What is an Information Appliance?

An information device can be any portable computing device capable of transferring data to or from another device. It usually performs various specialized tasks, such as the calendar, notepad, and phone book functions of a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). The core of an information device is usually an integrated system, rather than a full-fledged laptop or desktop motherboard. Information gadgets are used by people from all walks of life such as phones, notebooks and mobile web browsers. They are also used by shipping and warehouse workers to track package contents and deliveries.

An information device can be any portable device that allows data to be transferred to or from another device.

Internet access is not required for a device to be considered an information device, but it is often a resource. More important is the ability to transfer data to and from the device over some type of connection. It can utilize a wired Ethernet port or USB (Universal Serial Bus) link for this. It may also include wireless networking capability, either directly to the Internet or to a local area network (LAN).

An information device can be used to read and store handwritten information.

The primary function of an information device is usually to retrieve and manipulate data, for commercial or consumer purposes. To do this, it must include some means of input and display for its user, often more limited than a laptop. Depending on the intended use of the device, it may have a specialized keyboard and display. Some units include a touch screen and stylus for data entry. These devices can also read handwriting.

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Jef Raskin of AppleĀ® Computer, Inc. is believed to have coined the term information device around 1979. At the time, it generally referred to an easy-to-use, single-function device such as an electronic typewriter with built-in memory. If they existed in the early 1980s, digital audio players, video players and e-book readers would also be considered information devices. Over time, the term evolved to imply something very different. A modern information device is generally considered to be an all-in-one device that has the ability to communicate with other devices.

The original definition of an information device by Jef Raskin also stipulated that all software and hardware in such a device must be developed around open standards. At least one of the first devices was completely open, but it did not survive for market reasons. Most early products failed because they weren’t unique enough or were ahead of their time.

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