I am writing this on a USR Pilot, using an Apple Newton stylus. I came very close to having no option but to write it with a spare, unused, wooden toothpick (mint flavour), after my original stylus decided to pick up a speck of grit. An unenhanced Pilot can only hold a 4K note, which is barely enough to put down a decent outline of a single column, but a 1Mb upgrade card and a copy of Superpad bump that up to 28K at a time, and makes the Pilot far more practical for writing - not that it could ever be as ideal as the legendary Tandy Model 100.
The Pilot is that wondrous thing, a success despite itself, and, quite probably, one that was intentionally created as such. Other recent PDAs have abandoned handwriting recognition, and have gone for much larger package sizes. Windows CE, for instance, is supposed to be a full personal computer in a hand-held package, and the new Apple Newton 2000 is a much larger bundle than the preceding Newton MP130, which in itself was too large for all except the most cavernous jacket pockets. The Pilot is only slightly larger around than a deck of playing cards, and probably slightly smaller in total volume. The hand writing recognition system used, Graffiti, is much less comfortable to use, and no faster or more accurate than Newton's handwriting recognition. The case is quite flimsy, and flexes in my hand in a worrisome manner; the stylus is far too short and soft. So soft, in fact, that rather than protect the screen, it is more inclined to pick up the small abrasive particles that can scratch a screen into
As far as I am concerned, the Pilot is a substantial success. The entire point of a PDA is that it must stay with you at all times, and larger devices stand a much greater chance of being left behind than one that can fit into a shirt pocket, and is even supplied with a plastic case that looks like a nerd's pocket protector. If you don't favour skin tight jeans, then the front pockets of trousers are also good Pilot carrying receptacles, so long as you aren't embarrassed by being asked from time to time: Is that a Pilot in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?. Whatever you do, don't be tempted to stash a Pilot in a back trouser pocket. The screen is extremely fragile, and glass shards can be remarkably unpleasant to become so intimately acquainted with.
The Pilot software supplied for calendar, to do, contact and notes applications is extremely crude, the desktop synchronisation software is not good at synching with standard PC software, and, as I have mentioned before, I find Graffiti quite unnatural to use. Despite all this, the Pilot is able by virtue of its carryable size to transcend its limitations, and is an excellent PDA.
Topics covered this month:
Contacts mentioned in this month's column:The World of Newton: http://newton.info.apple.com/newton/newton.html
Windows CE Downloads (PowerToys): http://www.microsoft.com/windowsce/hpc/software/default.htm
Casio Cassiopeia Patch: http://www.casiohpc.com/hpcsrvpk1.html
Scotty FTP: http://www.corus.com
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