First Place

Dear J-

Do you remember when I was shopping for a Palm and the biggest concern was that I couldn’t get something with everything? That is, I couldn’t find a single device that hit all of your desired features — color, high resolution (which in those days meant a pixel-doubled 320×320), expandable storage, metal shell, jog dial for one-handed use? That was a source of endless frustration, not remedied until well after I’d made my purchasing decision (I ended up with a Palm IIIc, which was pretty much like the original Pilot, only with a color screen because perhaps of some internalized trauma from growing up with a 9-inch Mac). It was pretty useful for storing contact names and numbers and taking quick notes, which was what it was meant to do, but part of me was amazed that here was something at least as powerful as that old Mac and yet shrunk down to pocket-size.

These days make those seem quaint and not so useful, but perhaps it’s just the fifteen intervening years. Who knows where we’ll be in fifteen more? There’s the strong possibility the endless aural guidance and isolation afforded by our insistence on politely (or not so much) ignoring each other through technology will only serve to increase personal privacy in public spaces. On the other hand I’m not convinced that anyone really did talk to each other on public transit before; this just gives us another somewhat visible option to be heads-down and tuned out. Friendly reminder: what’s going on outside your window is pretty amazing too. Let’s not forget the people within are probably as fascinating as you suspect.

The more features you insist upon, the less likely you are to find something that encompasses all of them; that goes true for anything you may go shopping for, whether cars or gadgets or TVs or to some degree people. On the one hand this drives consumer choice, perhaps — find one that best fits your needs and figure out how to work around what’s missing — but on the other it doesn’t (you can’t shop for people; I mean you can shop FOR people but not for PEOPLE) and instead of obsessing about what’s missing, take heart in what’s there. Or better yet, boil your needs down to a simpler set and be endlessly satisfied with where you finish (hint: it’s ahead. On top. In front.).

Mike

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