Welcome to a New Brain

I’ve been the proud owner of a Palm since the original Pilot days, and have rarely been without one for nearly six years. In that time, I’ve logged thousands of meetings, appointments, contacts, memos and tasks. I’ve read my daily news using AvantGo or Plucker rather than read a newspaper. I’ve even written thousands of pages, either using an add-on keyboard or plain Graffiti hand-writing recognition (which I can now do as fast as regular hand-writing). In short, these handy little devices have been my back-up brain for years.

A couple of years ago, a household incident in my absence involving my wife’s cooking and a smoke detector caused a nasty crack to develop on my Palm IIIc. Well, more than a crack… crazy glue and gaffer’s tape have barely managed to hold it together ever since. But a month or so ago, my beloved handheld finally stopped syncing with the computer, and the keyboard, modem and camera would no longer attach correctly. This was the beginning of the end. Without syncing, I had no way of keeping my data safe, no way of transferring information, no way of getting my news… I had so come to rely on this seemingly simple daily act of information interchange that without it, I was reduced to complete chaos.

After hyperventilating for a day or so, and then after I regained consciousness, I decided that this was not a problem. I would revert to … *gasp* … paper! I used to tote around a business-style DayRunner, and in my more prosperous days I would stock it to the brim with every dollar-a-sheet add-in there was. Now faced with empty pockets and no Staples in sight, I spent a couple of nights of developing templates in Illustrator, and I printed some beautiful double-sided sheets that would give any DayRunner/DayTimer designers a run for their money.

The “classic-size” DayRunner was dutifully stocked with my masterful little creations, and sections were added for each of my current projects, as well as for notes, ideas, diagrams and more. A nice calendar was inserted , to-do lists created, and I broke out my nicest pen and pencil to accompany my leatherette friend. I threw in my patented DayRunner calculator, hole punch, Today ™ bookmark/ruler, zip-lock accessories, business card holders, receipt/expense envelopes, and all the little DayRunner trinkets I thought might prove useful.

And then I didn’t carry it anywhere.

It was too unwieldy, too bulky, too heavy. Sure, it looked nice. And sure, if I carried it with me everywhere, it would probably prove useful. But after carrying around something not much bigger than a stack of playing cards for years (which could store *much* more information), the DayRunner became a bit of an albatross. Although it was a rather sensuous experience to write with a real pen on real paper again, that was the only thing going for it. In terms of convenience or immediacy or helpfulness, it couldn’t measure up to the Palm IIIc. Soon, I rarely had it handy for contact information or notes or project files. And soon, the inevitable decline into chaos once more.

Tungsten EThat changed recently, when a friend who was upgrading to a pricier model sent me his six-month-old Palm Tungsten E (thanks, Scott!). Within a day or two, all my important personal infomation was installed on it, and I discovered where my efficiency had gone. Also, on this model, a few notable “upgrades” from my old model: a much faster processor (capable of playing music and video); much better colour and screen resolution; a built-in MP3 player; compability with my lonely 512Mb SD card (and therefore 70 times as much space); scores of new applications; and a much slimmer and attractive design. I can now use a good word processor (WordSmith) and outliner (Progect) on the Palm at the same time as I can listen to music. What’s not to like? (Well, compability with my previous keyboard, modem and camera would be nice….)

I beamed some useful applications and good books to my old handheld, packed it up with all its peripherals, and gave to my wife’s sister Renate for her organisational needs. I shed nary a tear for that old combat veteran, still bandaged and triaged with tape and glue. (The Palm, not the sister.)

So, the poor old DayRunner is once more being relegated to the closet, a symbol of all those times that I have retreated away from technology and back to traditional ways of doing things, yet ever to return to the modern world with which I feel constantly at odds.

Hmm. Maybe a paper journal again? Something I can stick in my little gadget bag and use a real pen with…? Perhaps a Hemingway-esque moleskine…?