by Wayne M. Krakau - Chicago Computer Guide, September, 2002
With their Treo 180, HandSpring, Inc. ( has introduced one of the first viable convergence (I love that buzzword) devices, combining a cellphone with a PDA (Personal Digital Assistant) and adding Internet access and e-mail to top it off.

I will be the first to admit that I didn't really notice one major characteristic of the Treo until about two months after I bought a pair for my wife and myself. It had to be pointed out to me that, if you activate the speakerphone function and hold the Treo away from your body, it looks like you are using a communicator from the original Star Trek series. Aha! I think I've found the ultimate geek badge. I'm sure that Dilbert would be proud. (Actually, a lot of people do stop me and ask to see it.)

In addition to its high-fashion geek appeal, the Treo 180 has a lot going for it. As a cellphone, it comes with an earbud, and AC adapter, a car power adapter, and a built-in speaker phone that is loud enough to almost completely make up for its lack of a full-featured car kit.

The cellphone has the usual quick list of frequently dialed numbers and a history of both outgoing and, via Caller ID, incoming calls. It can also access the underlying address book from its PDA half, even to the point of displaying names instead of numbers on its call history page. You can also copy and paste numbers into it from the notepad, calendar, or other programs running on the PDA.

The main phone screen shows a dial pad with buttons large enough to allow (very firm) finger presses without resorting to the attached stylus. Another screen shows the phonebook and gives that ability to search on strings of characters or numbers. All four screens (quick list, dialing pad, phonebook and history) can be operated using the keyboard optionally in conjunction with the rocker switch on the upper left side of the Treo. The numbers on the keypad are available during a call so you don't have to switch to the number pad screen to negotiate phone systems. It is equipped with a silent mode, vibration, and a screen backlight.

To use the phone in the normal, non-speakerphone mode, you just flip open the lid and hold it up to your head as if it was the big brother of one the smaller flip-top style phones. The microphone is in a tiny hole just below the keyboard. The speaker is near the top of the opened lid.

In this area, your only phone provider choice is VoiceStream. In other areas you must accept Cingular, and in a few places, you can choose one of them. Their rates are quite competitive, though, from my experience, they have a bit less dense coverage than some of their competitors. When comparing notes with people using other providers, I find that I run into more local weak and dead spots than they do. It's usually not that big a deal. It's just somewhat inconvenient.

My favorite, and I will admit, quite addictive, cellphone feature is SMS (Short Message Service) text messaging. There are two important factors at play here. The first is the relatively new protocol standardization and cross-communication among different phone companies. This means that you can send and receive text messages between any phones that follow the SMS standard and are connected to a provider that supports the standard, which includes just about every provider in the U.S. and a good number in other countries, too. For good measure, VoiceStream supports sending and receiving SMS messages directly to and from regular e-mail accounts.

The second factor is one of the major breakthroughs included in the Treo, its full keyboard. Perhaps thumboard would be a more appropriate term, since that's what you use most of the time. You would be amazed at how fast you can type with it. This means that, unlike people sending text messages with normal cellphone keyboards, you don't really have to use cryptic abbreviations and multiple keystrokes - you just type normally. However, as a courtesy, you probably would like to keep your messages extra short if you are sending to a regular cellphone with a tiny cellphone-sized screen, as opposed the comparatively giant Treo screen. You wouldn't want people to think that, just because you are a Geek (at least in my case) you were rude or something.

When you work with the Palm Operating System-based software, the keyboard really hits its stride. You can enter names, notes, appointments, etc. at a very rapid rate, further enhancing this PDA's ability to replace paper and pen.

HandSpring's standard Palm applications are typically enhanced versions, which will appear in later versions of Palm's own devices. There is the usual Date Book (calendar), the Phonebook, the To Do List, the Calculator and the Memo Pad. As with other PDAs, the Phonebook and Date Book can be synchronized with Microsoft's Outlook, and other software on your desktop computer. Of course, there are lots of additional applications available for downloading.

Next month I will continue covering the Treo 180, including a valuable undocumented feature.

Tolerance Follow-up

A gentleman who was interned with my family during WWII was kind enough to provide me with additional information on the internment of Germans and also a pointer to a Web site with lots more info, Here is a quick rundown of facts that were new to me:

1. My family was held for two years after and many others were held for four years after the war ended.

2. Japanese forcibly deported from Peru were interned in Crystal City, Texas with the Germans.

3. There is a reunion for internees from the Crystal City camp, organized by Richard Santos (, Chairman of the Zavala County Historical Commission, on November 9, 2002.

4. Many who weren't actually interned were subject to life-destroying government harassment.

5. The most common cause of qualification for internment or harassment was that someone who had a grudge started rumors.

6. For only the second time in U.S. history (the first being during the Civil War) a charge of Sedition was used, for some reason only against Germans.

7. Court proceedings to authorize internment, or to convict people of Sedition or other charges, were held in secret, mostly without benefit of counsel, and sometimes without the accused even being present.

8. People were often taken away in secret so that even their families didn't initially know their whereabouts.

9. A huge number of law enforcement and the military personnel were tied up interning and harassing people when they could have been put to much better use finding real spies or in the War effort, all without stomping on the Constitution.

Are there any lessons to be learned here?

©2002, Wayne M. Krakau