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Pocket electronic assistants

Evgenie Rudometov

On the basis of modern components the known computer companies release a wide spectrum of multifunctional compact computing circuits — pocket personal computers (handheld computer)

As all well-known, a little tens millions years ago on our planet dinosaurs reigned. However, having transited the course of life, these monsters have given way to more perfect descendants differing from the predecessors in the smaller sizes and more perfect anatomy. Despite some attractiveness of former giants, their disappearance became a bright illustration of relentless laws of evolution.

Possibly, these laws have general-purpose character and can be transferred from biology to the engineering world. Really all any two ten years ago huge computers have replaced more perfect personal models. As a result now the most part of computers is presented by desktop personal systems. Is multiple, already in ten thousand times, exceeding on computational capability of the bulky predecessors, they have gained set new, before unavailable functions, for example, such as effective processing of audio and a video information in real time and, of course, operation in a wide-area network the Internet.

Problem of desktop computers

However at all advantages, desktop computers have all the same a number of the features limiting sphere of modern applications. The matter is that neither the construction of these arrangements, nor dimensions and weight do not admit their transportable usage. And the requirement for portable arrangements is extremely high now.

It is linked by that the considerable part of the users who are carrying on an active way of life, feels requirement for constant access to informational resources and resources of office operation. Besides, modern business demands also such resources, as, for example, e-mail. And if on operation, and today and houses, users of computers can calculate for possibilities of stationary solutions in road, business trips and in rare instances rest many businessmen quite often tests discomfort from absence of computers and appropriate transmission media of data.

Computers for transportable users

For the users who are carrying on a transportable way of life, laptops of type a notebook are an optimal choice. Such arrangements have ceased to be for a long time a wonder or luxury. For many they are the most convenient, and in some cases, — even the main tool of their hard work. Necessary access to e-mail, and also informational resources of the Internet dares by means of usual or transportable phones with usage of widespread paid services, for example, such as processing technique GPRS which has received a wide circulation in networks GSM.

Despite prevalence and high functionality of modern notebooks, in many cases even more compact products possessing smaller weight and dimensions are required. And all it in spite of the fact that the models of notebooks released for the last few years, became essentially easier, and their resource of offline work has considerably increased. However in the reached boundaries not always satisfy exacting users.

In such cases for optimal solution pocket personal computers (Pocket PC) — a handheld computer or as it is accepted to name them all over the world, PDA — Personal Digital Assistant can be   . In favour of this choice says that fact, that thanks to successes of modern solid-state technologies these compact computers step-by-step become high-grade multimedia arrangements. They are capable to substitute in many cases even desktop variants of computer systems, not saying that handheld computers in some cases possess unique possibilities. These possibilities do by their irreplaceable arrangements for the users carrying on a transportable way of life and requiring compact digital assistants. The numerical given developments of the Russian market of these arrangements testify to it. So by estimations of group SmartMarketing the handheld computer sales volume in the first half of the year 2004 has increased more than by 40 % and has reached almost 60 thousand. These digits do not require remarks.

Development directions

Existing numerous models of a handheld computer differ not only design and the internal arrangement, but also functionality.

As for all modern computers, functionality of a handheld computer are substantially defined by the software. Its central link is the operating system (operating system) controlling all hardware of transportable assistants.

It is necessary to mark, that standing time a wide circulation was received by such known program systems as PalmOS, WindowsMobile and SymbianOS. Thus market shares of these operating systems were arranged as follows: PalmOS — 31 % (62 % in 2003), WindowsMobile — 41 % (31 % in 2003) , SymbianOS — 27 % (6 % in 2003). The share of other platforms has made all nearby 1 % and does not deserve separate consideration.

It is necessary to add, that OS choice substantially defines further compatibility of the developed applied software providing problem solving of the user. As to features of the architecture of the handheld computer which central link is the central processor unit this information, as a rule, concerns the internal arrangement. Selecting the optimal arrangement from a band of accessible products, it is necessary to remember, that bolshej productivity those arrangements which are created on processors of the similar architecture and working on bolshej to clock (working) frequency, as a rule, possess. Nevertheless, it is necessary to mark, that recently the increasing distribution was received by processors of corporation of Intel actively advancing on the market the appropriate products, grounded on microarchitecture IntelXScale and ARM corporations supporting the command system, become by the actual standard of branch providing high level of a software compatibility.

Standard handheld computer

Estimating possibilities of a handheld computer and selecting suitable model, it is necessary to mark, that now in the Russian market tens models of the handheld computer, released under brands of the big number of known computer corporations are presented. Nevertheless, according to mentioned group SmartMarketing the greatest distribution was received by models HPiPAQ, Fujitsu-Siemens LOOX and ASUSMyPal, released under brands of well-known computer manufacturers.

Considering the resulted number of the companies, as an example of the is functional-sated compact computers it is possible to result the bar of handheld computer Pocket LOOX of Fujitsu-Siemens Computers corporation and its recently released model Pocket LOOX 420. This model possesses considerable computational capability. It in many respects is typical though possesses a number of the firm features expanding possibilities of the given handheld computer.

Fig. 1. Handheld computer Pocket LOOX 420 and stilus, delivered in a package

The given pocket personal computer is constructed on the basis of the special transportable processor of Intel PXA255. This processor is, perhaps, most rasprostrannoj model of units of this type. It realises the architecture of Intel XScale and allows to combine high values of profitability and productivity in the most different calculations, starting from office applications and finishing leisure programs which concern audio and video information processing. However, despite presence in a handheld computer of the high-powered processor, the main thing in the digital assistant not computational capability, and correspondence to inquiries of the user. As to power it in advanced models is automatically regulated depending on decided tasks that provides saving of energy and increases offline work time.

By the way, as a result of usage of modern accessories resulted as a handheld computer example it is capable to work from the built in secondary generator till 10 o'clock, and in the switched off state — till 350 o'clock.

Fig. 2. Substituted lithium-ionic the secondary generator in handheld computer Pocket LOOX 420

Key parametres of this supercompact transportable computer, which weight makes only 125 g, are resulted in Table 1.

Table 1. Key parametres of handheld computer Pocket LOOX of 420 companies Fujitsu-Siemens Computers

Units and characteristics


The processor

Intel PXA255 of XScale architecture with clock rate of 400 MHz


32 Mb of ROM / 64 Mb RAM

The screen

The liquid crystal touch panel, the permission 240 x 320, 64 To colours


The built in microphone and the speaker, the plug for head dynamic phones

The secondary generator

1100 мАh Lithium Ion (the main battery) + NiMH (the backup battery)

External plugs and interfaces

The power supply plug, the plug for head dynamic phones, USB, IrDA, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi

Overgrowth of possibilities

The plug for maps SD/MMCard, hooking up of additional hardware units through this plug is possible


125 gramme


113,1 x 70,6 x 14,1 mm

The operating system

Microsoft Pocket PC 2003 (Version 4.20.0)

The software

Pocket Outlook, Pocket Word, Pocket Excel, the Calculator, MSN Messenger, Windows Media Player, Transcriber, Pocket Internet Explorer, Microsoft Reader 2.2.3, voice recorder, Microsoft Active Sync 3.7.1 and other programs

The additional software

The russification program, various dictionaries and other resources from Russian PARAGON corporation, and also applications of indirect manufacturers

Estimating handheld computer parametres, it is necessary to mark, that the given model concerns while rather small number of arrangements, in which construction replaceable lithium-ionic (Lithium Ion) the secondary generator of high size — 1100 mach is used  . Such solution allows in the course of a hard work in absence of possibility of operation from an electrical network fast to substitute the used secondary generator spare, having had an opportunity further operation. Safety of computer data within 30 minutes provides the special additional nickel-metallgidridnyj built in a construction (NiMH) the secondary generator. Well and in case of availability of an electrical network to work it is possible through a special power supply unit which will simultaneously charge secondary generators in an automode.

It is necessary to mark, that while two-storage variants of a handheld computer did not become dominating, however the given solution raises level of autonomy and provides data protection for the period of changeover of the main secondary generator.

Especially it is necessary to stop on used liquid crystal mirroring colour touch 3,5-inch TFT the screen (the display sizes — 53,64 x 71,52 mm, пиксела value — 0,0745 x 0,2235 mm).

Touch possibilities provide hand-written input by means of a part package stilusa or a similar handheld computer of an accessory not damaging the screen, for example, special plastic nozzles in modern automatic pens and pencils.

For storage of programs and data the built in memory uses. It is presented to a handheld computer by two types of units: the working memory (RAM — the working memory — the operative storage device) and the read-only memory (ROM — the read-only memory — the constant storage device). In the resulted arrangement the size of the built in working memory makes 64 Mb, and the read-only memory — 32 Mb. Rather big informational size of the built in memory, however, become already standard for handheld computer advanced models, allows to work with a considerable quantity of applications even without usage of units of an additional external memory. However if necessary the memory size accessible to programs can be expanded at the expense of usage of special maps of the flash-memory which is hooked up through the special plug — the slot (slot) of standard SD/MMC. This slot is allocated in a top of tank of the resulted model of a handheld computer (in some models the given slot is quite often allocated sideways tanks).

It is necessary to add that in a construction of a typical handheld computer there is power supplies switch, the plug for the headphones, the built in microphone and the colour light-emitting diodes providing indication of functional modes of the transportable arrangement.

One more feature of a modern handheld computer, including the resulted model, presence of the built in resources of a wireless communication is. The special controllers which are carrying out high-speed link on radio channels concern these resources the controller of data transfer by means of infrared radiation IrDA, and also. Such controllers concern well-known Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.


Coming back to the architectural features of a handheld computer linked to wireless interfaces, it is necessary to mark, that presence IrDA allows not only to exchange data, for example, with a mobile phone and computer peripherals. Besides, it is possible to use a handheld computer by means of special software, as a remote control, the TV, the videorecorder, the radio complex. As to resources Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to the first well-known owners of modern mobile phones and in remarks do not require, the second will provide wireless Internet connection in the public places supplied Hot Spot. In St.-Petersburg this possibility is available in a number of the central hotels, and also cafe, restaurants, stations. A part from them are free, but it is necessary to pay for using others.

It is necessary to mark, that the handheld computer gives possibility to perform traditional office operations. For this purpose manufacturers instal such programs, as, PC Word, PC Exel, etc., well-known to users of desktop systems. Thus, in spite of the fact that initially handheld computers are delivered with programs in the English-speaking version, in the arrangements sold in Russia, in a package there are special suites of russification that allows to use a handheld computer in quality tools of storage of the whole library of pocket books in Russian. Appropriate files and convenient programs of their reading (if do not arrange the built in resources) can be found in a network the Internet easily.

Fig. 3. The menu "Start" and «FSC the Fast Menu» in handheld computer Pocket LOOX 420

There is in each modern handheld computer a notepad and the calculator necessary for each businessman. Thus data entry, and also typing in a handheld computer and its editing can be fulfilled, using touch possibilities of the display, and also the input and handwriting recognition program. Besides, these operations conveniently and simply to carry out by means of the virtual keyboard displayed on the display screen. In addition to it, it is possible to take advantage of the special external keyboard developed for a handheld computer. Usually it is specified in the list of additional accessories. Application of the given keyboard gives possibility of operation with documents standard, habitual for the majority of users in the way.

It is necessary to add, that all programs and the given handheld computers can be saved on the desktop PC or a notebook for what there are appropriate programs and the cables providing interconnection of specified arrangements by means of ports USB.

It is necessary to mark, that by means of additional resources there is a possibility of application of a handheld computer and in various presentations. Thus, using hardware-software possibilities of multimedia, by means of a handheld computer it is possible to show video data. Besides, it is possible to look at a handheld computer video films, and also to listen to the audio records created, for example, in widespread standard MP3. For this purpose it is possible to take advantage both the resources built in system, and indirect programs. Considering, that audio and especially video given are characterised by the considerable sizes, for their storage it is expedient to use cards of flesh-memory of the big information capacity, for example, cards Secure Digital (SD, they are already standard standard for a handheld computer) in size of 1 Gbytes. Such size allows to store 2-3 films of standard duration. By the way, now the price of cards of such informational size, by the way, exceeding size of traditional CD-ROMs, has already decreased to level less than $100, and, predictably, this price level by the end of 2005 can reach cards in size of 2 Gbytes.

Estimating possibility of usage of a handheld computer as a videoplayer, it is necessary to remember, that a video information it is required before carrying over to a handheld computer preliminary to convert to an appropriate format. It can be made by means of the computer of the traditional architecture in which quality it is possible to use both the desktop PC, and a notebook. The same computers can be used and for audioinformation processing, for example, for creation of record library MP3 further transferred on a handheld computer.

Fig. 4. Video on a handheld computer

Coming back to the built in audiopossibilities, it is necessary to remind, that the handheld computer is convenient for using as a digital dictophone. However it is necessary to mark, that except for the model resulted as an example, yet all handheld computers provide excellence of writing on distance more than 1 m. However they quite suit the individual writing which parametres can be installed in appropriate firmwares.

It is necessary to mark, that applied value of the digital assistant can be raised at the expense of usage of the appropriate applications widely presented in the computer market. Thanks to such programs of a handheld computer it is possible to use as, for example, compact quick reference and the sensible multilingual dictionary.

Besides, having supplied the digital assistant special additional arrangements and special programs, the handheld computer can be transformed in powerful and convenient the navigator decrypting signals of companions of global system GPS. It allows to watch in real time the occurrence and freely to be oriented in unfamiliar district. However even in case of absence of necessary units or complexities of their hooking up to a handheld computer, the navigation purposes the maps which programs are widely presented in the computer market can serve.

Fig. 5. The dictionary and map of the city programs, installed in handheld computer Pocket LOOX 420

In conclusion of the given short browse it is necessary to mark, that such arrangements it is real in many cases allow to refuse other computers. Nevertheless, it is not necessary to consider pocket personal computers as complete and equivalent changeover to traditional notebooks or desktop PCs. Handheld computers can be considered as successful addition to these types of computers.

Wide functionality of modern handheld computers already on advantage was estimated by numerous users. As a result the number of sold computers of the given group promptly increases all over the world to what the developments of the Russian market resulted above an estimation testify.

How you still do not have pocket digital assistant? But you still can correct it, differently risk to lag behind a life and to lose in struggle against competitors.

Article is published in log Magic of the PC.

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