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A personal digital assistant (PDA) (also referred to as a palmtop, handheld computer, personal organizer, portable data assistant or pocket computer) is

a handheld electronic device that serves as a tool for reading and conveying documents, electronic mail, and other electronic media over a communications link, and for organizing personal information, such as a name-and-address database, a to-do list, and an appointment calendar.[1]


A PDA can also function as a a cellular phone and fax sender. Many PDAs incorporate handwriting and voice recognition features.

Most types of PDAs have comparable features and capabilities. They house a microprocessor, read-only memory (ROM), random access memory (RAM), a variety of hardware keys and interfaces, and a touch-sensitive, liquid crystal display. The operating system (OS) of the device is held in ROM. Several varieties of ROM are used, including Flash ROM, which can be erased and reprogrammed electronically with OS updates or an entirely different OS. RAM, which normally contains user data, is kept active by batteries whose failure or exhaustion causes all information to be lost.[2]

The latest PDAs come equipped with system-level microprocessors that reduce the number of supporting chips required and include considerable memory capacity. A built-in compact flash card (CF) and combination 2-slot cards support memory cards and peripherals, such as a digital camera or wireless communications card. Wireless communications such as infrared (i.e., IrDA), Bluetooth, and WiFi may also be built in.[3]

The term was coined by former Apple CEO John Sculley in 1992 when he unveiled the Apple Newton.

See also[]


  1. NIST Special Publication 800-72, Glossary, at 59.
  2. Id. at 4.
  3. Id.