Definition

personal digital assistant

Personal digital assistant is a term for a small, mobile, handheld device that provides computing and information storage and retrieval capabilities for personal or business use, often for keeping schedules, calendars and address book information handy.

Popular in the 1990s and early 2000s, personal digital assistants (PDAs) were the precursors to smartphones. Most PDAs had a small physical keyboard, and some had an electronically sensitive pad on which handwriting could be received. Original uses for a personal digital assistant included schedule and address book storage and retrieval and note-entering. However, many types of applications were written for PDAs.

Types of PDA devices

Apple's Newton was the first widely sold PDA that accepted handwriting. Other popular PDA devices included Hewlett-Packard's Palmtop and Palm's PalmPilot. Some PDAs offered a variation of the Microsoft Windows operating system called Windows CE. Other products had their own or another operating system.

History of PDAs

Apple CEO John Sculley coined the term PDA in 1992, but devices fitting that description had existed for nearly a decade prior.

In the mid-1990s, the manufacturers of PDAs, pagers and cellular telephones began to combine the functionality of those devices into a new device type now known as a smartphone. Nokia, IBM and Palm were some of the major players in the market at the time.

PDA and pager manufacturer Research in Motion Limited released its first BlackBerry smartphone in 2000, and the company dominated the market for most of the century's first decade. In 2007, Apple released the first iPhone, a touchscreen smartphone, and within five years the market had shifted away from devices with physical keyboards.

Personal assistant Palm T|X, HP iPAQ hw6915
Personal assistants Palm T|X, released in September 2005, and the HP iPAQ hw6915, released in February 2006.

Future of PDAs

In the 2010s, the technology industry recycled the term "personal digital assistant." The term now more commonly refers to software that recognizes a user's voice and uses artificial intelligence to respond to queries. Examples of this type of personal digital assistant include Apple's Siri, Microsoft's Cortana and Amazon's Alexa.

This was last updated in November 2016

Continue Reading About personal digital assistant

Dig Deeper on Apple iOS in the enterprise

PRO+

Content

Find more PRO+ content and other member only offers, here.

Join the conversation

1 comment

Send me notifications when other members comment.

By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy

Please create a username to comment.

What is the legacy of personal digital assistants?
Cancel

-ADS BY GOOGLE

File Extensions and File Formats

Powered by:

SearchNetworking

SearchTelecom

SearchUnifiedCommunications

SearchSecurity

Close