Thursday, January 7, 2010

Send these to the recycle bin

Send these to the recycle bin
Fri, Jan 08, 2010
The Straits Times

PEOPLE don't eat stale bread, do they? So why is it that consumers are clinging to technology that has long past its sell-by date?

Take the facsimile or fax machine, the first on my 'kill' list.

It has been around for the last two decades or so when it should have disappeared with e-mail becoming the de facto means of sending out documents for at least 10 years now.

Yet every new office that opens today has a PC, an Internet account and a fax machine.

Have you noticed that to fax a document, you have to print it first?

An insurance company needed me to sign a document. I printed the PDF document, signed it and faxed it. Worse, I had to fax twice: the recipient did not receive it the first time as the document was sent to a shared fax machine. It would have been more practical if they had sent me the file as a text document where instead of a signature, I could verify it by filling in personal details.

Then I could save the document as a PDF file and then e-mail it directly to the recipient's inbox.

Still feeling murderous, there are other items on my kill list. The second item to be sent to the technology gallows is the diary.

An 1980s concept - remember the Filofaxes popular then - diaries cling to the paper form. So, they stay deskbound, at home or in the office, making it difficult to check schedules on the go.

I had ditched paper diaries and switched first to a personal digital assistant (PDA) and then the cellphone as soon as these made their debut in the 1990s.

Besides, you don't have to look far to get an e-diary. Many e-mail systems today like Gmail and Lotus Notes have built-in calendaring tools. So ditch paper diaries and save trees.

As for the third item to be killed - dare I say it? - the book.

As an avid reader, I have borrowed hundreds of books from the library as a student and bought many more when I started working.

Though they remain in pristine condition, my books are collecting dust on the shelves. I'm also running out of space to store them.

The practical me likes the portability of e-readers and the easy way to buy digital content over the Web. Besides, online book stores are offering an ever wider selection of titles.

I acknowledge that it will take a while for traditional tomes to disappear since there is a lot of emotion tied to holding hard copy and flipping pages.

But I believe this year will mark the start of the wane of books and the rise of e-books.

Finally, I'd say, the computer mouse has to go.

Much as the rodent has been faithful in getting our cursors to skip here and there on the screen, it has also caused painful repetitive stress injury from its overuse.

Multi-touch technology has arrived to wrest the mouse from our hands.

New sensors that let people control computers and gaming consoles with gestures are starting to surface. So are programs that let people use voice commands to drag and drop files, among other things, with nary a keystroke.

Then again, it would be some time before people get used to these new smarts. And, like a security blanket, I'll wager that it will be a while before mindsets let the mouse go the way of the dinosaur.

This story was first published in The Straits Times Digital Life.

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