How PDAs Work

Common PDA Functions

SanDisk 256 MB Secure Digital Card
SanDisk 256 MB Secure Digital Card
Photo courtesy HowStuffWorks Shopper

Today, most PDAs incorporate wireless and multimedia functions of some type. Functions found on most (but not necessarily all) devices include:

  • Short-range wireless connectivity using Infrared (IR) or Bluetooth technology, IR is found on most PDAs and requires a clear line of sight. It's commonly used to sync with a notebook computer that has an IR port. Bluetooth wirelessly connects (it's a radio frequency technology that doesn't require a clear line of sight) to other Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as a headset or a printer.
  • Internet and corporate network connectivity through Wi-Fi and wireless access points
  • Support for Wireless WAN (Wide Area Networks); the cellular data networks that provide Internet connectivity for smart phone devices
  • A memory card slot that accepts flash media such as CompactFlash, MultiMediaCard, and Secure Digital cards (Media cards act as additional storage for files and applications.)
  • Audio support for MP3 files and a microphone, speaker jack and headphone jack

Bells & Whistles

Bells & Whistles

High-end PDAs offer multimedia, security and add-on features not found on less expensive devices:

  • A Secure Digital Input/Output (SDIO) card slot for add-on peripherals contained in an SDIO card, for example, a Bluetooth card, a Wi-Fi card, or a GPS (global positioning system) card
  • Built-in GPS capabilities
  • A built-in digital camera for snapping digital images and capturing short videos (The quality will not be as good as that of a dedicated camera.)
  • Integrated security features such as a biometric fingerprint reader 

In the next section, we'll look at the computer that powers a PDA.