Hands On Review - Casio
A multipurpose mixture of a palm computer, laptop and graphing calculator, the Cassiopeia A-22T from Casio performs many tasks in the school environment. Primarily designed as a handheld computing device, the Cassiopeia features the kinds of basic functions that weve come to expect from a handheld: a calendar/scheduler, address book and to-do list. However, this device can do quite a bit more.
Also featured are scaled-down, pocket versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook and PowerPoint. While, of course, not as hearty as their regular-sized counterparts, they are still handy for throwing together quick documents, spreadsheets, e-mail or presentations while on the run. And fear not, this device comes equipped with a small keyboard, so you need not worry about hunting and pecking on an onscreen keyboard with the stylus.
Primarily, the unit is stylus-controlled, operating in the very familiar Windows-style environment. Educators and students alike will find the simple icons and pull-down menus to be very easy to use. A PC card slot allows for add-on accessories, such as a modem. Running a Hitachi SH3 processor, the Cassiopeia has 16 MB of RAM, the allocation of which can be adjusted by the user for additional storage memory or program memory. It runs on two AA batteries along with a backup battery. (If this backup battery gets low, reminders will pop up ceaselessly, so be sure to keep extras on hand.) An AC adapter is also available.
Expanding on the already multiple uses of the Cassiopeia, Casio has allied with numerous educational software publishers to offer additional programs for use with Cassiopeia. One of these is the MRI Graphing Calculator from Math Resources, Inc. This program gives the Cassiopeia all the functionality of a graphing calculator. Operating in Cassiopeias Windows CE environment, it is navigated with easy-to-use buttons and pull-down menus. (This will be a relief to students who, like me, could never find their way around a standard graphing calculator.)
In addition to the physical keyboard of the device, the program also supplies a stylus-operated onscreen mathematical keypad. The software allows users to create point plots, box and whisker plots, graphs of inequalities, polar points, pie graphs, bar graphs, curves of best fit, functions, parametric plots and much more. It uses very clear and simple input and result fields. A pencil button allows users to create and manipulate graphs of all kinds. MRI can also integrate with other programs, like Excel.
In general, we found the Cassiopeia to be a very handy device. At roughly 7.5 x 3.5 x 1, it is slightly larger than a standard handheld device; however, it is still very portable (youll want to put this one in your briefcase or backpack, rather than your pocket) and offers quite a bit of functionality. The stylus is easy to operate in the CE environment, and the mini-keyboard is a nice touch. Power can be a bit of an issue, so be sure to keep an eye on remaining battery power. (During a particularly busy stretch, this reviewer put the unit aside for a couple of weeks and returned to find both the primary and backup batteries dead, with all my settings and inputted data gone to nowhere-land.) Teachers of advanced math will have particular appreciation for the MRI Graphing Calculator software, which transforms the Cassiopeia into a highly functional, easy-to-use graphing calculator. In short, educators will find quite a bit in this relatively small package.
This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.