Several years ago, Apple Computer introduced its first Personal Digital Assistant, dubbed the Newton. Although not all of its capabilities were fully developed, Apple's vision was of a highly por-table device that could be used for scheduling, note taking, electronic communications, and much more.
From the first, I thought the Newton had potential uses for meeting planners, but it wasn't until recently that I began testing it for myself. What I really wanted to know was how it would work for on-site management. Rather than lugging around my notebook computer (which had previously replaced an even larger three-ring binder), I wanted to use this lightweight gadget and still have access to all my meeting data. And that's just what happened.
During the fall, I used Sir Isaac (as I call it) for two 100-person meetings. Before each, I input all attendee information (every- thing from title to flight schedule to type of guest room). There are several methods of inputting data, including the ability to link the Newton to either a desktop or notebook computer. I also input data on the program, including agendas, meeting room set-ups, and menus. And I included all the recreational activity details and sign-up lists. In short, the Newton contained everything I needed to manage the meeting.
After using Sir Isaac almost continuously for two weeks, I discovered several personality traits I liked and a couple that could benefit from charm school. Using the Newton as an electronic notepad was exceptionally convenient. Since I was writing notes to myself-and I can read my own handwriting-there was no need to fool around with the handwriting recognition function, which didn't work well. Other positives were list management, long battery life, and, of course, portability.
Sir Isaac does have its limitations. On my model, its display can be difficult to see; there's a hesitancy to change screens, and also some capacity issues. The bottom line for me, however: Sir Isaac has earned the distinguished title of Meeting Assistant.