First it was beepers. Then came Game Boys and cell phones. And now pocket-sized computers are the newest handheld technology. Today’s college-age generation has grown up at the forefront of technology, and the newest trend is not escaping its grasp.
Handheld computers such as Palms cost from $150 to $550 with varying capabilities. Almost all versions include calendars, address books, to-do lists and memo pads. More expensive versions have wireless internet capabilities and are compatible with utilities including digital cameras and programs such as GW’s own educational program Prometheus. The newest models double as cellular phones to create a complete handheld all in one device.
“I’ve never been an organized person before, but for the first time I have all my stuff in one place and it’s too expensive to lose,” said Scott Scher, customer service representative at Colonial Computers.
According to Scher, Colonial Computers sells two to three handheld computers a week. The best-selling model is the Palm 3xe, recently replaced by the Palm m105. Colonial Computers sells the two leading brands of handheld computers, Palm and Visor.
Mary Fallon, director of higher education marketing for Palm Inc., said college students make up about eight to nine percent of Palm’s overall sales. Palm is in the process of visiting and marketing its products to 62 college campuses around the country.
“(There is) huge interest by college students,” Fallon said. “They are pushing the envelope.”
Fallon attributes what she calls a selling success of handheld computers in the student market to low prices and good features. She said students like the computers because they are compact, lightweight and help lighten the backpack load.
Senior Aaron Chacker said his Palm Vx helps him organize his class and work schedules. He said he switched from a paper planner when he got the handheld gadget as a gift and realized its pocketability, ease of use and diverse functions.
Junior Erica Acosta also received her Visor handheld computer as a gift and uses it mostly for scheduling and to-do lists.
“I’m definitely more organized,” Acosta said. “(I) don’t have to worry about papers falling out and (I) never run out of paper. I can look up something even next year and it’s on the calendar unlike paper planners.”
While the handheld computer trend is growing on campus, there are still students who prefer the more traditional organizing method of a paper planner and pen.
“I’ve thought about an electronic organizer, but I don’t think I need it,” sophomore Deirdre Ehlen said. “It’s easier to just write stuff down.”
Junior Erin Bingham describes her Cambridge paper day planner as a stone-age Palm. She said she sticks with the planner because it allows her to access all her information in one place, including business and credit cards, phone numbers, addresses and a calendar. She said her biggest complaint about the planner is that its limited space does not allow her to enter much information. Bingham said she thought about getting a handheld computer but decided against it.
“One of my professors uses (a Palm) in class and pulls up our papers on it if we have questions,” she said. “And I know Prometheus has functions for Palms, but I don’t have a PC so it is hard to work.”
Once downloaded to the handheld, the Prometheus program lists assignments posted in the outline section of the Web site in the computer’s datebook. Professor contact information from the Prometheus platform is sent to the address book.
Although many students do not have a handheld computer, they do know a little about them or have friends who have them. Several students said they will probably give in and purchase one before they graduate. In the age where quicker and smaller is better, handheld computers seem to fit perfectly in students’ not-so-deep pockets.