It wasn’t that long ago that my biggest decision in the morning was which tie to wear (remember ties?). Now it’s which device to wear. Convergence is simply confounding my wardrobe planning.
In the early days of desktops and laptops—way back in the 1990s (remember Eudora email and Netscape Navigator?)—we were buying tuners and software that allowed us to watch television in a corner of our computer screens. Then Web TV came along and we could surf the Internet on our TV screens. The big tech story was, where will that flighty convergence model alight—everybody zip over to the Zenith or everyone dive into the Dell?
It turns out that the prospect of converged media on our desktop was simply shortsighted, literal inside-the-box thinking. Convergence, we’re discovering, is happening in the palms of our hands. First we had PDAs and Blackberries, which were supposed to combine the best of email access, calendars, notepads and, eventually, telephony. Great—finally, now I knew. I’ll be touch-toning home on my PDA, so that’s what I’ll hang on my belt this morning. And maybe I’ll add a Walkman with a radio.
But hold the phone—iPod is here. It can store and play music, but it also can allow me to listen to radio shows and call up a PowerPoint presentation. Can’t phone home on it yet, so let’s hook that on the belt alongside the PDA. Or not, if I listen to Bill Gates. He’s predicting that soon my cell phone will be the way I listen to my MP3 tracks and iPod will be obsolete. Not only that, but I’ll retrieve my emails cheaply and automatically over my cell phone too. At some point, manufacturers began making tiny wearable cell phones, which freed up my belt for all those other devices. But now we need screens in our phone to handle all the email, video, text messages and Web sites we’re calling up, so now the somewhat beefed-up phones are hanging over my pocket again.
Others suggest that I’ll be watching video on my camera phone before long (still images already are becoming passé), and I can actually view movies on a handheld game player.
To complicate my choice of tech, my hometown is about to install a wireless computer network that will extend throughout the central business district, and many other cities are considering providing wireless access to the Internet as a public utility. Plus computer makers and cell phone companies are teaming up to offer wide area wireless service over cellular networks when a wireless Internet signal isn’t available.
So with my new smart phone, my PDA, my music player (which is not yet incorporated into my phone), my game player and my radio (which I still need to listen to the ball game), I’ll want to carry my wireless notebook computer, which doesn’t yet fit on my belt.
And then, like a wicked last-minute rule thrown into the game by Bud Collier on Beat the Clock (surely you’re not old enough to remember Beat the Clock), I walk into the airport terminal to catch my plane.
Off comes the phone, the PDA, the music player, the game player, the radio. Out comes the notebook computer and—oh, yes—the camcorder I’m taking along on my journey. I promptly trip the metal-detector alarm. The friendly but oh so serious TSA sentry demands, "Take off your shoes." Off they come. "Empty your pockets, remove your tie clip, lose the watch."
I still set off the detectors. And suddenly the source of all my problems becomes so crystal clear with one final suggestion from the security guard:
"Take off your belt."