Big Bubbles (no troubles)

What sucks, who sucks and you suck

PDA Blues pt.2

My Psion suffered another symptom of advancing age last week. This time the left hinge broke. I didn’t really fancy repeating the grief I had last time, so I went straight to the FAQ looking for a DIY repair. And yes, once again it’s a Known Problem (apparently, the right hinge is made of sterner stuff).

After a lot of fiddling about with my baby, my entire life, in pieces on the table, together with the odd loud sigh and brisk walk around the table to quell a sudden urge to smash the thing into more pieces, I managed to effect a repair using only the screw from the hinge of an old pair of specs and the aid of my beautiful assistant (Debbie McGee to my Paul Daniels). Tip: don’t bother with “1-2mm spring wire” as suggested, it’s way too thick and you’ll have to carve away too much of the case to fit it in.

However, it was clear that it could only be a matter of time - a much shorter time than my likely lifespan, unless the worry kills me first - before the game was up and my Psion put its little rubber feet in the air. And suddenly Palm Pilots, with their lack of keyboard or, crucially, any moving parts seemed a lot more attractive.

However, I have come to realise that there is one factor when choosing an electronic PDA that has much more bearing than memory size, screen display, applications or availability of Tetris - technological obsolescence. True, they score over diaries and address books by being (in theory) infinitely updateable, easy to backup and capable of bleeping loudly on your mother’s birthday (they also send a clear signal to friends that if they don’t get a card, it’s because you deliberately didn’t send one rather than you forgot, so f*** you). But the odds of being able to use the same PDA for ten years or more are slim without succumbing to: * hardware failure (inevitable with any Psion); * bit-rot (you have the device but nothing talks to it anymore); * manufacturer going bust or more likely, “leaving the PDA business to concentrate on selling mobile e-services via our web portal” (unless you are Psion and can rely on a constant revenue stream from repairing bust organisers); * the lure of something slimmer, curvier and far sexier (Six Times Married syndrome). (Incidentally, does anyone know how to convert Psion data files to Visor formats?)

I’ve had some good times with my Psion, or at least I’ve avoided many bad times through forgetting to do something vitally important (hi, mum). However, I can’t help wondering if the £400 it has cost me to date (including £160 repair fees barely a year before the latest fault) is good value for six years use. Probably, based on savings to my time in not copying out a new diary every year and generally organising my life, but it rankles.

Hence, I realised sadly that my furtive lust for a Handspring Visor was nothing more than that; a desire born of the loins rather than the heart, doomed to end in another tragic breakup when my young mistress one day seemed older and flabbier than the competition or was coldly “discontinued” by the manufacturer. Sometimes, progress is your worst enemy.

The other option, of course, is a PocketPC running Linux. But even I’m not that much of a weenie.