I recently talked a little bit about some devices I’ve used in the past, and what I’m using most today.
The ‘gadget bag’, as I tend to call it, is something we all deal with daily. As I stated in the video, everyone prefers a different mix of devices, capabilities and form-factors. Some people may get along with just a smartphone, but I see more people carrying bulging backpacks stuffed with laptops, tablets, e-readers, mp3 players, cameras and accessories for every contingency. I have definitely overdone it from time to time myself, but I actually like to take stock now and then to make sure I’m only carrying the essentials. I think it’s fun to pick my gadgets carefully and strive for a balance between minimalism and productivity. Technology, of course, is always evolving and so this balance is very much a moving target. Generally though, it’s the devices themselves that change, not the goal.
So, in the spirit of taking stock, I thought it would be fun to look at what I’m carrying today compared to a few years back. As luck would have it, I’ve been a geek for a while, so I already have a detailed record of my gadget bag circa 2005. Behold!
Looking back at this, a couple things jump out at me. First, I was obsessed with small. The smaller the better! I loved that little Sony Cybershot 2mp camera for its sheer tininess, and that ThinkOutside folding bluetooth keyboard is still an impressive piece of engineering today. The Sony U750P, a 1 Ghz Windows XP machine, was my pride and joy though. It was breathtaking at the time; like it was forged from pure futureness. This setup technically allowed me to work anywhere, with a set of devices I could fit in the pockets of a large coat (I literally used to do that).
I have some vivid memories of the power and versatility of this gadget bag. From watching movies on the treadmill, to unplanned but deeply productive email sessions at the mall while leeching Wi-Fi from the Apple store (3G wasn’t a thing yet). I even once walked into a meeting room to give a deeply technical code walk-through with nothing but this computer in my pocket. You should have seen people’s faces when I hooked up the projector and started Visual Studio!
I was living the dream of an always connected, and therefore completely location-agnostic work life. But there were certainly challenges. Battery life was pretty bad, for one. Plus, I still felt there were too many devices with specialized tasks. iPod for music, camera for pictures, phone for calls, etc. Not to mention, Windows XP wasn’t exactly made for a 5″ screen, nor did 512 MB of RAM keep up for long! Ink notes in OneNote are awesome, but not so much on a resistive screen. Needless to say, the novelty wore off eventually and I could be seen spending most of my time on regular boring laptops a couple years later. So let’s see what 2012 has to offer!
What happened to tiny!? I went from a 5″ to an 11″ screen, ditched the folding keyboard and added a mouse! It seems like these might be steps backward until you think about it a bit more. First, there are fewer devices. I no longer bother to carry a separate point-and-shoot or mp3 player, those are integrated into my smartphone. As are many of the functions I used to want the tiny PC for, like reading email and casual web browsing. When I need something more, the Samsung Series 7 slate steps in with an appropriate bump in speed and screen size. More importantly, it’s running Windows 8, which is actually designed to be useful on a tablet with touch input. OneNote with both touch (for manipulating the canvas) and pen (via Wacom digitizer) is so amazingly natural, you really have to try it. When docked, this machine keeps up with all but the MOST intensive daily tasks, and I’m a pretty demanding user.
There are some interesting similarities too. I still favor a convertible PC (no ‘ultrabook‘ here), because sometimes a keyboard is just in the way. Everything is extremely compact, which helps me squeeze into crowded buses with ease. And my use cases are basically the same. Ultimately, I’m using this gadget bag in much the same way as my 2005 version, but with far more ease and efficiency (and Tweeting). That seems like decent progress to me, but I’m no less excited for the next seven years. I’m hoping to see more consolidation, huge jumps in battery life, and flexible screens that do away with the choice between screen size and portability. I’ll check back in around 2019, assuming we haven’t hit the singularity and just uploaded our collective consciousness to the cloud by then.