Monday, October 31, 2005

Personal Nagger

Do you know what time it is? Do you know if you are late for an appointment? Do you remember the telephone number of the person you were supposed to call today?
Well, you would if you owned a Personal Digital Assistant or PDA as they are also called.
PDAs are the latest offering from a computer industry which is continually trying to find better ways to organize our lives. These little electronic organizers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, and can do everything from telling you how much money you have in the bank, to reminding you of your next dentist appointment. The promise of the PDA is that you will never be late or forgetful again.
I like the concept of a personal organizer a lot. When I look at my desk or flip through the ink-smeared pages of my scheduler, I realize that I am hopelessly organizationally challenged. These little organizers promise can finally make me orderly and efficient by tracking my appointments, recording phone numbers and storing more information. They won't make coffee or find my car in the mall parking lot, but they will whip up a schedule of all the things I'm going to be late for in a day or a week or a year, and they will keep track of all the people whose phone calls I forget to return, and they will beep at you when you are supposed to do something or go somewhere. Come to think of it, what these organizers are is not so much organizing devices as “personal naggers.”
The most publicized Personal Nagger was the Newton. Remember the Newton? Made by Apple Corporation, this little wonder was about the size of a paperback novel, and functioned much like the old-fashioned steno-pad in that you would write notes on the screen of the thing, and your notes would then be electronically stored until you needed them again.
What was so great about the Newton was that it would transform your illegible handwriting into equally indecipherable print, all for only about 800 bucks, or the price of roughly 592 steno pads.
I actually owned a Newton for awhile, and spent weeks trying to make it work properly.
The way the device was supposed to work was that I scribbled my notes on the screen of the Newton with a little plastic stick. Then, at the end of each line, my scribbles transformed magically into print, except that the machine could never figure out what I was writing, so I might write something like "Don't forget, or you'll be late for your meeting with Mr. Big at two this afternoon!" which the computer happily translated into "Down fool, or your flight will be leaving for Bangkok at two with aftershave!"
But wait, there's more: For a little extra, I could get a device that would let me fax my messages from the Newton to all my friends and co-workers. So instead of finding a fax with the message "You're still on for lunch today?" waiting for them in their office in the morning, my co-workers would get: "You're a bunch of goons, hooray!"
The Newton may not have lasted, but the industry promises that bigger and better hand-held Personal Naggers are on the way. These new devices will apparently have answering machines and telephones attached, but as far as I am concerned, if they aren't able to decipher my handwriting any better, all they will likely do is continue to provide people with hours of inter-office communications fun, just as the Newton did.
I still have my Newton, by the way, and I still use it. That’s it over there, an 800 dollar coaster for my coffee mug.
Still organizationally challenged, I’m Otte Rosenkrantz
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