Editor’s note: In my pursuit of the perfect gadget, I seem only able to organize a digital mess

January 8, 2012

The International Consumer Electronics Show gets under way this week, and I confess there was a time when I couldn’t wait to prowl the aisles of the Las Vegas Convention Center looking for that ideal digital device.

You know, the phone that shows movies in brilliant 4D, protects your life’s secrets and chops tomatoes — all by mind control.

Somehow instead of convergence, my gadget collection just grows.

This time of year, I’m always looking for a way to get better organized. Back in the late 1990s, I fell — hard — for a gizmo known as the Palm Pilot. It was a transformative piece of technology, a complete break from my then-personal administrative system of choice, a pen-and-paper Day-Timer.

My Day-Timer had an engraved soft faux-leather cover and proprietary, tabbed pages to organize my calendar, phone numbers and other important bits. In the back, I stuffed all sorts of scraps I couldn’t live without. I was fond of telling people how it held my entire life.

Until my Palm arrived. Here was a slim handheld beauty, a Personal Digital Assistant that could store all that information electronically, to be recalled with the tap of a button. It could be synced with a computer. Heck, the machine even understood handwriting, of a sort.

Finally, a real chance to declutter, and bring on-demand order to my busy life.

Except, I never could quite reach that state of nirvana. So I bought the next generation model, and then the mobile phone version. Next came the Blackberry, followed by the Android and then the iPad.

Eventually, I came to my senses.

The one-gadget-does-all Swiss Army knife was a fantasy, I decided.

I’d be better off assembling a collection of digital tools, each one suited to its own job.

Problem was, I need a toolbox to carry it all. I tried a backpack. Too informal for the office. But the briefcase seemed too formal for weekends. I bought a purse, er, I mean, a manbag. Kids hated it.

The other day I happened upon my Day-Timer. It looked positively svelte next to my accumulation of phones, tablets, MP3 players, power chargers, bags and whatnot.

Dan Beyers is the founding editor of Capital Business, The Washington Post’s go-to source for news about the region’s business community.
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