Pilot personal organiser

Hardware
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Look around at the electronic items in your home and office. For every sleek video-recorder or practical notebook computer there is an ancestry of clunky, inappropriate designs that are remembered only because they were the forerunner of "the right thing".

With the Pilot from US Robotics, the pocket-sized electronic organiser has finally started to come of age.

First, it is so small and light - weighing in at 5.5oz, and not much bigger than the box of a cassette tape - that you hardly notice it is in your pocket.

Second, and more excitingly for the student of the history of technology, the Pilot represents the first economically workable version of handwriting recognition.

Pilot is a Personal Digital Assistant. The first of these pocket electronic organisers was the Apple Newton MessagePad. The problems with the MessagePad were legion. It was too big to fit into the average jacket pocket (a non- trivial problem for a device you are supposed to carry with you everywhere) and, more fundamentally, data input was supposed to be by handwriting on a pressure-sensitive screen. Trouble was, it couldn't read most people's handwriting, no matter how hard they tried.

The Pilot makes a clever compromise. Human beings can learn things much more easily than computers can, so the Pilot uses a slightly modified form of writing called "Graffiti". It is easy to learn and within a couple of days most people can write in Graffiti as fast as using ordinary letters. But to make things easy for the computing involved, US Robotics imposes two more restrictions: writing is done letter by letter in a square at the bottom of the screen and numbers are entered in the adjacent box. This prevents "1" being confused with "I", and so on.

The machine, though, wins in another area. It co-ordinates seamlessly with your PC. The comparison with the ever-popular Psion could not be greater. Whereas the Psion is a pig to integrate with a PC, by pushing one button on the Pilot's stand the diary, to-do list, address book, notebook etc on the Pilot and the same applications on your PC can be synchronised in a few seconds. What's more, while the Pilot's PC organiser is very good, if you use Lotus Organiser or Schedule + or pretty much any other mainstream PC organiser, there is software to allow you to use that as your PC-based organiser, so the Pilot can mimic your favourite program.

The Pilot is compact and easy to use, and is an ideal companion for anyone wishing to carry their electronic organiser with them.

The Pilot 1000 supports 750 addresses, a year of appointments, 100 to- do items and 100 memos, or any combination thereof. The Pilot 5000 supports five times as much data. A memory upgrade option supporting up to 10,000 records will be available at the end of this month for pounds 29

Pilot 1000 (pounds 249, inc VAT), Pilot 5000 (pounds 299): US Robotics (0800 225252).

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