Remember Filofax?


My first encounter with pen-and-paper organisers was on a trip to Selfridges in 1985. This was during the days when I was still a student and could fit into a pair of jeans without causing myself any serious injury. I saw the Filofax on one of the shelves and decided I simply had to have it. After paying a princely sum of 29 pounds for it, I walked away, the proud owner of of a genuine Filofax : and the love affair began.

Filofaxes were so brilliant to me that, before going back to Malaysia for good, I got a few as gifts for several very special people. I remember my indignation when they were presented with their very own Filofax, all I got were responses along the lines of a lukewarm, “Oh… what a nice diary. Er… thanks” (Translation: Why didn’t you get me a nice T-shirt, instead?)

Regardless, my love affair with my Filofax grew and grew. Eventually, the idea of organisers caught on. Malaysia was deluged by a swarm of ‘me-too’ products (Arrive, Studio, Kenys, etc) that tried to emulate my trusty Filofax. Though they served the same function, they were not (and would never replace) the venerable Filofax. OK, I’ll admit some snobbery is involved here, but I could never help feeling sorry for anyone who carried an organiser that was NOT a Filofax. *slapping myself on the wrist*

Then one day, out of sheer overuse (abuse?) my Filofax died on me. It fell apart: there was nothing that any of the King’s horses or any of the King’s men could do about it. Though I regretted the numerous times I had used it as a projectile against silly managers or rude suppliers, it was too late. I picked-up the pieces and gave my friend, the Filofax, a decent burial. It was time to move on to what was the emerging rage at the time: digital organisers a.k.a. PDAs.

PDAs were great. Adherents basically fell into 3 camps, depending on the operating system (OS) the PDA used. There was the was the Palm camp (tons and tons of applications), the Windows CE camp (promising full Windows compatibility but delivering very little) and the Symbian camp (Psion users). I was a Psion user – and proud of it. There were too many Palm-users already, you see. Though my Psion was every bit as good as my Filofax had been – and sometimes even better – on cold nights, when the moon was just right, I’d still think of my deceased Filofax and shed a few nostalgic tears. After all, it would be too expensive to throw my Psion MX5 at people playing at silly buggers during business meetings.

Eventually, my Psion died, too. No I didn’t thow it at anybody. It just died of natural causes. But at that time, the PDA industry had started playing at silly buggers as well. They were incorporating all sorts of functionalities – short of the kitchen sink – into the device. It got so bad that I could no longer tell if it was a PDA, a mobile phone, a digital camera, a GPS device or nuclear reactor! I have this tendency to get a bit uptight when something tries to be too many things to too many people. Where I came from, things are simple. A girl is a girl, and a boy is a boy. When I get confronted with something called a ‘girl-boy’, I tend to get sceptical – very sceptical.

So, I went back to the old-fashioned way of keeping tabs of my activities: the good old notebook. Nowadays I just carry around my RM6.00 notebook and my beat-up Motorola mobile phone. But being perennially behind the times, I have also recently discovered that a notebook is not just a notebook. There are notebooks, and there are RM99 MOLESKINES (I’ll leave ELVIZA to wax lyrical about the MOLESKINES).

I’m thinking of going back to Filofaxes. However, times have not sufficiently changed such that carrying a pen-and-paper organiser will be considered retro chic. Right now, if you lug around one of these babies, you’re likely to be perceived as ineffectual simpleton: not IT savvy enough to use a PDA (that incidentally, also incorporates the kitchen sink) or cool enough to know what a Moleskine is.

Hmm… maybe next year Filofaxes will make a comeback.


26 thoughts on “Remember Filofax?

  1. Digital:

    Yep! 29 pounds. To give it some perspective, our allowance from MARA was a paltry 174 pounds a month then (even if we were in London). But then again, when I came back to Malaysia, I saw the very same model with a testicle -shrinking price tag of RM490!

  2. Everything is so freaking expensive in Malaysia. Bought Clarks in London at GBP29.99. Exchange rate was RM3.83 per GDP1.00 (in the mid-90s), so it was only RM114.86. Same shoe model was sold at Isetan Lot 10 at RM299.00. Perrgghh!!!

  3. Filofaxes were classy, PDAs are nifty but not quite as user-friendly. I use an O2 XDA Atom, and yes, although it has everything short of the kitchen sink, there’s nothing quite like the tactile feel of paper to write on. And so I have abandoned my O2 as far as note-taking is concerned, and have resorted instead to carrying pocket-size snazzy annual diaries, the sort you can get at MPH and Borders as the new year looms. Moleskines are gorgeous, but aiyooh, too hard on the pocket in these close-to-USD100-a-barrel-of-oil days!!

  4. Digitalpix:

    What you say is true. But I suppose durian will be disproportionately more expensive in London or New York than it is over here.


    Absolutely! Writing on paper is so – how shall I say it? – sensual! If I do ever get myself a moleskine, I foresee a problem: will I write in it, or will I take it to bed every night?

  5. Blarbarella:

    Ha! Ha! I know what you mean. Once, I tried to take my mountain bike to bed. It didn’t work. My wife won’t give up her space!

  6. I remember those Filofaxes but never carried one (even had one or two Filofax clones lying around the house). I did not see the need to carry one . When the PDA got popular, I did not ‘join the gang’.

    Maybe I never found the need to use any of them extensively. I had a desk diary at work and a pocket diary for my purse and got by with them when I was in the workforce.

    These days I just carry a USD2 (or less) notebook in my handbag. If I need a reminder, I will use my cellphone for that (if I remember to use that feature. hahaha)

  7. Dear Mat Bangkai,

    Eh, I rasa I dah teraddicted lah dgn blog you. I keep reading your Notes section on a Facebook as well! Hahaahahaha….

    People like you makes me wonder, you are just reminicising about Filofax but I found myself glued to it from start to finish.

    Ada “flair” lah writing you… 🙂

    I never have filofax (slapping myself on the wrist) but I am never an organised person. So the thought of owning filofax never crosses my mind.

    You were already in London in 1985? God you are old. Masa tuh I baru darjah 4. Hahahaahaha! But I love Selfridges during Christmas. Its decor is to die for…

    However, I do own a PDA, after endless coaxing bordering on forcing from my friends to have one.

    Words of advice: whatever you do, never buy an O2. Its crap and not user-friendly. Trust me.

    But (wink wink wink), I do own 3 (yeah you read that right, 3!) Moleskins. Eksyen sungguh I nih kan?

    Will get all wax lyrical about it soon. Still need to do some trimmings and cutting on the drafts.

    Evolve with the technology MB. Get a new PDA and you MUST buy one slinky black moleskin to do justice to your writing style.

    p/s: Kalau tulis comment dalam blog bukan main semagat lagi. Kalau buat status report – apa2 semangat pun tak ada!

  8. Elviza:

    Look what you did?! You made me blush. Us Quasimodos of the world aren’t used to compliments, ma’am. Blush or no blush, do accept my thanks.

    Thought about getting a PDA but somehow, I’ve kept that on hold for quite some time now. I’m an old-fashioned decrepit git, technology tends to frighten me sometimes. Anything more than three buttons makes me nervous.

    But I have been lusting after the moleskine. Will get one soon, I think. The black one is kinda sexy, eh?

    Yep, I was in London in 1985 – had been for 5 years. Semplatlah flunk LLB part 1 satu kali.

    I am going to hold you to your words: post that entry on moleskines, OK?

  9. lol. I was a fan of Filofax too and graduated to being a Palm geek. Got rid of my Tungsten last year for a Treo. Only to get rid of the Treo for the Tungsten again.

    Cool blog 🙂

  10. Lily:

    Tungsten to Treo and back to Tungsten? Maybe after that a full 180 degree back to Filofax?

    How’s Gemma getting along?

  11. I love my Filofax. I’ve had different ones since the early 80’s.
    yes they’ve gone out of fashion a bit since the digital and PDA age, but there is something “real”, about carrying a proper, leather bound organiser around with you. You can take it anywhere, on the train, plane, car, office, it’s instant, it doesn’t crash, it’s flexible (yes you can use it with other applications), it works, its easy, it’s individual…

    and even after all those years, it still looks Great!!


    I couldn’t agree wit you more! There is something ‘real’ about lugging a paper-based organiser. And hey, you can even throw it at people who get on your nerves – if you feel so inclined 🙂

  12. i was googling ‘filofax in malaysia’ and came across this. now where in malaysia can i get FILOFAX? i dont think there are any in the stationary shops/bookstores around kl. i desperately need one!


    If you are talking about Filofax (not filofax look-alikes) I think I saw some at the stationery section of Kinokuniya. If you hurry, they might still be there.

    Hope this helped – and good luck!

  13. Still have my Personal Canterbury in great condition but the locking strap was crap leather and is just falling apart!

    So mine is @ 14 years old and never out of the brief case, so the ‘Canterbury Filofax’ is and will still be going strong for another 30 years I hope…

    The equivalent model is now the Personal Eton @ $600.00 AUD!!!

    So hang onto and look after your old ones as they are now worth a small fortune.

  14. hi hi!
    any ideas where to get a Filofax equivalent A5 6-hole puncher in malaysia?
    They are reasonably available in UK from WHS and many bookstores.. but not here..


    This has stumped me for the longest time. Nope. I don’t know where to get them here. Please let me know if you come across shops that sell them here, OK?

    Personally, I detest 2-ring binders. Unfortunately, they are the only workable option here, aren’t they?

    • hi sofian, just so everyone knows.
      Saw a brand, “OPEN” from Kinokuniya today. 6-hole puncher, variable length so you can adjust the 3-3 holes gap. Cost rm105 though….

      Thanks for the heads up, Patrick

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