What I Mean. Defining: Paper vs Digital

Paper – better said as analog this represents the more or less “real” things in our lives that we work or interact with. This could be as simple as writing your schedule out or reading a book (printed on paper) from the library. This could be as complex as personal interactions with “real” people in the “real” world or taking a plane to fly halfway around the world.

Digital – this is all of the electronics in our lives. While it is easy to conceptualize it is kind of hard to describe (at least for me). Using the examples from the paper the digital versions would be using outlook for your schedule, reading an e-book, interacting on Facebook (or any social network), and using YouTube or another method to take a virtual vacation.

Some History (my bias as I understand it)

Digital will solve many of the problems we have, however sometimes the biggest problem is identifying what should be solved now. If you think about it digital is awesome and holds lots of promise such as unified scheduling, easier access to information, smoother communication, and access to virtual worlds, be it, representations of the real world or completely new ones we imagine. I think these things sound awesome and this is only the tip of the iceberg. They represent a few small things that were easy for me to gather a little information about and easily make comparisons.

My experience was that technology failed me.

To get a clear picture of how I feel on this issue you need to realize that I have been one pushing for the “digital” for a very long time. I have tried using an electronic pocket scheduler from young an age as 8 or so, and back then they were these credit card sized plastic devices that usually had a flip cover and then a full keyboard and a “screen” or rather display about the size you would find on most microwaves. Some of them were a little different with larger screens or dot matrix displays instead of the digit type (correctly called seven-segment display). Most of them were handy enough. I bet I could find one in a junk box. I brought these up to start with as an example of a major fail.

First Attempts with Digital Organizers

I didn’t have one as nice as in this picture, but you can get the idea. This was one of my first experiences with relying on technology in a meaningful way (outside of all the things we take for granted), and by meaningful I mean telling me what homework was due or when a friend’s birthday was. My experience was that technology failed me. Batteries would die–data would be lost, I would press the wrong button–data would be lost, I would lose one–data would be lost. At some point, I started doing the next reasonable thing. I would keep the paper I wrote all the information down on to organize things before I would enter it into the organizer.

By the time High School rolled around I dropped the electronic version and got myself a bonified Day Planner. Remember this was before every kid walking around had a cell phone and even when they did they were not that smart. Things were good. Now fast forward through many years of switching back and forth, and I find myself where I am today. Trying to evaluate which things truly are better digital and what things just aren’t. This has raised a lot of questions for me more than answers.

Some Problems with Digital Schedules

I think it should be clear by now that to me there is no clear definition or guidance on what things I should digitize and what things I should not. The best example comes back to scheduling again. Recently I have started getting a little more into my schedule and trying to lock things down so that I am able to get more things done and still spend more time with my wife. Sounds easy and great… Except it hasn’t been. The funny thing about all this is just a few years ago it was actually easier.

When I would build my schedule on my phone or on Outlook things would sync up and the world would be right. This includes syncing with Google Calendar which ultimately meant if I looked at my computer, phone, or tablet (PC, iPhone, or Android) I could see the same schedule that I had to only enter once. It was awesome. Then somewhere along the lines, I ran into a problem where things were getting duplicated, then one system stopped syncing with the other. My option at the time was to move everything to my phone and work from that.

Our First Major Issue

A few weeks ago when I was trying to figure out how to sync my Outlook with my phone and tablet again I came across a really cool technical article (I will link to it when I find it again or if anyone can find it please comment below) that explained the timeline of how The Big Three (Apple, Google, and Microsoft) decided they each wanted to own the market for people interested in shared scheduling but to do so it mean each user need to exclusively own only one of The Big Three’s devices. You need to be an Apple Household, Google Fanboy, or Microsoft dinosaur if you wanted your schedule to sync across your PC/Mac, phone, and tablet. No picking and choosing.

This brings to light our first issue about digital…

Often the technologies we rely on are controlled by third parties interested directly in other things than our simple happiness or ease of use.

Now as it stands so far we have only talked about digital scheduling and we have not given it many positive attributes. I may add to this in the future, but next time I will try to talk about the positive side of digital scheduling.


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