using a Palm Pilot even with a keyboard I'd have no difficulty using one for a short project or to take notes at a meeting.
If I were going off to college, I'd seriously consider buying a desktop computer for the dorm room and carrying a handheld PC, either the Palm platform or the Microsoft Corp. Pocket PC and a keyboard for taking notes. The cost of the two devices would likely be less than that for a substantial laptop PC and a bit more convenient, as anyone who's lugged a laptop around for a day will attest.
Sony Corp.'s announcement that it would add a Palm OS-based PDA to its lineup caused quite a stir at the recent PC Expo in New York City, even if the prototype was under glass, had no price attached and may or may not see the light of store shelves this fall. It's expected to feature Sony's "Memory Stick" media slot for removable and additional memory, a "Jog Dial" control for easy navigation, and a sleek, industrial design. Additionally, the first generation Sony PDA is expected to feature digital imaging capabilities, the firm said in a news release.
There has been much talk of a revolution caused by computing; the dot-coms of the world have certainly highlighted one form of that exercise. However, it's worth noting that other revolutions are much smaller, as users of handheld devices are seeing before their eyes. More will come, I'm sure, and it could be argued that we haven't seen the end, not by a long shot.
Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; send e-mail to MarkKel@aol.com, or visit the writer's Web page, www.markkellner.com.



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