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Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, April 18, 2000

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
At their Gordon Biersch meeting, from left, Jon Quist, Alan
Lam and Derek Matsumura exchange data via Palms. In the
foreground is Lam's weekly schedule on his backup.

Deciphering Palm Mystery
The debate over PDAs, or personal digital assistants, is not about which company will win in the stock steeplechase or which technology is superior, but whether they're needed at all.

Those who do use the technology often develop a fervor on par with having found religion. As more and more people are spotted scribbling at the tiny screens of electronic notepads made by the likes of Psion, Handspring and Palm, others out of the loop are left to wonder whether they should join the club.

To help you make up your mind, we asked some of the users and nonusers how PDAs fit or don't fit into their work and play.

The 'Evangelists'

By Nadine Kam


The holdout

ONE of Albert Bustos' friends was set to go on an Alaskan cruise, and just before he left, he downloaded his data onto his home computer so Bustos could give it a try.

After a week's trial, Bustos decided to stick with his day planner, for now. "To be honest, I tend to press really hard when I write. I was afraid I would break the thing," he said. "And I write faster than I could on one of those."

As a software writer, however, he will need to get one. In showing his work, he said, it's important to use a platform that customers are familiar with.

But he's not convinced a PDA would otherwise be of much assistance.

"It's supposed to be the next best thing, but it's one more thing. I already have a planner and a laptop. It took me a while to get a cellular phone, so it'll take me a while to get a Palm."

The converts

Roy Noda, a lead engineer at Hawaiian Electric, knew he wanted to use his Palm V to keep his address book, notes and perform math calculations in the field.

An unexpected use was the delivery of international news to his handheld device. "I'm always on the go so I read the news when I can. Now everything is right here, so I can read it anytime, anywhere," he says.

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Tiffany Lindo and Chris Simon use their PDA's at their
workplace, Salon (808). "It's very user friendly," says Lindo.
"It has to be because I'm computer illiterate."

Stories appear in seconds with the touch of the stylus, whereas with PCs, he says, "You have to scroll from site to site and it takes forever and you have to sit at your desk."

Noda got his Palm four months ago because, he says, "I was tired of double entry on my calendars. Right away I noticed the time savings."

Not that all that time is spent wisely.

"When I get bored I just play games," he says, showing Galaxians, Battleship, Submarine and chess. "If I'm playing games, I turn the sound off. I don't want people to hear me playing."


Real estate consultant Russ Goode Jr.'s Palm IIIx has freed him from carrying a big book and a bunch of easily lost notes.

Tracking each client, house and progress of home sales -- from first bid to termite inspection -- has never been easier, he says.

"I can't measure productivity. I'm not anal, but since I've been putting the information in here, I'm keeping better records than I used to," he says. "Now, if it's not in my pocket, I feel naked."


Paul Fong became intrigued by PDAs when he overheard other attorneys talking about them during a malpractice seminar, and later received his Handspring Visor Deluxe as a gift. Left to his own initiative, he says he might have bought one in "maybe a year, as I heard more attorneys talk about it."

His main goal was trying to get rid of paper and he says, "I was surprised by how quickly it allowed me to do that."

He estimates he realized a 30 percent time savings simply by reducing the "tedious and boring" administrative aspects of his job, but that doesn't mean he's been working less hours.

"I spend more time dealing with client matters. That's more fun."


At Salon (808), most of the hair stylists use PDAs. In fact, boss Henry Hanalei Ramirez will likely be the last to get one. He tried to pick up a Palm last week, but says, "They're selling so fast the stores can't keep them in stock.

"I've waited so long for technology to hit my industry, and it's finally come. It's wonderful. We need it."

He recently came back from a tradeshow in New York, and says everyone he met there had one.

Hair and makeup artist Tiffany Lindo usually lugs an 8-by-5-by-4 -inch utility box holding her client cards filled with details such as color preferences and formulas and allergies. She's transferring that information to her Palm.

"It's very user friendly," she says. "It has to be, otherwise I wouldn't use it. I'm very computer illiterate."

By Ken Ige, Star-Bulletin
A Go Type keypad is used to type information into this palm pilot.

Stylist Chris Simon similarly keeps track of his clientele on his Palm IIIxe, which has freed him from an 8-by-10 address book.

"I can plan ahead for the next 10 years. I keep my bank accounts on it, a budget, expense and supplies list, tax information. You still gotta keep your receipts."

A security feature keeps such information private.

What's more, the PDA goes anywhere. "I can even use it to go to clubs and put in all the girls' numbers. Once I was doing that and six girls came and said, 'Ooh, what's that?' "

The corporation

The Pepsi Bottling Group has discovered the joy of Palms in tracking inventory, according to plant manager Albert Koorenhof.

Prior to adopting Palms, figures were punched into clunky devices priced at $1,500 each, then required double entry into a main computer. Now, information can be quickly downloaded from Palms to that computer.

"What the Palms do is capture one moment in time, what's on the floor before daily activity starts," Koorenhof says. "We can verify and reconcile and generate reports from the information that comes off three Palms."

The information can then be used for sales forecasting, scheduling and ordering supplies.

"There's all kinds of possibilities," Koorenhof says. "Your imagination is the only limiting factor."

The cost of three Palms, including software, is less than the price of one of the older devices, and that's OK with management.

The analyst

Although some who discover the marvels of PDAs seem to fall in love with the devices, clinical psychologist and neuropsychologist Richard Kappenberg doesn't foresee anyone developing the kind of addictive attachment to their PDAs that has been seen with the Internet.

A Palm V user for nearly three months, he says, "Its capabilities are limited. It's not like a computer or Internet, where a person is much more likely to be drawn in by the feeling of being connected.

"I can't see it as being anything other than a nice toy that becomes like an old appointment book or day planner. I think most of us felt attracted to those things because of the data they contained.

"But God knows what will happen in the future as we become more connected."

The paper devotee

Ruth Wong, of Organization Plus, is a pro when it comes to helping people put their paper work in order. For those who don't adapt well to technology, she says, go with what works for you.

"In my classes and seminars I teach basic time management principles and they can apply to paper planners and organizers or PDAs. It's important to plan and scheduling your day, and to write things down as you think of them."

She said her clients with PDAs swear by them, but she's not ready to give up her paper planner.

"I like to see the big picture. Right-brained people are very visually oriented. They need to see a week or month in advance and the little PDA screen just doesn't cut it.

"I don't see myself changing until they come up with something where I can see a month in advance. But who knows? Never say never."


Bullet Meeting: May 3, and every first Wednesday of the month
Bullet Where: Cafe Che Pasta, 1001 Bishop St., ground floor
Bullet When: 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Bullet Admission: $5 for pupu
Bullet Call:The Quorum, 294-5292

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Chris Simon at Salon (808) gives his PDA rave reviews.
"I can plan ahead for the next 10 years."

The ‘Evangelists’

By Nadine Kam


Derek Matsumura remembers being insulted by Alan Lam the first time they met.

"He said something like 'What's with the pregnant planner?' It took me five years to cultivate all this information, and here was this guy telling me all my data could fit on this one tiny device, and not only that, it would help me increase my productivity."

Today Matsumura is a PDA evangelist. "It's changed the way I look at things. It's like being reborn. I can take away your organizer and show you how to double your client list."

And he's joined Lam as a sales director for The Quorum, "a partnership of computer technology facilitators." What this means is, technology is painful for you, fun for them and they can devise relatively painless, helpful ways for goal-oriented small businesses and individuals to integrate technology with their goals.

To nontech people, PDAs are a relatively new phenomenon. Users of the devices are easily spotted by their bowed necks and furtive-looking scratching at tiny screens held close to their eyes.

It may surprise some to discover we are now entering the Third Wave of PDAs.

"The First Wave started about four years ago with the first Palm devices. The people who bought them where the techies, the geeks," Lam said.

The Second Wave saw the introduction of the Palm III, with increased memory and better screens. "People with bad eyesight bought these," he said.

The Third Wave began a year ago with a paradigm shift in thinking. "When they first came out, most people said, 'It's a toy,' Lam said. "Now they're at the stage where they're realizing, 'It's still here. Maybe it's not a toy. Maybe it's a tool.' "

The units are also starting to look sleek, sexy, and sex always sells. "Now people want to carry them around because they look cool," Lam said.

Beyond the cool factor, there is real work being done on the devices, which look more or less like a pocket game.

"People can usually track two to 400 things in their heads. We're trying to get people to track 10 times that," Lam said.

"These devices are very efficient at pointing out your deficiencies," Matsumura said. "Just being efficient in finding the little bits of information you need -- it can be as simple as someone's fax or phone number -- can make a big difference when you're a sales person."

"While someone's trying to pull together notes in their car at the last minute, we're walking through the door," Lam said.

Matsumura said an increase in income may not come right away, "But just by setting up the information, you've made it possible."

The two make it very clear, however, that the device is not a miracle worker.

"A lot of people look at it as being the solution for disorganization, and it's really not," Lam said.

"The people who have them are already very organized people. If you're now keeping information on hundreds of tiny pieces of paper or in your head, it's not going to help you."

The PDAs have virtually freed them from the office environment. "These days we have our meetings at Gordon Biersch, Assaggio's, Cafe Che Pasta, our office is where we want to be," said Lam.

One of the capabilities of Palms is the sending of information and business cards from one to another via an infrared beam. In a sort of strange, alien sex gesture, units are positioned head to head to pick up those beams.

"People freak out when they see us at lunch. At our meetings nobody talks. All they hear is a beep as we're beaming our information to one another," Matsumura said.

"The one rule we have is no one orders the soup. If you drop one of these on a salad, it just bounces. If you drop it on pasta, it sticks. But if you drop it in soup, it dies. So soup is a big no-no."

For technophobes who worry about losing data, information can easily be sync'ed with home and office computers, so if one unit goes haywire, you'll always have the information elsewhere.

The Quorum hosts monthly meetings of the Palm Users Group, which allows owners to trade tips and tricks about playing with their babies. Those who attended the April meeting will get a surprise May 3 when the 5:30 p.m. meeting notice beamed by Lam sets off an alarm at 3:30 p.m.

Not only that, they've scheduled those meetings for you for the next five years.

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