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.