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

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