You may have encountered junior Evan Gaines in a classroom or two. He?s the one pulling out a portable keyboard at the start of class so he can create electronic transcripts of his lectures on his handheld organizer.
?I have this problem with writing,? Gaines said. ?I just don?t do it well.?
As candy-colored cellular phones, mp3 players and digital cameras hit the market with fun features, it can be hard to resist the urge to indulge. In fact, the UR is one of the top resellers of Palm handhelds, according to Mary Fallon, Palm?s director of higher education marketing.
In particular, personal digital assistants, or PDAs, seem to marry the ideals of utility and cool new technology, solving troubles ? like that whole writing thing ? that have plagued us forever.
Still, these gizmos can be expensive to buy and to fix. And although they may keep your dates and digits in order, they aren?t going to do your homework or call your mom for you.
Gaines? friend and senior Doug Cacialli, for example, has never looked back after his Palm organizer crashed irrecovably.
?I am trying to shun technology as much as possible,? Cacialli said. ?You would too if you kept all information vital to your everyday functioning on a convenient Palm organizer, and then it decided to forget said the vital information.?
Gaines, on the other hand, is a long-time user who got his first Palm organizer in high school. Today, Gaines also plays with a digital camera, mp3 player and a digital video camera, when he?s not using his cell phone.
?I like electronic gizmos,? he said.
His first Palm was smaller than his previous electronic organizer, which had a miniature keyboard to type in information. He?s since upgraded twice and now uses a Palm V, which sports a touch screen to write information using a kind of shorthand called Graffiti, a backlight to see in the dark and the ability to back up data on a personal computer.
Cacialli agreed that his organizer was helpful when he first purchased it, because he had a rapidly changing schedule at his summer job. Back at school, however, the handheld actually reduced his productivity. He stopped downloading games when he realized he had also stopped taking notes in class, for example. It also gave him opportunity for mischief ? he found he could use his Palm as a remote when movies were being shown in his classes.
When Cacialli?s Palm crashed, however, he returned to the scattered Post-it note psuedosystem.
?At this point I?m doing well haphazardly,? he said. ?For a student who has the same schedule for 14 weeks, who needs it??
After all, PDAs are expensive. There are several brands, but the Palm and Handspring have been the most popular. Most handhelds retail at a steep price of $250 to $300. The two companies both have lower-end models which are more reasonably priced at about $150.
Palm?s m100 and most Handspring models, however, aren?t rechargeable, so tack on the cost of offerings to the Energizer Bunny. In addition, accessories such as Gaines? keyboard or his combination stylus-ballpoint pen start at $25 and cost as much as the unit itself.
Purchasing the extended warranty or a protective case is a good investment, because the machines are much more delicate than any datebook. Their convenient, easy to carry size is unfortunately also easy to drop.
Cracking the LCD screen on the front can cost about $100 to replace ? two-thirds of the cost of some of the lower-end models. The Palm m100, however, has a plastic screen unlike the other Palm models, which use glass, so they tend to break less often.
?I haven?t heard of anyone?s notebooks spontaneously combusting, or any freak white-out accidents,? Caciacalli said.
Still, there are benefits to owning a palm.
Unlike a notebook, PDA data can be backed up on a personal computer. If a paper planner is lost, you have to start from scratch.
?I figured I wouldn?t lose a Palm pilot,? said sophomore Justin Glazer, who was fighting a constant battle with forgotten test dates and misplaced syllabi last semester.
He bought a Palm m100 last week. ?I don?t usually lose electronic devices. A piece of paper is like garbage to me.?
Glazer also hopes to cross-reference his cellular phone?s database of numbers. Since Glazer has used a cell for the last three years, ?I don?t even know any numbers any more,? he said. ?If my cell phone ever crashes, I?m screwed.?
Sophomore Jason DeVoe got his Handspring Platinium as a Christmas present from his parents. He likes that the device allows him to edit his entries and keep them neater than a traditional datebook.
?You don?t have to erase or cross out pen marks,? he said.
DeVoe also likes the Handspring?s expandability. The company makes ?springboard modules? ? snap-in hardware additions like a digital camera, wireless modems and even a mp3 player. Palm has similar attachments, although an mp3 player is not on the market yet.
DeVoe doesn?t think he?ll need the global positioning device just yet, however. ?Maybe if I live in Gilbert,? he joked.
And that?s the bottom line ? deciding how much technology you really need. If you have a hard time keeping your life in order, then this toy might be enough fun to motivate you to do so.
If you?re a dedicated datebook user, however, upgrading to a new gadget may be unnecessary.
?That?s all they really are, a glorified day planner,? Glazer said.