Kick the constant communication habit

Tech talk

Tech talk

My friends call me "gadget man". The clutter of PDAs on my desk offer silent testimony to the fact that I cannot make up my mind whether a Palm is better than a Psion or a Compaq iPaq.

Recently, Gartner Group came up with the expression "PDA attention deficit" to describe a new phenomenon in the US, where wireless connections to pocket-sized devices have been available for some time.

It seems that when business people across the pond might come together for a meeting, their minds are increasingly elsewhere, namely being preoccupied with the e-mails constantly dripping into their Palms or Pocket PCs. Microsoft's clever new generation of games even transforms a Pocket PC into a Super Game Boy replacement, which can take the edge off dull management meetings.

Personally, I have fallen in love with my slimline Compaq iPaq with the expansion jackets, which allow me to cram most of my important PC files into a pocket-sized memory monster. Mail still has to be collected via a modem or, very expensively, courtesy of Vodafone through the infrared connection on my mobile phone.

Around the corner, of course, is GPRS and 3G video streaming, so I can retire to a croft in the Outer Hebrides and my mail will still find me.

At what point does such clever technology become a form of personal tyranny?

Arriving at Heathrow last night, within seconds of "cabin doors to manual", the aircraft became a wave of phone jingles as we switched on to pick up voice mail.

"What do you do?" I am often asked. "I read e-mail," I frequently reply. And the more I talk to people in this industry, the more I hear of the desperation of trying to struggle through the day without distraction.

Pocket PCs and PDAs are remarkable tools, but the constant availability they bring could become a social curse. Why? Because the "always-on" description may well refer to us, rather than the PC in our pocket, and that is no way to live, is it?

Simon Moores is chairman of The Research Group

www.drmoores.com

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