New Electronic Planners vs. Paper Calendars

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I recently did a major clean-out of old files, clippings and media mentions. One article dropped on the floor on the way to the trash bin, and I picked it up for a last look. It was dated December 29, 1999 and was titled, “Will New Electronic Planners Overtake the Paper Calendar We all Know and Love?”

“Yes, as the millennium draws to a close,” the article gravely intoned, “the calendar world seems headed for a great divide: On the one side stand the doodlers, the note-takers, the defenders of the paper-based system–wall calendars, desk calendars, pocket calendars/organizers–anything to write on or add sticky notes to. On the other are those who aren’t afraid of a little PDA, a Personal Digital Assistant (PalmPilots and the like), and what’s known as “Internet-based calendaring”–the countless calendars/planners offered in Microsoft Outlook, or on Web sites such as Yahoo, Netscape and Visto. Given the usual fate of old-fashioned industries whose markets are invaded by hipper technology, one might expect pen-and-paper calendars to be swiftly blown away by the products of the information age..”

What is funny is that the “leaders in the world of PDAs” the article mentions–Palm Computing, Handspring, Hewlett Packard and Casio–have disappeared or barely rate a mention today as providing calendar products. Handspring, the originator of PalmPilots, went defunct in 2003. Palm, Inc. was acquired by Hewlett-Packard in 2010, which retired the Palm brand.

12 years later – the two paper calendar companies noted in the article – Filofax and At-A-Glance – are still quite in evidence; as are all the planner/organizer makers from that period: Franklin Covey, Day Runner, Letts of London, Charing Cross, Per Annum, Exacompta, Quo Vadis, Blueline, etc.

Could we have predicted this?

Is it is simple as the statement by one store manager, “people still like to see their own handwriting.” Or is it, as a vice president of The At-A-Glance Group posits, “most people find it easier to retain things if they write it down.”

4 thoughts on “New Electronic Planners vs. Paper Calendars

  1. I pretty much agree with what’s already been said. I use both paper and electronic planners and suspect I will do so at least until retirement. I need the electronic form to squeak reminders and the paper form to see commitments in the overview and the long view to make sure I’m not double booking.

    There are advantages and disadvantages to both forms and until one or other form addresses its own disadvantages and includes the other’s advantages, I guess we’re stuck with both into the forseeable future.

    Interesting that all of the technology in your old article has gone the way of the dinosaur, yet the paper based systems are still around. Much to be said for the durability of the paper systems.

  2. Handspring was not the originator of the Palm Pilot. They were a competitor. They were founded as a new company in 1998 by 3 of the original founders of Palm. Their flagship product, the Visor, was competing with the likes of the Palm IIIx, which was several generations into Palm Pilot development.

    Casio and HP were really just hardware developers for the PocketPC. The real battle lines at the time were between Palm and PocketPC. Looking back, neither platform had the staying power. Palm was horrendously handled over the years, which is why we don’t see them as a player today.

    I had several Palm and several PocketPC devices. I also had an on-again off-again love affair with my paper planner. That’s one thing that hasn’t much changed. I still find myself torn between paper and my iPad. Between my planner and my blackberry.

    What I’m grateful for is that todays digital planners can backup to “the cloud” in a way that the Palm Pilots of yore couldn’t. I don’t have a record of my Palm from those heady days. Thankfully, Evernote, Dropbox, Google apps, all keep cloud records of my digital stuff today. I even use my Scansnap to backup paper records I want to have.

    I suspect we’re stuck with both formats for many, many years to come.

    • I recently began owning an iPod touch, and have tried to use the task management apps and the calendar on it. But, I forget to add things to it, many times. Or, it doesn’t seem worth it. Whereas, I very rarely have that problem with my paper planner – maybe it’s purely psychological. Granted, the very nice thing about electronic management tools is that they have alarms/alerts that will make noise and get attention – you have to make sure the device is charged, and that you don’t put on silent, and you have it relatively near you. A lot of times I’ll write things in my planner, and if I’m too busy to even look at it, I’ll forget the things I wrote! So, both have their good and bad sides. I try to use both, to get the best of both worlds, and maybe that will be the best solution for a long time out!

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