Remember the Palm Pilot- historical musings

Palm Pilot

This article is more than a decade old… how things change… how they stay the same.

Reviewed by Douglas Eisenstark, L.Ac.

Rule #1: Never trust an advertisement for a product that says “it will simplify your life”.

We here at the review section of have always had an uneasy relationship with technology. Color TV, electronic car door locks, 10 digit zip codes: are they really necessary? We were very wrong about the personal computer, having thought it a fad that would soon pass over like 8-track tapes.

However, I recently tried a Palm Pilot PDA for a week and then bought one for myself. This little miniature computer has been a great help for me. If you cannot carry it with you everywhere than it would be less so, even useless.

For those of you who don’t know, a PDA (Palm and Visor are the major brand names now) comes with a set of basic programs for organizing calendar events, telephone numbers and memos. Plug it into your computer at night and any new information is stored. All PDA’s share a common Operating System or file system so there are no compatibility problems between brands.

Now there are thousands upon thousands of programs that can run on a PDA. From cooking recipes to Medical calculators, a program is out there. Although data is stored on your home computer, the program itself is not itself generally accessible there (which is a bit of a disappointment).

Everyone suggested I buy an 8 meg model. These are starting to be advertised for $100 with a rebate, about half of what I paid for it just a few weeks ago. For more money, you can get email service, cameras, and MP3 audio devices. My friend has one inside his cell phone, but I think this is going overboard. I’m still convinced that cell phones will go the way of the 8-track tape.

Because my PDA fits in my pants pocket (and, yes, I am happy to see you), I can now schedule appointments at home, while doing my daily chores around town and more importantly, while retrieving phone messages from remote locations. Because my office staff consists of one person: me, I now have less fear of double bookings. For years I carried a pencil and a small notebook at all times but the PDA seems to work better. I never liked bulky “organizers”.

So try one out for yourself before you buy. It may not be for you. If you do make the purchase, you will soon find that there are many programs available (usually running around $15) and a few programs that are made for acupuncturists. The best sites for programs are,, and . Generally, PDA programs are smaller and more limited in their scope than what you might find in a desktop computer program. You will also probably have to get a program such as Jfile, which stores the information for many programs in your PDA. I also purchased a small fold up keyboard (Stowaway by Targus) ($ 99) to do major typing. This is a very worthwhile accessory.

There are several very nice programs for acupuncturists using a PDA. An most amazing piece of software is the Chinese Herbal Database by Mark Tryling of Meridian Harmonics. This is a fairly complete Chinese Materia Medica and it is really excels at integrating the computer with the herbs. I have used this in the clinic and it works smoothly. The herbs are organized by group (e.g. blood tonics), then by Pinyin name and gives all the information of taste, temperature, Latin, properties, actions and contraindications. Herbs in Latin or Pinyin, as well as actions, can be searched for within the Jfile format. Search for “tremors” for example and indeed ten herbs come up as possibilities. Mr. Tryling is finishing his studies at the Dallas Institute of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and credits his teacher Pingping Zhang for her teaching and inspiration for the Herbal Database. This makes for another nice feature of the Database which is that additional comments are included. It is nice to have a different perspective about the herbs from Bensky/Gamble. For example, under Di Long there is a rather involved special note of the actions of this “herb” for bronchitis obviously reflecting his teacher¹s clinical experience. Comments can be added at the end of each herb. I await eagerly for Mr. Tryling to finish his TCM Formula Database. The Chinese Herbal Database is available at

Acupuncture and Command Point is a very nice program that provides the numbered and pinyin name of all the points. It shows both the “energetics” and the symptoms of the points in a concise form. As well, combinations are shown with a short explanation of the reasoning. All these sections are editable which makes it extremely useful for your own comments. The “Command” section displays the “antique” points of each meridian as will as the yuan source, luo, horary, entry and exit points, back shu, mu-alarm, xi-cleft, hours of activity and the lower he-sea points. One can create “new meridians” which will allow you to make new groupings of points. Each point displayed has a line for additional information that you can be added to. This is a neat and a must have program for PDA carrying acupuncturists. The program also makes use of the Jfile database system.

BodyEnergyPoint by Grace-Comp Systems is an interesting program that gives you the “point of the hour”, used in some non-TCM systems. For example, in turning it on now, it gives the present time and date and the point, Stomach 45, an English translation of the point name and a neat little drawing and description of the location. For those who use this system of optimal acupuncture times, it replaces wall calendars and books giving the same information. Search the Web for this program, I have little other information about it.

If you know of other useful PDA programs, let me know. I have looked at a few medical programs for tracking patients and some Chinese translation programs that frankly have been disappointing.