This week, I have been synchronising. Not swimming, you understand. I have instead been synchronising my contacts, schedule and email between my PC and my handheld PDA, an event that's destined to become a regular at the Olympics.
Those who know my habits will recognise my trusty 88-page, narrow-ruled WH Smith notepad, an absolute bargain at less than a pound a throw. You may, and indeed many do, smirk when they see this confirmed gadget-fanatic scribble away in an old notepad, but it works for me. It's thin, light, the battery life's great and it'll support fabulous graphics - if you're handy with a Fountain Pentel.
Sad as it sounds, I use them to not only make notes, keep contacts and to jot down ideas, but also to manually write out a diary. "What are you doing in September?" people ask. "I can't say," I reply, "I've not yet drawn beyond mid-August." So I've got problems that only an electronic organiser can solve.
The other week, I took the plunge and installed Microsoft Office 2000.
I'd happily used the last beta for ages, but reverted to good old assistant-free Office 95 after my regular spring clean reformat. After enjoying the application instances and broad (but crashable) clipboard, I decided to use Outlook for more than email.
This is where the wonder begins. Outlook, in its millennial guise, is not just a personal information manager.
Oh no. It goes way beyond the call of duty and is acting more like my mother and organising my whole life. Take scheduling for example. In my trusty notepad I'd scribble something about a lunch: Outlook will swallow the appointment and spit it back out, on cue, when you're supposed to be doing it.
This is a good thing, but I'm not so sure it stops there. You see, with all that processor power and random hard-disk churning, I'm sure Outlook is up to something behind my back. Take that address book. There are more fields than you can shake a stick at. Not just names, numbers and addresses - Outlook has room for a whole raft of other details you can tick as "yes", "no", or "in the process of achieving".
I fear the automatic generation of meetings where a scheduler checks everyone's availability from their electronic calendars, then organises a get-together at a mutually agreeable time and location. I can just imagine a group of people who have never met before turning up in the library of a spooky country manor in the middle of the night. "What, Colonel?! Your PC told you to come here too?"
I'm now beginning to get paranoid that Outlook is trying to organise my social life too. At its fingertips it has the email addresses of everyone I know, a calendar indicating my dinner availability for the rest of my life, and I'm sure a hidden field about whether I fancy them or not. It won't be long before it puts two and two together and I receive a message telling me that it has set me up with Claire from Accounts and has booked a table for two at Quo Vadis next Thursday. Well, I can live in hope.
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