There is an unprecedented proliferation of gadgets, widgets, and thingamajigs that are guaranteed to make your life easier. Sound familiar? The high tech industry is charging ahead full force in developing the next electronic "paper clip" and you, the consumer, are the target. Are they just toys or do they actually serve a purpose in life? Do they really increase the quality of life –– your life?
There are, of course, both positive and negative takes on these questions, which can be easily seen by a quick look at editorial columns on the subject. Well, you are the one who ultimately, has to answer that question for yourself. We're here to put in our two cents and perhaps give you a hand in making your decision. To illustrate this point, let's consider the PDA. If you don't already have a PDA or a hand-held computer perhaps you know some who do.
Let's say you're a retired executive, used to handling a lot of details in a short period of time. And, for many years, you were devoted solely to paper for your many notes, constant appointment scheduling and so on. And now, you take a deep breath and after an enormous amount of research, you've decided on a popular brand of PDA (no advertising here). So you input all your contacts into your desktop and are ready to coordinate all that with the little device.
So, with instructions in hand you attempt to enter over two thousand contacts to your hand held device. Lo and behold, it works. And it works in a flash. Now you're life has just gotten easier because you can now find, schedule, call, contact, and email, everyone listed in your digital assistant. And, when something happens that you can't fix, you have the time it takes (which is not really very much) to fix it and go on down the road. Now you can keep in regular contact with your children, keep on top of your and your wife's medical appointments, and a host of other functions including remembering everyone's birthday.
The price you pay is the cost of the device, the time required to change over, and having to carry it around with you wherever you go –– but it's lighter and less bulky that your notebook. Not bad. Technology has fulfilled its promise.
On the other side of the spectrum: Let's say you're a businessman with several large projects, each different in nature, going on at the same time. You're a very active dad, granddad and travel a lot. You also like gadgets and usually get the latest and greatest of whatever comes out. You've now been through three different cell phones and PDAs in the last four months, looking for what will work best for your needs. Recently, you decided that the answer to your problems is to get a combination cell phone and PDA. However, even though you have your new PDA/cell phone, you haven't yet been able to coordinate the PDA with your desktop. So each time you want to schedule an appointment, you have to go back to your office to check in with your desktop. You've spent what few extra moments in a day you have (when in town) on hold for technical support and the problem is not yet resolved. Since your time is so limited that you haven't had the time to get it all set up properly, you would be more efficient just carrying around a daily calendar that you could get at the local office supply for under ten dollars.
What's the point? In a confusing situation populated with too many options, it is often useful to go back to the basics. Remember in the old days, just a few years ago, what we were told to do when buying computer? First determine you needs. Then decide on what software would best serve those needs. Then select the hardware that would best run that software. This procedure would tend to prevent you from spending your hard-earned dollars on things that you didn't really need (which is exactly what many imprudent buyers did anyway).
The same rules still apply. What problem do you need to solve? How can that device or software make some task(s) easier, give you more time or enrich your life? Would something you already have, albeit low-tech, do just as well, like pen and paper? If you can answer these questions clearly, then you are ready to select your gizmo and the related software.
- Does it improve the quality of my relationships?
First and foremost, we believe life is about relationships, which is why we put this question first. Can your family have fun with it, like a digital camera so you can email photos of the kids and/or grandkids between families or now remember everyone's birthday? Does it help you with your business relationships? Or does it take you away from time with the family or divert you from other, personal responsibilities?
- Does it make your life easier?
Will you really use the gizmo, or will it mostly sit in a drawer or usually be forgotten, forcing you to use a pen and the back of a business card anyway? Or perhaps you could get a simple bookkeeping program so that at the end of the year all you have to do is give us a floppy disk or just email us the file (it would be great if all of our clients did this!)
- Can you afford it?
Are you spending money that you really should be spending otherwise? Do you have to stretch your budget to pay for it or will it require an ongoing expense for a service that you may not really need, like a high-speed connection or wireless services? All these goodies can add up over the course of a year.
- Bottom Line: Does it improve your quality of life?
If your quality of life is improved and it's something you can afford, then it's probably a good buy for you.
Perhaps this has turned into more of an editorial or an essay than just one of our regular articles. And though the point here is an old one, it's still the center of many heated debates: Does function determine form or form determine function? Translated into modern English: Is the human master of the machine or the machine master of the human? We believe that the computer, the gadget, the widget is supposed to be of service. If not, then it's just an expensive ornament or, worse, it distracts us from our other duties and responsibilities. And above all, the most important is how all this affects our relationships.
Our hope is, obviously, that you will choose relationships over gizmos. We do. We value you as a client and our relationship with you. We also believe that nothing will ever substitute for the personal touch. There's nothing like being there and that's why we're here for you. But we also have whatever technology offers to make our relationship with you all the more productive and easily managed. That's our job. We do our best to have a good balance of the two, with relationships our top priority. So, come and see us. That's what we're here for.
We hope you have a happy and prosperous 2002!