Had the new phone about a week now, and I'm still convinced that the modern smartphone is an amazing piece of technology. I need to get a picture of my old phone next to my new one. The new phone has 2.4x the screen and half the thickness of the old one. It does everything faster.
It's nice not to have everything STOP when a text message comes in. It's also nice to be able to switch between apps. I can play Freecell solitaire on the thing, switch to the message app to respond to my wife, then go back to solitaire.
I haven't even begun to tap the potential here.
One of the things about my SF universe is that I never really did get around to defining how big a PDA is. I think perhaps this phone is about the size, though; the screen is big enough to be useful without being huge, and the thickness and heft are also about what I'd expect.
The PDA is essentially monolithic, though. There's some kind of dielectric substrate which has a ground plane on one side and various antennae on the other. There's a layer of battery, some kind of solid-state thing that has about the energy density of lithium ion without the nasty tendency to swell or explode. On top of that is the device electronics, the microprocessors, memory, radios, signal processors, and so on; then there's a photovoltaic layer on top of that, then a mostly transparent layer of some kind of LED display, high resolution. Some sort of highly durable coating atop that which also includes the digitizer for the touchscreen. The whole thing is encased in plastic, but for the screen, and done correctly you could have a model which would even float.
The photovoltaic layer would be a visible light rectenna, rather than a solar cell, because I would expect the efficiency of a rectenna to be greater than that of a solar cell. It could charge whenever it was exposed to light and the screen was off; of course the thing would have a charge port but you'd hardly ever need it.
If you drop it, it's not likely to break. If it does break, though, you don't have any trouble moving to a new device. Go buy a new one, log into it, put in a few bits of personal information, and presto! it's configured just like the one you broke. Anything you saved to the broken PDA was uploaded to the cloud, and is still accessible to you; the system is designed so that you can't lose anything without deliberately deleting it three times in a row, and because storage is too cheap to meter, you never have to delete anything. The design is as mature as the pushbutton landline phone; the software does not often need updating and changes are incremental.
We're a far cry from that one. Maybe not as far as we think. I don't know; the US has a rather elderly cellular system and could do with a bit of updating. Besides, I'm told that Americans pay about 2-3x what people in other coutries pay for cellular service. But at least this new phone gives me an idea of what it looks like when this or that character pulls out his PDA and does something with it.
* * *
Time to relax.
Watching today's SpaceX flight I have learned that the name of the recovery barge is Just Read The Instructions. Why did no one tell me this?