Almost all cell phones have memory that lets you store frequently used names and telephone numbers. But many businesspeople don't have the slightest idea how to program them.
Paragon Software has a solution. The British company (http://www.paragonsoftware.com/home.html or  558-7962) sells the FoneSync ($69.95) system, software and a cable that let you program a phone from a Windows PC so you no longer have to use the phone keypad to enter names and numbers. You can transfer the data from an existing personal information management program such as Microsoft Outlook, Goldmine and Lotus Notes, or you can type the data directly into FoneSync.
In addition to sending data to your phone, FoneSync can copy data from the phone to the PC or synchronize the phone and PC so they are both up to date. The system works with many Ericsson, Nokia, Sony, Mitsubishi, Panasonic and other digital phones, but not with Motorola phones.
There are several reasons to consider such a program. If several people in your company use a cellular phone, this is a way to share a standard database of customers, suppliers and personnel. Just create one database and upload the data to each phone.
It is also a great way to back up data in your phone. I found this out last week when I had to replace a damaged phone. Because the data were backed up to FoneSync, I was able to transfer all 140 numbers to the new telephone in just a few seconds. Typing all of that in from the new phone's keypad would have taken hours.
Another use is to maintain separate lists of numbers for different purposes. If you're about to take a trip to New York City, for example, you might want to use FoneSync to download all your New York contacts.
The major limitation to the technology isn't in FoneSync but in the phones themselves. Most have small memories, usually between 100 and 200 names and numbers. That might cover your frequently used numbers, but it doesn't allow you to use your phone in lieu of an electronic organizer such as Palm.
Although FoneSync doesn't support Motorola phones, Starfish Software, a subsidiary of Motorola, is working on two solutions that will be available this spring. One is a cable and software similar to FoneSync and another, for Motorola Startac phones, is the Startac Clip-On Mobile Organizer that, as its name implies, attaches to Startac phones to provide access to about 2,000 names, addresses and phone numbers.
And later this year Qualcomm of San Diego will release the "pdQ smartphone," which combines a cell phone with a Palm handheld organizer. The device, which is a bit larger than a typical cell phone, will enable users to look up phone numbers from their Palm organizer and make a call without having to dial the phone.
Eventually, many hand-held devices, pagers and telephones will be able to exchange data with one another thanks to an emerging technology standard code-named "Bluetooth."
Promoted by hundreds of companies and led by IBM, Toshiba, Intel, Ericsson and Nokia, this technology will use short-range radio links that allow hand-held devices and other machines to communicate with each other and with PCs.
After this technology becomes available, you'll enter your data once--probably in your PC--and be able to access it from whatever device you use, including your cell phone.
It gets better. If Bluetooth ever becomes reality, individual businesspeople will be carrying wireless local area networks around with them. Your watch will reset itself to the local time zone when you step off a plane, your palm-top PC can get your e-mail by dialing the cell phone in your pocket and, if one of the devices needs even more information, it can fetch it from the laptop in your briefcase. If that's not enough, the cell phone will dial your office PC or central server for whatever data it needs.
This all sounds futuristic and maybe it will never happen, but Silicon Wave is betting the company that it will. The San Diego integrated circuit firm is already working on the technology to make this all happen.
In the meantime, there are always Day-Timers and other paper-based pocket organizers. They're relatively inexpensive, they work for years without batteries, they're compatible with any phone, they never crash and--if you use a pencil rather than a pen--they allow you to delete information using an ingenious device called an eraser.
Technology reports by Lawrence J. Magid can be heard at 1:48 p.m. weekdays on KNX-AM (1070). He can be reached at email@example.com. His Web page is at http://www.larrysworld.com or keyword "LarryMagid" on AOL.