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:
- A new computer, smart phone or electronic device is outdated the moment you buy it.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.
- Technology will not make you creative, innovative or cutting edge. It can help, but it’s only a tool.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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?