Back in 1978, the Apple ][ had a 1 MHz processor, up to 65K of memory and 280×192 pixel “high res” graphics. A few years later, you could buy a 5MB hard drive for about $1000. Compare this to a handheld Palm or PocketPC device: a 400 MHz processor, a thousand times the RAM, screens up to 320×480 pixels and 2GB external memory in the form of an SD card — 400 times more than the 5MB hard drive! Thanks to this incredible growth in hardware capabilities, the Principalm program from Discovery Software (PrincePalm) can allow a school administrator to store their entire student database — picture, address, emergency contacts, class schedule, recent attendance, recent grades, parking stall, bus info, locker and more — on a portable handheld device.

Principalm works on both Palm and Pocket PC handhelds, uses 128-bit AES encryption to protect the data and is sold as a site license so that the school can let as many staff members as the like use it. Naturally, each user can be given different subsets of the student and teacher data. So… how does the school get all of the student and teacher information onto the handheld? It’s actually quite simple; they use the Discovery Connect middleware that ships with Principalm. Connect extracts data from 50 of the most popular student information systems, including SASIxp, PowerSchool, WinSchool, AAL, Infinite Campus and lots more. Oh, and the actual capacity is far higher than one school; it’s actually closing in on 100,000 students. This means that the school district can give it to security personnel or use it as an emergency backup of the district’s student roster. As of July 2006, Principalm was being used in over 2500 schools nationwide.