The Olive Tree Bible Software Story - Using PDAs to Study the Word

by Bob Dasal

The electronic gadgets that have become an indispensable part of our lives have, for the most part, come into existence because of someone's fantasy. Remember the 1960s TV series Star Trek? Gene Roddenberry, the creator of the show, didn't allow paper or pencils to appear anywhere on the sets of the Starship Enterprise. On the show crewmembers used handheld Tricoders and Communicators to collect data and transmit messages.

This concept that you didn't need paper and pencils became reality in the 1970s when a young man named Alan Kay developed the Dynabook. It was a portable interactive personal computer, accessible as a book, with a flat panel display and wireless communications. The Dynabook was the forerunner to the PC Notebooks and PDAs (Personal Digital Assistant) commonly used today. In the last few years we have seen a number of Bible study software products developed for the PDA. I want to take a look at products developed by Olive Tree Bible Software.

The Olive Tree story begins in the 1980s with Drew Haninger. In 1984, while helping in a summer High School Computer projects for students at a Christian High School in Michigan, Drew developed a DOS program that enabled him to do a search of the Greek New Testament text on his computer (a 4MHz Z80 with a monochrome screen). Next he wrote several DOS programs to study and analyze the four Gospels and Olive Tree (from a phrase about the olive tree in Romans 11:17) Bible Software was born.

By July of 1996 Drew had written a Web-based CGI Bible search engine. It allowed him, via the Internet, to do Bible searches on his laptop while traveling. Gradually, permissions for various translations were obtained and more Bibles were added to the Bible search resources.

The merger of his Bible program with PDAs came in August of 1998 with the release of the Palm Pilot Bible reader. That was quickly followed in October with the release of the KJV New Testament for the Palm Pilot and the next January (1999) the Windows CE reader. Today Olive Tree Bible Software provides Bibles and Bible study tools for Palm OS, Pocket PC, and SmartPhone (where cell phones and PDA's come together).

I'm using an iPAQ Pocket PC using Windows CE. I have the Olive Tree Windows CE Reader. The limitation on how many Bible resources you can have is the size of the memory card. The iPAQ I'm using is loaded with games, MS Word, Excel, etc. Still I'm able to have a tremendous amount of Olive Tree Bible study software.

The challenge to using the PDA and software effectively is the navigational tools learning curve. Master the tools and using the PDA to do a Bible search, read Spurgeon's Morning and Evening Daily Devotional, look up a verse or passage in a commentary like Matthew Henry. This can be an invaluable help to the busy pastor.  

Thousands of copies of the KJV Bible are downloaded free from the Olive Tree Web site every month. Downloads of other free Bible versions and resources are also available. Free Bible translations include the ASV, the Bible in Basic English, ISV, Young's Literal Translation, Weymouth New Testament and Darby. Free Greek and Hebrew texts include Byzantine Greek Unparsed and Parsed Text, Scrivner 1894 TR-Greek, Stephens 1550 TR-Greek and Westcott-Hort Text. Greek resources include Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary and Matthew Henry Concise Commentary.

Some Bible translations and resources have a cost, but they are very affordable. These include KJV and NASB Strongs with Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries, Contemporary English Version, English Standard Version with Notes, Good News Bible, Holman Christian Standard Bible, NASB, New Living Translation, NKJV, NRSV, TLB, and The Message. Other resources available at affordable cost include Nave's Topical Bible Index, Easton's Bible Dictionary, Erdmann's Dictionary of the Bible, KJV with Strong's, NASB with Strong's, Original Languages: Hebrew and Greek and the Treasury of Scriptural Knowledge.

If you already own a PDA or plan on buying one in the next few months, be sure to check out Olive Tree Bible Software for PDAs. I highly recommend it.

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To learn more about Olive Tree Bible study software for handheld PDAs and a complete listing of available resources visit their Website at Olive Tree also has available an online Web search and cell phone (WAP) Bible search engines.

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