Good luck Doyce,
since the days I was playing with handheld devices such as the ones you are thinking of, the market has changed quite a bit as there are a lot of Android based devices out there now. Also, I searched for the Symbol Handhelds we had used and ended up at Zebra. I also saw that the same devices were labeled Symbol and/or Motorola so there seems to have been some consolidation in the market whilst producing a boom of device types.
One thing I saw was that the suppliers have extended the range of software interfaces they provide and with many people being in the same situation as you are, I would be pretty certain that you'd find a solution available requiring little or no progamming skills, which would get you started. Zebra seem to supply a solution which turns legacy systems into web based screens which their devices can then pump the data into.
I don't know your environment so I can't make any recommendations or judgements of suitability. I suspect that if you are using a laptop now, having the thing ruggedised is not a necessity and thinking of the price... a laptop is probably a good deal cheaper than one of these custom handheld devices nowadays so why change a running system?
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