Is the old 555 notebook or the new iPad better?

  • Opinion
  • Monday, 23 Aug 2010

THERE is just so much information going around. And so many gadgets that channel the information to us.

“Not tonight dear, I’ve got information overload” could well be another excuse for tired spouses to use in this time and age.

I was having supper with my wife at a WiFi-connected coffee outlet recently and unlike the 24-hour teh tarik joints, the silence was deafening.

Every table was occupied but people were not talking to one another. There were just as many notebooks as there were customers, and obviously there was plenty of virtual conversations going on.

One person was using an iPad, and I also saw a few iPhones. Amidst all the modern gizmos and gadgets, my under-RM150 handphone seemed like a relic from the dinosaur age.

But unknown to the people enjoying their coffee and conversing via Facebook or Twitter, I have in my pocket what must surely qualify as the most ancient but most reliable information tool ever invented.

I came across it by accident when I took a dear 80-year-old friend for lunch a few weeks ago and he needed to photocopy some documents.

At the shop, I saw a few stacks of notebooks, in different colours, tucked away in a corner, with the 555 symbol on it.

Okay, at this point, all of you in the workforce who are young enough to call me “Uncle” should go home and ask your parents what this little notebook is all about.

But for the baby-boomers who are at the higher level of management, I am sure you will be interested to know where this shop is.

Long before a notebook became a computer, this 555 notebook was the essential item in one’s pocket.

We used it to jot down numbers, appointments, birthdays and other essential reminders.

In my growing-up years, we got really worried at the end of the month when we went to the sundry shop because the owner would wave the 555 notebook at us, and remind us that the bills had not been settled.

Multi-tasking is a given in this fast-paced working life of ours and we are getting reminders all the time.

Which is why I find the 555 notebook to be so useful.

In the front half, I write down the things I have to do and cancel them out once they get done. In the back half, I scribble down the more long-term issues, like changing the TV if my better half approves.

Somewhere in the middle, I have a section which I call “unexpected”. Here I list down unexpected events, like people in hospitals I plan to visit, or people I need to call or write to.

What is interesting, in these few weeks since I started using the notebook, is that I can immediately see how productive I have been and also the urgency I attach to the items that get written into this notebook.

Unlike annoying electronic reminders which, like alarm clocks, often get turned off and ignored, I find that I simply cannot ignore what I have written in the 555 notebook as I flip and check the handwritten pages each day. For me, it is key to managing information in a more personal, human, albeit archaic, way.

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