PDA's -- All the Computing Power You Need, in the "Palm" of Your Hand

For centuries, nothing's come close to the convenience of pad and paper.   But now, maybe, something is coming close.   PDA stands for "Personal Digital Assistant, but most people just call them hand-held computers...and they are handy.   Maybe they're not for everyone, but more and more people are depending on them for convenience and connectvity. Handheld computers are the ultimate organizer for organized people -- like Debbe Govero. "I just fell in love with it, it's so easy to use, and it, it's really orgainzes you," says Govero, who manages a financial advisor's office. Debbe's husband, Kevin first got her interested.  When he gave up his handheld to buy one with more memory, she got took the old one, and took off with it, even using it for things he never imagined, like grocery shopping. "I kinda keep it in the basket, so people don't laugh at me, you know, techno-nerd," says Govero.  But the Govero's are among millions making handhelds their main computer.  Leading the field is the original and still champ:  3-Com's Palm.  Even it's main competitor, HandSpring's Visor uses the Palm operating system.  Others have tried, but failed to take over Palm's market share.  Including Microsoft, which has it's own operating system on handhelds made by Hewlett Packard and Compaq.  "It just doesn't sell, it just hasn't been as popular for some reason, because the Palm operating system was out longer, and it's just been more popular," says David Dickey, floor manager at Staples office equipment store.  And it's no wonder.  There are thousands of programs available for the Palm-compatible products.  Many of them free or at minimal cost on the internet.  HandSpring one-upped 3-Com about a year ago by making it's Visor adaptable with modules you just plug in.  "Look at the game modules that you can get for HandSpring, you know, you can get GPS Modules, all kinds of accessories...and it's just trememdnous what is out there for 'em," says Dickey.  And what's out there is a booming industry of accessories.  Cameras you just plug onto the back of the palm, fold-away keyboards, modems; the list goes on and on. Why the fascination?  Well, Palm-users would tell you one of the coolest things it does is accept handwritten notes, immediately transforming them into ditigal letters.  You can take those notes, reminders, date book entries, or addresses and synchronize them to your desktop computer, or you can use the infra-red capabilities, and just beam the information between handhelds.  "So you can put your appointment in and then go to his Palm, and beam the event to his, and nobody has to write it again or check, so that's kinda nice," says Debbe Govero.  Handheld computers are increasingly starting to look more like cell phones, and cell phones are starting to look more like hand-helds.  The Palm VII, which comes equipped with an antenna, lets you browse the internet, or download your e-mail, even stock quotes.  In fact, one company's already married the two devices into one unit -- for the low price of $500. By the way, no place in the Heartland yet supports the kind of wireless service you'd need for the handheld with an antennae, at least not at a decent price.  But it's available in most major cities.