Excalibur Online

Cloth Keyboard

Click to go to Excalibur Online

They say a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Perhaps, but I think it's time to update this saying to a handheld PC in the hand is worth two PCs on the bus. Because how are you supposed to use two PCs on the bus, especially if you're standing? A handheld PC, sometimes also known as a personal digital assistant or PDA, will allow you to do some word processing on the go. In fact, I'm doing it right now: My writing tool of choice is a Palm m500 with 1GB of storage and a clip-on keyboard by Targus.

I also picked up a crazy cloth keyboard for it recently from Factory Direct for $4.95. When you're not using it, it acts like a case for your Palm and looks like a wallet. In fact, the combination is so thin that it can easily slip into the back pocket of my jeans without any hint of geekiness. Using it is a different story. Since you are literally typing onto a piece of cloth, you will be asked some questions about it:

"What are you doing?" comes up a lot or, "You're not actually typing are you?" "Of course not," I tell them. "I'm practicing for a play."

It's really quite an alien-looking piece of technology when you think about it, but not futuristic-looking with shiny chrome and blue glowing lights. Not exactly old fashioned either: You're not knitting a quilt, but rather writing an essay on it. This is one of the rare pieces of technology that if it ever breaks, my mother may be able to fix it. "Let me go get my sewing kit," I can hear her say.

Aside from being able to fit all this in your pocket and making for a great conversation piece for random bus people, there are many other advantages.

How does battery life measured in weeks sound? Sure, those thin and tiny laptops look cool, but you pretty much still have to lug around a power adapter with them because laptop battery life is still measured in hours. The adapter alone is bigger and heavier than a palm/keyboard combination.

If you're using one to take notes in class, you'll find it less distracting to others as there is no keyboard clicking sounds as you type: There is nothing quieter than typing on cloth. No bright glaring screen distracting people behind you because the display is reflective, just like a piece of paper.

There are no whirring hard drive and fan noises either because there is no hard drive, fan or any other moving parts. The added benefit of no hard drive is that you won't lose your work if you drop it. You might break your handheld PC, but your data is safely stored on an SD memory card that you can eject and read back on any card reader or replacement handheld PC you buy. As for the keyboard, well, keep that sewing kit handy.

The word processors available for the Palm are surprisingly full featured. I use one called Quickword. It's compatible with Microsoft Word, has a thesaurus, spell checker, choice of fonts, formatting and most other features you are likely to need. If there is some special feature you want to make use of that is not there, then just load your file into Word and you're good to go.

So remember, a picture is worth a thousand words, and with the aid of your palmtop, so can a bus ride.

Excalibur Naked Tech