31 October 2005

In the beginning...

In the beginning, there was paper. And it was good. On that paper, I wrote facts, appointments, numbers, and other data of all sorts. And that paper required no synchronization. It required no travel chargers; no screen protectors; no spare styli; no third-party software. It required only a writing instrument, ink, and pressure applied by my wrist sufficient to affix the ink to the paper.

Then came the Fall.

On the sixth day (or circa 1999), I abandoned paper in favor of the Device, a portable electronic machine that, unlike paper, did require travel chargers, screen protectors, spare styli, and third-party software. Slowly, my life seeped out of the paper world and into the digital world of the Device. Appointments went first, followed by phone numbers. Then came shopping lists. And my checkbook register. Soon, my entire life was summarized and collated into digital bins stored inscrutably inside the Device.

The Device gave me a sense of confidence and freedom. I could pick it up without additional thought as to what I needed it for. Whatever eventuality arose in the course of my day, it contained the answer. I coddled the Device, my precious, in brushed steel cases, caressing its glass screen with expensive styli. I gave it all the best third-party software; nothing was too fine for the Device. I even upgraded the Device several times, ushering out the old with a solemn nod and indoctrinating its replacement in a sea of love, with new protective cases and screen coverings.

Paper was a quaint prop from a period piece. Paper was for simpletons, or at least people with simple lives. My life exceeded the bounds of the analog and could be kept in check only by the unbending rules of the digital world. Paper tears and decays; bytes persist forever.

Or so I thought.

A series of problems befell the computer with which the Device mated on a daily basis. The problems were not insurmountable, but solutions were difficult because the computer was ruled by the iron fist of The IT Department. The IT Department frowned on my efforts to install the Device's software on the computer. They "do not support third-party software," said The IT Department. Somehow, though, I thwarted their dominance and succeeded in reinstalling the Device's software.

Then it happened again. And again. And each time, the Device began to feel more like a burden. And other problems arose. I found it very difficult to mate the device with two computers -- at home and work -- without causing many problems. The Device was testy, perhaps upset with the periodic trauma of reinstallation and recovery. As the Device began to feel burdensome, I felt hopeless. Yes, the Device sucked. But what else could a man do?

It hit me one day as I fumbled with the Device, attempting to translate arcane scribbles on its screen into recognizable text. I remembered the substance that had sustained me in ancient times. A substance that, alchemically combined with ink, could be manipulated in infinite ways. A substance that, depending on my mood, could be as strictly rule-bound as any computer or as free-form as an artist's canvas.


I set aside the Device, and bought a Filofax. And it was good. No, great.

The Device now gathers dust, and the Filofax gathers no moss. I carry it with me around the house, to the bathroom, to the family room. I set it next to me in bed.

My relationship with the Filofax is in its infancy. My return to paper occurred in earnest only a couple weeks ago. But I have found there is very little on the internet in the way of planner-love. I know there are others out there, secretly laboring as members of my brotherhood. Planner-lovers, unite! You may be a devotee of Filofax, Day Timer, Day Runner, Franklin Covey, Exacompta, or wall calendars with photographs of puppies and kittens. It matters not. Rejoice in the experience of pen to paper. Rejoice in the use of alphabetic tabs. Rejoice in the critical decisions a planner maker must use: Week on a page? Week on two pages? Page-a-day? Notebook-size? Pocket-size? It's all glorious!

Let us celebrate. And, on the seventh day, let us pencil in, "Rest."


  1. The love of pen and paper

    I have had the exact experience as you , with the Device becoming more of a burden than a resource in my everyday life. The Device needed endless updates, synchronizations, software configurations and to mention the worst... it needed charging after just a few hours of work! It ended up with me being afraid of entering stuff into the Device, because who knew how long the battery would continue to keep my notes alive. I'm now, like you, using normal paper planners instead of those evil 1's and 0's, and I will never go back.

    I think it will take quite some time before we humans give up pen and paper... if ever it will happen.

    Congrats to a very well-written text.

    Fredrik Nordstrom, Sweden

  2. You hit the nail on the head. I have tried to embrace the Device, but without much luck. Save the phone book capabilities, I have not found the Device to be of much use. As far as paper is concerned, you name it, I've used it. Franklin(all sizes) as well as Daytimer and a brief run at the Filofax. Right now, a Month at a Glance and yellow pad are working, but I would like to condense without the creepy Franklin cult/ vaguely conservative religious /feeling. I have an old model Filofax binder that I may put to use. Good luck with the hacks

  3. I have been a devotee of The Device for many years now. I'm actually on my second generation of The Device but I frequently long for the simplicity of the paper organizer. Sure, The Device will beep at me to remind me to atttend a meeting, feed the cats or stop for milk but I don't store my grocery lists in the Device, for that I resort to scraps of paper, the back of an envelope or the ubiquitous office 3x5.

    I'm torn between a return to the days without electrical chargers and touch-screen styli and that need to be reminded to scurry off to a meeting. Thanks for giving me something to consider.

  4. My first device died in the washing machine. The all singing replacement became cumbersome and unreliable.

    I am now going to try a classic filofax. If nothing else this looks good and is a fraction of the price of a worthy device.

  5. I remember this post and the chord it struck that other people used paper and were as (obsessed?) enthusiastic as I felt.
    Joy that someone else got passionate about stationery catalogues and the feel of paper.
    I love technology and my gadgets, but using paper and pen with it just feels 'right'!
    Thanks guys!