Today on Blast From The Past, we’re looking back to the good-old holographic PDA which was (and in some Habitats still is!) the device that became a “must-have ” for every citizen in the Technosphere.

At the start of the 21st Century we were still dreaming of truly functional augmented-reality and Personal Data Assistants that didn’t require clunky metal boxes and plug-in-the-wall power sources, the iconic iPhone (yes, the people who make robots used to be known for making phones!) was first off the mark but its limited interoperability (it was a simple palm-reader) made it more of a gimmick than a gadget:

However, by the time we were out of BootStrap we had wrist-band PDAs and were firmly entering the Second Digital Revolution.

Top of the Pops were two devices from market-dominating companies: the “Mercator” and the “Hobile”.

Both were incredibly similar offering lightweight, long-life holo-capable systems with the major differences being on power longevity and digital pickup (which for the non-techies out there means how well the holo-projections captured your finger movements that controlled the screens) lets look at the two devices:


The Mercator was a wrist-based projection system that projected the graphics on to a film of ionised particles, generated from within the wristband. The power-pack was capable of running in high-res for up to 3 days without recharging and interaction was via digital interaction i.e. you used your other hand to manipulate the various icons and components.

Functions included the useful and the rather less so…

it’s main drawback was it inability to render full augmented-reality, the wrist projection had to be held up in front of the face to be able to fully interact (reliably) with its augmentation functions and early user were quite often led-astray until a directional aide was added to the screen display (prior to this the display didn’t tell you if the map was orientated to your wrist position, or your head position)

The Hobile (Holo-mobile) was remarkedly similar:

Whilst the Hobile was cheaper it has fewer functions and far few available Aps (applications), it was, however, more rugged, water resistant and had far more sensitive digital-interaction.

The major drawbacks of both systems was that wearing anything long-sleeved rendered them rather useless and that were difficult to view in bright sunlight and were easily disrupted in dusty atmospheres, or when near other strong sources of elctro-magnetic radiation. A common early issue was “virtual vandalism” where disaffected individuals would go around looking for people using such systems and wave high-density rare-earth magnets near them – obliterating their ionised-screen projections and sometimes completely destroying them. Later version soon offered military-style protection but this was too late to prevent a major dip in sales as a result of this anti-social problem.

Compared to the later PDAs with full optical-augmentation and retinal implantation, these devices look clunky and archaic, yet once they represented the cutting edge of both technology and Cool…. you can even find similar devices still being used in some of the more backward habits in the ‘Sphere!

Next week:

Moonrider Returns!