For may years now we have talked of technology convergence. This is the idea that different technological systems evolve to perform very similar tasks. A classic example is just a few years ago we had mobile phones which just made calls and allowed you to send text messages, and if you wanted functionality beyond that you purchased a personal digital assistant (PDA). The PDA provided personal information management (PIM) tools such as a calendar, contacts list , simple wordprocessing for making notes and even a camera. In 2004 a colleague and I gave a group of students Sony PDAs and we loaded them with learning materials to help them with their studies. After a semester of use the students recognised how the PDAs had helped, but did not want to carry both a mobile phone and a PDA, as they had already started to convergence with similar functionalities.
There now appears to be resistance to the ever converging, ever similar and ever more expensive gadgets. Indeed, the best selling phone at Tesco over the Christmas was very simple and bereft of virtually all the functions other than the ability to make calls, the VX1i selling at £18.99 Some consumers are seeking out gadgets which do a simple job without the encumbrance of additional functionality, which will never be used. One such example is he “Digital Toolkit for Reporters”, producd by a company called Yanko Design. Each device serves a simple purpose without an overload of unnecessary functions – although they are wirelesly connected. The Camera shoots images or video and uses the benefits of external displays, the VoiceStick records audio and the NotePad collects and organizes all information recorded with those devices. Its double sided touch display permits a quick application change or flipping pages like in a book. The handheld provides all the necessary applications used by journalists with a focus on text processing, and a soft keyboard completes the tool-kit.
Perhaps we will see cleaner, crisper designs, simple and effective gadgets without the necessity for burgeoning manuals – which none of us read anyway. I am very much of the view that the manual that comes with my gadget is merely the manufacturer’s suggestion as to how we should use their product.