The Virtues of Paper

Why do I use index cards instead of my Palm? It’s not the sensual experience of curling up with them, I can tell you that. Index cards ≠ Moleskines.

I use index cards because they’re always handy. I can slip a stack of perhaps 20 index cards into my pants pocket and it’s ready to go as soon as I pull it out. My laptop, though slim and light, is a pain in the butt to get out if I need to find a number. Everything gets worse when I’m trying to drive: I can keep one hand on the wheel while I—literally—thumb through the index cards but a Palm requires two hands. Don’t even get me started about finding a phone number on my laptop while driving. I’ve done it and it is scarier than hell.

They’re always ready. I don’t have to worry about batteries or proper lighting conditions. I don’t have to translate to Graffiti™. I don’t particularly have to worry about running out of memory. In short, low tech is reliable in a way that high tech equipment can never be.

There are downsides to index cards: they can get wet; there’s no effective backup; there’s a finite amount of space per card; you have to write small to fit things on them; you have to copy stuff from digital to analog and vice versa if you have information stored in more than one place; mistakes can make it look not so pretty; and it’s slightly bulkier than a PDA because you have to carry a pen (or risk being somewhere without one).

Until I can afford a Tungsten T3, I’ll stick with the index cards. And maybe not even then since it’s a battery hog.

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