When a PDA Dies

I was a reluctant adoptee of the PDA (personal digital assistant, for those who sill haven't crossed over to the dark side) and, for awhile, I was enthralled. What a gift, this new technology! When before could you have all your addresses, a date book, a tip calculator, and a game of Parcheesi, all rolled into one? I admit, the shorthand took a little getting used to, but then -- the freedom! The bliss! The purse space! I was in geek heaven, beaming stuff to my friends, hot syncing with the latest news headlines, and looking at my tiny maps of Manhattan for directions. There was no going back.

Until last week, when my Palm betrayed me.

Initially, I thought it was a one-time glitch. It wouldn't make an A when I tried to enter someone's address. Then slowly, devastatingly, my digital friend began to deteriorate. Now when I point the stylus at one entry, a name two lines away pops up. I've had to invent my own new shorthand to work around the problem. Then today, suddenly, the Key to My Personal Information flickered once, then died, leaving me without phone numbers, without headlines, and without a clue as to what to do next.

Granted, I do have most of the info stored in my computer, but do I really want to commit again? That one only lasted a year, and since I wasn't that diligent about syncing, some of the information is lost forever. Plus, I can't really cough up enough money to replace the thing, and I have no concept of how much it would be to repair it. Here's the thing -- I bought the Palm when I had a real job, and now I'm just a lowly freelancer again, so I can't really afford to pay for any repairs, and I wouldn't even know where to send the thing anyway. Maybe this is just another inevitable ramification of a dotcom boom filled with toys and technological gadgetry. No one considered what would happen when the stuff really started to crap out. How was I to know, during the glory days, that I couldn't even afford to repair the thing I was buying? Who thought about repairs in the glory days of technology?

The other thing is -- I sort of miss my old address book. For all its bulk and lack of fancy features, the address book had something that the PDA could never equal -- history. Change someone's address digitally, and their information is updated -- simple, clean, and cold. Change someone's address in the book, and you have to do the crossing-out maneuver.

I have an actress friend who's moved like 10 times since I added to her the book. Roommate problems, an unfortunate episode with a stripper and her slave, and countless ex boyfriends, put her at the top of my cross-out list. In my PDA she's just like everyone else, but in the book she's special -- an award winner. And I remember every apartment, every neighborhood, and every funny situation -- every time I look her up.

Does the rise of technology signal the imminent decline of memory? Already I write most of my stories and articles on my Mac -- no cross-outs, no coffee stains, no notes to myself, no doodles. The PDA was just the latest in a series of technological awakenings that have been slowly convincing me that what I need isn't more convenience -- it's a world without electricity where I can reconnect with my inner writer. If the digital revolution is going to make my frequent flier actress friend into a mere name and number and my stories mere blips on a screen, I want to get off.

And so today, for the first time in a few years, I went to the Telephone Book department in Staples. They still have the Day Runners I remembered from the 90's, and that gave me hope that we haven't all gone digital. After all, they must stock those because people buy them, right? I got the "little black book" version and then began the arduous task of un-digitizing my information. What does this entail, you might ask? Writing, and lots of it. Notes next to peoples' names on things I shouldn't forget about them. Cross outs. People with multiple addresses because of situations and issues. Memories. Laughs. History. Oh yeah, that's what a pen is for.

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