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Choosing the PDA

The choice of operating system is Windows Mobile, hands down. As much as everyone hates a monopoly, you could argue that Microsoft already dominates the embedded user OS field. There are already tens of thousands of apps you can run on Pocket PC and Smartphone—many of them free, or nearly so. And Linux doesn't yet have a full-featured alternative to PowerPoint and Microsoft Word on the PDA.

This setup should work with future PDA/Smartphone hybrid models as well, since Microsoft (mostly) builds good backward compatibility in their OS lines. But for the mobile office, we choose the king of the old-school PDAs: the iPAQ 5555 (see Figure 1).

Figure 1Figure 1 The venerable IPAQ 5555 forms the core of our wearable office.

Why such a giant dinosaur? Because it was the last, most powerful PDA to use the old Compaq expansion sleeves. These add-on sleeves brought extra battery, extra memory card slots, and, most importantly, external PCMCIA card support. (In a future mod, we'll cover how to wire this PDA with external WiFi antennas.) Later sleeves added even more connectivity. And when building a mobile office, connectivity is the key.

Considering what a relic it is, the iPAQ 5555 has an impressive list of specs, as shown in the following table.



Integrated wireless

  • Integrated Bluetooth (ver. 1.1)

  • WLAN 802.11b

Enhanced security

Integrated Biometric Fingerprint Reader

Operating system

Powered by Microsoft Windows Pocket PC 2003 Premium


400 MHz Intel XScale technology–based processor


  • 64K color (65,536 colors) 16-bit touch-sensitive transflective thin film transistor (TFT) liquid crystal display (LCD)

  • Viewable image size 3.8 in. diagonal (96 mm)


  • 48MB flash ROM memory

  • 128MB SDRAM

  • Up to 17MB iPAQ file store

Dimensions(L x W x H)

5.43 x 3.3 x 0.63 in. (138 x 84 x 15.9 mm)


7.29 oz (206.8 g)

Notification systems


  • Vibrate, flashing green LED: tone, pop-up message

  • Flashing/solid amber LED: charge active

  • Flashing blue LED: Bluetooth active

  • WLAN active: flashing green LED

  • WLAN enabled, searching, but not connected: flashing amber LED

Notification: Sound and message on the display



  • 1250 mAh lithium-ion polymer removable/rechargeable battery (in docking cradle or with AC adapter)

  • Internal backup battery allows user to swap main removable battery with the system power in standby

  • 2500 mAh lithium-ion polymer extended battery (sold as an accessory)

AC power:

  • AC input: 100~240 Vac, 50/60 Hz; AC input current: 0.2 Aac max

  • Output voltage: 5Vdc (typical); output current: 2A (typical)


  • Supports PC card, CF, and other iPAQ expansion packs

  • Integrated SD slot supports SD/MMC type standard, SDIO ready


Microphone, speaker, one 3.5 mm headphone jack, MP3 stereo (through audio jack)

HP exclusive applications

  • iPAQ Fingerprint Reader: enhanced security

  • iPAQ Task Manager: access and launch programs easily

  • iPAQ Backup: utility for backup/restore to main memory, memory card, or iPAQ file store

  • iPAQ Image Viewer: view images and create slide shows

  • iPAQ File Store: non-volatile storage in flash ROM

  • Adjustable standby settings: utility for adjusting power conservation modes

  • Utilities: self test, expansion pack, iPAQ audio, power status

Ergonomic design features

  • Instant-on/off and backlight Power button

  • Five-way navigation button

  • Touch-sensitive display for stylus

  • Five programmable application launch buttons (Calendar, Contacts, Inbox, iTask, Record)

  • Built-in speaker and microphone

  • Volume up/down and record buttons

Total cost for a like-new iPAQ 5555 on eBay: $450.00.


This is the price at the time this article was written (June 2004). These prices will drop with each passing month.

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