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Last Updated:  Friday, 4 April, 2003, 13:11 GMT 14:11 UK
No to tech for tech's sake
Mobile phone, laptop and pager
Proud to be a gadget-free zone
Technology consultant Bill Thompson does not own a PDA or a camera phone but he still does not see himself as a Luddite.

I didn't rush out and get a Nokia 7650 camera phone when it was released, won't buy a Sony P800 and haven't put my name down for a 3G phone.

I don't own a Palm or a PocketPC and have no Bluetooth devices, handhelds or PDAs. The Samsung T-100 with polyphonic ring tones belongs to my ten year old son, not me, and the T68i was my daughter's until she lost it.

I have a three-year-old digital camera, but last year I bought a new 35mm film camera, which I use a lot more.

Old-fashioned diary

I don't have cable, satellite or even digital terrestrial TV - although the pressure to get CBBC is becoming intense and I may give in soon.

Apart from my desktop computer, I have a two year old Vaio laptop with a wireless network card, a phone with a mono screen that I use for voice calls and texting, and a Mont Blanc fountain pen.

I gave up keeping my schedule on Outlook eighteen months ago and now run things from a small black Moleskine diary that has never crashed, can't be hacked over the network and takes less than a second to start up when I need it.

And I am very happy with the technology in my life.

Although I keep up to date with what is happening, and occasionally spend a random half hour in the electronic shops of airports playing with the latest models and wondering whether the tax saving is big enough to make it worth buying one, I have never yet succumbed.

Fan of new tech

Bill Thompson, technology consultant
It's just that I think that technology needs to be appropriate, not just new.
Bill Thompson

The nearest I came was the new model Sony Clie, with MP3 player, video camera and a small keyboard. But even then, it just wasn't something I could see fitting into my daily routine.

Some of my friends think I'm strange, and my technophiliac friend Simon can't really understand why I don't drool as he wafts the latest technotoys in front of me.

Even my girlfriend has a Jornada that she uses to read e-books and to write her own stories.

However I don't think I'm a luddite, rejecting technology for its own sake.

In fact, I'm a big fan of the latest developments, especially the growth of wireless networks, and I think that the Internet is radically changing the way society works.

It's just that I think that technology needs to be appropriate, not just new.

I don't work in an office and don't have lots of team meetings to co-ordinate or large-scale projects to work on, so a paper diary is just fine for arranging my schedule.

If I was still working for a large company I have no doubt that I would be using a scheduling program and synchronising my office schedule with my PDA by now.

I run my own server and so I can get my email from almost any Internet-connected computer, and I have a lightweight laptop with a wireless card so quite often I can just connect to a nearby network.

In fact, according to one friend who would rather not be named, it is currently possible to stay connected to the Internet on a bus journey up London's Oxford Street just by jumping from one unsecured corporate wireless network to another.

And if that isn't available, there are cafes and other wireless hotspots now available.

So I don't need e-mail on my phone.

Meeting a need

And when I write I need a full screen and a proper keyboard.

I am writing this in a café in Cambridge on my laptop, and if I only had the small screen of a PDA I would not be able to move paragraphs around or edit and change things.

There is a big difference between being antipathetic towards technology and choosing only technology that meets a real need - either an existing need or a newly created one.

After all, few of us 'needed' e-mail before it was invented, just as few of us really needed to be able to send picture messages from our mobiles. I like computers and networks and all the gadgets.

I just don't think that they would enhance the quality of my life, and that the changes to the way I work and live that would result from using any of the latest batch of cool gadgets would be negative rather than positive.

But I'm sure I'll spot the perfect system when it arrives, and I'll wonder how I ever lived without it.

Do you agree with Bill? Or do you have to have the latest gadgets?

I love your story. I work in the IT field and I am constantly being bombarded about questions about the latest devices. For that reason I try to keep abreast of the latest developments. That does not mean however that I have all the latest gadgets. I do not need a PDA to keep a list of what to do, I have a notepad and a pen. That works fine for keeping track of what has to be done in a day. Your article is the boost I needed not to give up my ways.
Shiv Gobin, Canada

It's nice to know that there are some people who can live in a use what you need, and not what you are told you need world. makes it a lot pleasanter place to live in.
Malcolm McInnes, Western Australia

I have a keen interest in new gadgets as a frequent reader of many 'boys-toys' magazines. However, I have a battered Nokia 5510, 6 year old Palm (with folding keyboard) and a ancient laptop. I love the familiarity of each of devices, their basic and functional and, because of this, get loads of use.

The Palm with folding keyboard is a big favourite. So much so that when my Palm IIIx broke last Christmas I simply had to get a replacement. Thanks to Ebay I picked up a unused Palm IIIxe for £70. What amazed me at the time was the intense competition for each and every device up for auction. I then sold my broken Palm III for £25.
Karl, UK

Bill hit the nail right on the head. However if all were to be like Bill and only bought technology that was needed the industry would collapse. The gadget industry fully understanding this only markets these tech savvy products to people who want it rather than need it. Want is always greater than the need.
Amjad , USA

I work in technology and am highly selective. I have an Apple iBook and most of my previous Macs, a custom Linux server built by a close friend in 1999 that is still going strong, and an office PBX & voicemail system at home. Two of the phones are digital multi-line sets, the rest are analog. I won't use a PDA because they're not reliable and writing with a stylus is an enormous step backward from a keyboard. I got rid of my cellphone, and since a friend died of a brain tumour on the same side of her head where she used hers, I'm not likely to get another one any time soon. I use a paper scheduler-notebook. I'm more likely to invest in tools than toys.
George Gleason, USA

I live in rural Ontario, Canada and live very happily with one LAN line, high-speed internet and a radio at home. I could get cable, but I gave up my television six years ago and I don't regret it a bit. I find that I get a much better balance of information between CBC Radio and the internet. I also find that I have a great deal more time to do other things, like working out, reading, and volunteering. Getting rid of the television made me a get out and participate in my community rather than evolving into a couch potato. Less technology means more life.
Lili Kennedy, Canada

Bill if only your attitude were shared by more technology journalists, then maybe there would be some sensible discourse about technology on TV and radio. As it is, however, apart from Go Digital, it's still the gee-whiz Tomorrow's World attitude that crippled a generation of British technology.
Tony Hardie-Bick, London, UK

I totally agree that technology needs to be appropriate, not just new. This makes the difference between a fad and a long-term product. In 10 years will we all use wireless technology, probably, but will anyone remember WAP? I doubt it.
Chris Wilks, Chester, UK

Congratulations, Bill! At last one of the people who haven't bought into the gadget lifestyle speaks out. Modern technology has become fashionable without serving a real need, its ultimately pointless and stupidly expensive - a mobile phone, really, should cost around £15 to do its job, the rest is just eye-candy and clever marketing. I refuse to even buy a mobile phone and I don't miss having one at all. Like Bill I have no need for a PDA, and to be truthful, e-mail is becoming more annoying now than useful and if spam isn't dealt with soon I might just revert back to the old telephone. For someone who's life revolves around the internet I just find modern technology very shallow, and I will continue using my six-year old computer and SNES until I feel a need to upgrade.
Alan Carter, UK

While I work in IT in industry, and have the laptop, PDA and associated gadgetry there, we do not have much in the way of gadgets at home. We do have a home PC, mainly for web access, but do not have a telephone answering machine. If it's important, they'll call back.
Keith Huss, USA

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Bill Thompson is a regular commentator on the BBC World Service programme Go Digital.

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