October 02, 2017

I’m a child of the 80’s. Best decade ever? It brought us E.T., Star Wars, and Indiana Jones. MTV was introduced, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Prince began their reign of Superstar status, and Nintendo revived and dominated the video game market. We launched a Space Shuttle, knocked down the Berlin Wall, and IBM released the first personal computer. Aside from big hair, parachute pants, and neon spandex, I’d say best decade ever is accurate!

The internet began to take shape in the second half of the decade and the world saw great socioeconomic change due to global advances in technology. Motorola purchased what would be the first car mounted MDT (Mobile Data Terminal) from Canadian-based company MDSI. It wasn’t long before they were in at least half of all emergency vehicles produced that could afford it. The beast of a computer would display relevant information from a central dispatch on the screen and there was a keyboard provided for data entry. Look at this beauty!


 As technology continued to progress expectations grew. MDT’s became more advanced. They evolved from just a screen and keypad connected to two-way radios and taximeters, to fully functioning PC hardware, introducing the moniker MDC (Mobile Data Computer). Both acronyms are still used today.

In 1996 Panasonic introduced the Toughbook. A public rugged mobile computer built to withstand vibration, drops, spills, extreme temperature, and rough handling. Models ranged from “business rugged” to “fully rugged”. The answer to Emergency Vehicles problems. Other companies like Getac, who introduced rugged computers for the military in the late 80’s, Dell, and IBM also offered competing products perfect for the First Responder Trade. It didn’t take long for industries to switch from Computer-Aided Dispatch to ruggedized laptops, taking full advantage of the internet and private IP networks.

Like all good things, the rugged laptops did not come without fault and let’s face it, we are a fickle people. Many First Responders complained that the laptops were in fact not always reliable. With prices flying high, upwards of 9k for a Toughbook with mounted docking platform, the cons were outweighing the pros faster than you could say upgrade!

While most emergency vehicles still house rugged laptops or even nothing at all, many are adopting a new option. The tablet.


A tablet can offer access to building site plans, schematics, and emergency response plans, manage inspections, SOG, reference materials, including hazardous materials, disengagement, search and rescue, weather data and radar imaging, and pertinent records and maps, all in real-time. A tablet also gives you the option to communicate via Instant Messaging or Video Conference without having to leave your post but the freedom to take the tablet with you when you need to. Cheaper apps, better display, better connectivity, and a smaller footprint sweeten the deal but what’s the largest benefit of a tablet? The cost, at 1/16 the price of a ruggedized laptop.

No one likes to miss a party, including Panasonic and Getac. Within months of each other, both Panasonic and Getac took the opportunity to evolve with the industry and introduced rugged tablets to the market.

In an article from Retired Battalion Chief Robert Avsec of he recommends 10 tablets to consider for your fire department. While the tablet market has advanced since his article, some tablets are still going strong. I've compiled a list of tablets with some of his picks and some updated ones. It should get anyone considering making the switch to tablet life, off to a good start!

  1. Apple iPad Pro
  2. ASUS Transformer
  3. Dell Latitude 12 Rugged Tablet
  4. Getac T800 Rugged Tablet
  5. HP Pro Tablet 608
  6. Microsoft Surface Pro 4
  7. Mobile Demand xTablet Flex 10A
  8. Panasonic Toughpad FZ-M1
  9. Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 8.0
  10. Xplore Technologies Bobcat

Thanks to a veteran of the Fire & EMS Department we have some great recommendations on tablets for use in the Fire and Emergency Industry but thanks to Padholdr we know how to house and mount them.

No matter what decade it is, Padholdr understands the needs of ­­­the Fire & Rescue Industry. With a special line of heavy-duty mounts and holders designed to stand up to use and abuse, you can be confident your tools are in place so you can focus on the task at hand. 

Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.