Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Going Analog With Paper and No PDA

By Dennis D. McDonald

A while back I wrote about Does Personal Technology Really Simplify Life?  My main point was that I have been actively resisting adding more gadgets to my existing menagerie of personal technologies in order to simplify various aspects of my life.

One device I don't own is a PDA. I remember many years ago owning a Newton Message Pad and being quite fond of it, but when the screen broke I decided not to spend $800 to fix it, and I've never gone back.

I was reminded of this when I read a June 25 Boston Globe article, PDA Buffs Go Back to Basics. The author, Kim-Mai Cutler, quotes a former PDA user:

``The Palm started to become a creature. It demanded things from me. It demanded me to recharge it every couple days or I'd have to make back ups," he said. ``I wanted to see what it would be like if I went to paper."

After years of cracked screens, battery outages, and wiped hard drives, technophiles fed up with a litany of glitches from PDAs are turning to a new -- or rather old -- source of comfort: pen and paper. It's called ``going analog" and for some, chucking the ``Crackberry" has been a conversion of almost religious proportions.

Actually, I switched to a pen and paper long ago. While I use Outlook's calendar for meeting and scheduling management, my real workhorse for note taking and writing is a lowly "quad ruled" composition notebook, the kind with pages printed like graph paper. I've been using these years while on the job, while on the phone, in meetings, and while just sitting down to write out my thoughts while traveling or while sitting down.

It really helps not to have to crack open the laptop while traveling, and the act of writing with a fountain pen I have found to be a tactile pleasure that helps me focus my thinking. For longer blog posts, for example, I frequently outline my thoughts on paper before hitting the keyboard, and this approach seems to work well.

I don't think I'd ever go to a paper based calendaring system, though. But I've always liked to write, and seeing the ink appear on the page as I work through my thoughts is something I've always enjoyed. Besides, I'm a terrible typist!


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