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Mobile Access to
Cultural Information
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Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs)
Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) are small handheld computers used to store addresses,
phone numbers, and daily appointments. Unlike paper organisers, PDAs offer additional
possibilities such as playing music, watching video files, or browsing the Internet.
The power hidden in handheld computers has made them extremely popular among
users. Although Apple released the first PDA, it was the introduction of the Palm Pilot in
1996 that sparked the growth of the PDA industry. PDAs are intended to complement
desktop or laptop computers, rather than
to replace them.They can be divided into
two basic groups: handheld and palm-sized.
As one might expect, handheld com-
puters are the larger and heavier of the
two. For data input and output they use
larger liquid crystal displays (LCDs) and
small keyboards, combined with touch-
screen technology. Palm-sized computers
use smaller LCDs, stylus/touch-screen
technology and handwriting recognition
applications to support data entry.
PDAs are small computers and they
include all basic computer hardware and software blocks: microprocessor, memory (they
are not equipped with hard drives and rely only on solid-state memory chips), display
(currently, LCD displays are used for both output and input of data), input devices (minia-
ture keyboard and/or pen-like stylus combined with a touch-screen; voice/speech recog-
nition technology is expected also to be available in the near future), input/output ports
for synchronisation, infra-red communication port, modem or wireless communication,
and power supply (battery pack and AC adapter), operating system (Palm OS from 3Com
or PocketPC from Microsoft)
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and personal information management (PIM) software.
Some PDAs are equipped with special features, such as e-mail, word processing, MP3
players, MPEG movie players, wireless Internet, video games, and GPS receiver.
Of special interest for their application to cultural heritage institutions is the potential
for wireless connection to a LAN.Through this the visitors equipped with PDAs are able
to use museum guides without difficulty.
Mobile Access and the Cultural Heritage Sector
Brief Background
As well as utilising portable devices for advertisement of their work and current
exhibits, cultural and scientific heritage institutions may utilise mobile access technology
in two basic, fundamental ways: exploiting the communication potential of mobile access
MOBIlear
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Woman with handheld and headphones
140 http://www.3com.com; http://www.microsoft.com
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