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Where Was I?

I had been watching a client struggle with a collection of different devices on the table in front of him. I had my little black Moleskine notebook and he had his PDA, a brand new, slim line, notebook PC and a mobile phone and the meeting resembled a choreographed dance that involved all three in a powerful example of digital attention deficit disorder (DADD); a stop, start experience which had the conversation interrupted every minute of so by an incoming email or a mobile phone call announced by the tinny-sounding film score of Mission Impossible.

In the gaps between the conversations, I had plenty of time to think about convergence and the future of devices and I was reminded of a lecture I used to give almost exactly twenty years, in the days when Lotus 1-2-3 was the face of computing, when Novell had just appeared with a really neat idea it called networking and when Microsoft just happened to be the name on something called an Operating System manual that nobody really paid much attention to.

“Listen”, I told the audience in my lecture on computing futures. “See this piece of A4 paper? One day, computers will be this size, smaller in fact and if you fold the paper in half, then one side is the keyboard and the other side is the screen. Believe me; it will happen in the next ten years”.

Around the same time, I had an early stab at Peer-to-Peer (P2P) computing as well. I buttonholed Sir Clive Sinclair in the wine bar we shared in Chelsea and asked if he had ever thought of connecting up a series of his Spectrum computers into a distributed network concept. He hadn’t, I was obviously a nutcase and that was the end of the conversation but you can still find Spectrums if you look hard enough.

I hadn’t thought of mice or even graphical user interfaces. They were an Apple thing and having previously been the training manager at an Apple dealership launching the disastrous ‘Lisa’, As a result, I had written-off Apple against the IBM PC as an impractical but pretty example of digital over imagination in practise.

Back to the present then and what I think tomorrow’s device will be.

Most recently, we’ve seen the rapid growth of public wireless access points – we’re even promised it on the trains soon – and the availability of remarkable amount of cheap storage, whether it be the Apple iPod or Google’s one gigabyte Gmail service. Meanwhile, advance in display technology will, within a few years, allow us to have digital photo albums, where the pages are digital images and no longer photographs.

I we extrapolate the technology a little further then we could find ourselves returning to the little black book but one which may hold a gigabyte of its own storage and might be linked, via wireless to the Internet and an off-line terabyte storage service on another continent. This little note book might have fifty or a hundred small pages or screens with a pen input facility and once could in theory have a diary that goes on forever, choosing to display entries and notes between any given dates, digital media and home movies, email and even telephone messages. It rather takes us back to the filofax craze of the eighties but this time, the contents will be entirely digital and constantly connected to news sources, workflow, eBay, your bank account and information through its different pages; one’s entire digital existence perhaps?

Until then however, I’ll stick with my own little black book for meetings because it still remains the quickest, easiest and most efficient means of keeping notes in an increasingly attention challenged digital world.


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