In 1997, it was a beeper. In 2001, it was a laptop. In 2002, it was a cell phone. This year, it’s a Palm Pilot.
What am I going to have to carry around with me next year?
The laptop was kind of nice. It means one less computer I have to buy. It means a guarantee that I’ll have a computer all the time that works right for word processing, e-mail, and Web browsing, which in turn means I can keep my computers optimized and ready for the really important things, like Railroad Tycoon and Civilization and Baseball Mogul. And the laptop’s pure-digital LCD display is really nice.
The cell phone… Unfortunately a couple of people got hold of the number. The thing rings in the weirdest of places. People get annoyed when I don’t pick up the phone on the first ring, especially when they know I have a cell phone. And while it’s small compared to the box phone my dad carried around with him in 1989, it’s too big to put in my pocket comfortably, and when I put it on my belt, I feel off-balance and I run into stuff with it.
Then my boss’ boss told me I don’t have to keep it turned on all the time. That was just what I wanted to hear. I haven’t charged the battery in weeks.
And now the Palm Pilot. I remember Palm Pilots. I was sitting in a meeting room one day, several years ago now, and since the meeting hadn’t started yet, everyone had their Palm Pilots out, comparing features, figuring out whose could do the most. Then another coworker named Charlie came in and whipped out his Apple Newton. It drew a reaction–and not the normal reaction that Apple hardware draws. “I feel so old-fashioned,” he said, looking down at his green monstrosity. I think someone wondered aloud whether Charlie’s Newton remembered Watergate.
“Here’s my PDA,” I said, loudly and proudly. Then I slammed a 5.5″x8″ pad of paper from Office Depot down on the table. “Excuse me while I go get a chisel and a stone tablet.”
“You don’t have Palm Pilot envy?” one of the women at the table asked.
I muttered something about how I’d rather have a stone tablet and a chisel than a Palm Pilot. If I couldn’t remember where I needed to be and what I needed to do, then obviously it wasn’t very important.
Then one day last year I started double-booking myself. I think one night I even triple-booked myself. I started wondering if I might have to break down one day. I caught myself one night in the PDA section of a consumer electronics store, comparing prices. I didn’t need much. A calendar and an address book. I tried to convince myself that I’m not a yuppie. I slowly stepped back and walked away.
Then one day earlier this month, my boss caught me. We had a meeting the next day. A big meeting. With his boss. And the rest of us. He made some kind of mention about it. I gave him a blank stare. What meeting? With what boss?
“Dave, get a Palm Pilot,” he said.
There wasn’t much room for me to escape anymore.
This morning, it was sitting on my desk. It won’t impress anyone–it’s old enough that it says “3Com” on it–but it has a calendar and an address book. I even started to figure out its weird alphabet, before I gave up and figured out how to pull up its onscreen keyboard.
As things came up today, I entered them into the calendar so I won’t forget stuff. By the end of the day, I’d entered two meetings, two deadlines, two events, and the information off one business card. I never realized how quickly stuff comes up before. No wonder I forgot stuff. But I was being dutiful. I was feeling pretty impressed with myself. I almost didn’t feel bad about taking yet another giant leap down the slippery slope to yuppiedom.
Then I looked down and realized I’d entered it all in January 2002.