I have a old Nokia phone with limited Internet connectivity. No built-in camera, no mailbox, no games or apps or special ring tones, no built-in MP3 player. Just a phone and the ability to check my e-mail online. It doesn’t flip, close, slide, twist. It isn’t sleek or pretty or exciting. But it’s functional. I don’t give anyone the phone number because I rarely ever have it on. I didn’t have one for years and I didn’t miss it. I only got one again because I couldn’t access my personal e-mail from my workplace at the time.
Most of my friends have either smart phones (iPhones mostly) or standalone PDAs (iPAQs, Blackberries, Palms, etc.). Their lives are stored on those devices, and they are lost without them. Even my dad has a PDA, though he’s a bit odd in that he’s not permanently attached to it. The nerd in me really wants an iPhone or a BlackBerry. But the cheapskate in me can’t justify spending that kind of money on a phone/PDA or on the service plan to use it, the commitmentphobe in me balks at the kind of 3-year plans that would make the devices affordable, and the hermit in me doesn’t want to be that accessible to anyone. On a practical level, I’d have to wear my reading glasses to use one (I’ve learned that much from using this netbook), which makes it less desireable or easy to use on the fly.
A boss I had several years ago was very excited about getting his first PDA. He stored everything on it — personal stuff, work-related details. When it died, he couldn’t function. He couldn’t remember deadlines or where we were in our publishing process; couldn’t remember what he’d told anyone. He’d had no backup, no alternative, no physical memory. It was sad. No, actually, it was pathetic. It’s a good thing that his subordinates were on top of things or we would have missed our deadlines because he couldn’t remember what needed to be done. (Thankfully, he was eventually fired for incompetence but it took years and years for that to come about.) His (frighteningly enough) is the image that comes to my mind whenever the urge to get a PDA comes over me. Like a cautionary tale.