Monday, April 25, 2011

#21: U is for Ubiquitous

At some point, computing power went from 'something at work/school' to 'something at home' to 'something ubiquitous'. Exactly when it happened varies by person, but I can identify mine.

Summer 1996, my in-laws visited and my father-in-law gave me a small pocket data bank. Stores 100 phone numbers, basic calendar, etc. It was nice, but nowhere near seriously useful. Then I went to visit a friend who had a Psion S3a. Revelation. It was a small computer that went everywhere.

I looked into what was available, and decided a S3a was what I needed as well. (Palm devices - then the Pilot 1000 and 5000 - were 'portable extensions of your desktop', when I wanted a portable computer in its own right. The tiny clamshell DOS machines were the other option, and they weren't terribly good at actually doing anything.) And so, despite money being a bit tight, one was purchased.

It paid for itself within a year. With calendaring and notes in my pocket, I earned a large raise and bonus that year. So much so that, when the Psion S5 came out the following summer, I purchased one of those as well. (The S3a had many nice things going for it, but the hinges on the screen weren't one of them.)

The S5 lasted for a couple years, but Psion didn't have anything better coming out, so with a sigh I went to PalmOS when it was time to upgrade again. The Handspring Visor wasn't quite as good at calendaring, but was much much smaller. An ill-timed drop on concrete a couple years later led to replacement with a Sony Clie SL10. The high-resolution screen was a revelation, and I never wanted to switch back.

It was followed by a Tungsten C, which I loved for its keyboard. A dead logic board caused an emergency switch to a Tungsten TX, which was never particularly well loved, but was functional.

It was time to give up on PalmOS. OS5 was clearly a dead end, and OS6 was stillborn. The Nokia N800 was a beautiful (if somewhat large) replacement, with a glorious high-resolution screen. But the next generation of ubiquitous computing was already here: the iPhone had launched to much acclaim and snark.

I waited in line for an iPhone 3G, and used it for quite some time. Even when my employer gave me a G1, the iPhone was my go-to device, until its battery got flaky. I swapped the SIM over to my employer's newly-provided Nexus 1, and kept the iPhone for its apps.

Now I use a Nexus S, and keep an iPod touch as well. I love Android for its networking and integration with my Google accounts; I love iOS for its beautiful apps. Use the right tool for the job...sometimes that means carrying two tools.

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