20 Years Since Going Digital

Exactly 20 years ago today on my birthday, I received my very first PDA (personal digital assistant).

I immediately began keeping my appointments and contacts in an electronic format. Today, two decades later, I have more than 20,000 calendar items that are each tagged, categorized and sorted. I love having a searchable database where I can find anything quickly should my memory someday need augmentation.

I was the first person I knew to own an electronic organizer. Because there were no other such devices to covet I had not yet developed what psychologists might call “gadget envy.”

Keeping a calendar electronically seems pedestrian by today’s standards, but two decades ago the technology was cutting edge. My first machine boasted a memory of 32 kb. A few months later I upgraded when they came out with a new version that doubled the memory to a whopping 64 kb. Wow! I was driving in the digital fast lane.

Through the years I’ve gone through five Sharp Wizards, a Sharp Zaurus, four Palm devices and two Compaq iPaqs. I still chuckle as I recall the exasperated look of the tailor at Jack Henry’s on The Plaza. He really tried to accommodate my insistence that my business suits 1) fit well and 2) be fitted around that clunky gadget in the coat pocket.

Today I carry on my belt a Palm Pre. It’s hard to believe I’m packing more computing power than what was in the Apollo space capsule that first carried astronauts to the moon.

Technology changes fast. I remember the quizzical look on people’s faces years ago when I predicted there would come a day when everything would be contained in one single device—a mailbox, an address book, the Rolodex file, a radio, a TV, an Internet browser AND a telephone—all in one handy little package. I had no idea the device would also be used for texting, online shopping and GPS navigation. It seemed like science fiction at the time, but technology has advanced to the point where it’s quite common, even verging on mundane.

I love technology, but I don’t worship it. During the past 20+ years, here are a few things I’ve learned about technological advances:

  1. A new computer, smart phone or electronic device is outdated the moment you buy it. The very next day you can find a new model that is smaller, has more memory and is less expensive. My advice:  Be content and enjoy what you have.
  2. Technology will not make you creative, innovative or cutting edge. It can help, but it’s only a tool.
  3. A new organizer will not make you more organized. Being organized is a way of thinking, a way of life. A gadget is certainly a handy tool, but it won’t do anything by itself, any more than a hammer will, by itself, build a house.
  4. New communications technology will not make you a better communicator. The basics of effective communication are the same whether you’re talking face-to-face, handwriting a note, typing a letter, calling on the phone or sending a text message. (See my post on how to be a more strategic communicator.)
  5. Social media will not automatically make you more socially connected. Twitter, Facebook and other forms of social media are only tools, albeit very powerful ones.

That’s my story. Tell me about your digital history. When did you get your first computer? Laptop? PDA? Cell phone?

Care to go out on a limb and predict what the next 20 years will bring? Or even what we can expect in the next 20 months?

2 Responses to 20 Years Since Going Digital

  1. JoAnn Woody says:

    Wow! Trip down memory lane! But you’re right…it is truly amazing to stop and think back to how technology has changed over just the last few years…and how we have (or have not in some cases) changed with, or because, of it.

    My husband and I were both introduced to computers through work of course. In the 80’s, hubby was responsible for tracking some data for his job which involved several spreadsheets. This was way before any of the “Office” products, even before Lotus. Anyone remember VisiCalc? (I think a shudder just passed through my body just thinking about it!) All this was done on a dinosaur called the T-180 (I think…it’s been sooo long ago!)

    Since that time, we’ve had multiple desktop computers, and worked our way from dial-up access (who can forget those tones?) to (trumpet fanfare here please) High Speed DSL!!!

    And phones/PDA’s? Again, hubby’s work had him connected through first a pager, then a cute little cell phone. (And yes, I was most certainly jealous!) We got me one in the early 90’s, but I kept forgetting to turn the doggone thing on and was contstantly in trouble for being unreachable. (Folks who know me today would definitely get a chuckle out of that!)

    When our children began driving, we decided they each needed a cell phone…for emergencies you know (snort!). Our sone got one in ’96 (actually my old one passed to him), and our daughter got hers in ’98. Mom was the only one without instant communication back then. But that was okie dokie with me! By my estimation, I was pretty much all-accessible. I was either at work (phones there), at home (phone there) or with one of our kids or my husband (yep…phones there too).

    But that all changed in April 2001. While traveling from Tulsa to KC, my husband was involved in a major car accident. Somehow, he was able to tell a good samaritan my work number and they called my office. But, having had a very bad morning, I had escaped to have my hair done over lunch. Fortunately, one of my co-workers knew where I was and called the salon. (See? Even then I was into letting folks know where I was going! Such a good preparedness junkie!)

    Long story short — I had a cell phone within a week of getting my husband back home. Would have been sooner, but I had too many other things going to go get one in person, I ordered it over the internet.

    Since then, we have all had various cell phones, different cell phone services, couple of different numbers each…but are definitely “connected”. We even made sure my mother-in-law got connected to us by putting her on our plan.

    And computers?? Oy-vey! I got my first personal laptop in 2003. It was a present from hubby since I was doing a lot of presentation development and such for Red Cross. My trusty HP has traveled to DC, Florida, Louisiana, New Mexicco, California, and more — my lifeline to home (and sometimes work…eeeww)

  2. JoAnn Woody says:

    (cont’d from earlier post — typing while sitting on the floor has it’s challenges! How appropriate!)

    But as you mentioned Duane, technology has it’s life-span. My HP was replaced this past October (another BD gift…I’m a bit spoiled), and I am getting to know this new friend.

    I also tried to get into the whole PDA/Smartphone thing. Hubby and I got matching Palms a couple of years ago, and I was getting pretty good at sinc’ing my calendar, and had scores of contacts and all their info in my address book. I was becoming VERY dependent on that cute little blue tool…until it died in August. Just old enough to not be under warranty, and it was at a time when not having that communication was a bit risky. My new phone is not quite so versatile — and I have had some issues adapting to that. My contacts’ complete info is not at my fingertips anymore, and I do hate that.

    My new phone has GPS (love that!), FaceBook (no comment needed there), internet, email, decent camera, and great texting ability. (We’ve had to change our texting portion of our plan to adapt to that!) My phone and my car can even talk to eachother. Sadly, my car doesn’t like it when my phone initiates their conversations, so it hangs up on it. It’s a compatability thing…and I guess I’ll just have to get used to it.

    In the next 20 years…or 20 months? Who knows? I’ve been reading where the Emergency Alert System is working to tweak a system where emergency messages can be relayed to cell phones in geographic areas — which will increase our ability to provide critical information to more people. But I worry about more agencies and organizations adopting these newer tech products and leaving our economically challenged folks behind.

    The “new stuff” is great, but if you can’t afford cell phones, laptops and wifi connectivity, personal computers and high speed internet at home…are you going to be left behind? There are people that don’t listen to radio and/or tv for personal, economic, or cultural reasons. Are they going to be left behind as well? I see huge challenges ahead for us as a society to keep our communities engaged and “in the loop”, and not increase our isolated population anymore than possible.

    I look forward to getting the next “gotta have” toy. But I also look forward to how we’re going to use that new technology and all the “toys” to help more people stay informed.

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