God Is My Palm Pilot, I Need No Other I know I should want one of these things. But I don't. Sue me.
By Stanley Bing

(FORTUNE Magazine) – Most of the time, I think it's safe to say, I want what you want. You want a big office in the corner, I know that. Well, so do I. You want a couple of weeks of vacation every summer, with nobody to bother you with faxes and cellular communication in some remote locale where the prevailing thoughts are of sunshine and wine. I want that too. You want a beautiful car and a beautiful house and a beautiful spouse, and that describes me perfectly too. You want a big TV and a mother of a computer with more than a dozen gigs in its hard drive. Who doesn't?

I've gotten used to this, us all wanting basically the same things all the time. I've come to love it. It makes us one with one another, this shared wanting, and then we don't feel so alone in the universe, which after all remains just as cold, vast, and unfeeling as it was when the first cave person looked up at a much younger moon.

And yet today I must report that our circle of common desire must now be broken, and this is why: I don't want a Palm. I've tried. God knows, I've tried. I've gone to stores to look at them, the beautiful, tasty little Palms, and read about them in magazines dedicated to inflaming my organs of wanting. I've talked to Mitch and Vinnie--my friends from down the hall who are both way into their Palms--in an attempt to create some vague sense of wanting in myself. But it has all failed so far.

This is unprecedented, I assure you. I have wanted, each in its appropriate time, a transistor radio, a Nikon, an electric guitar, a Leica, a stereo, several automobiles, a fondue pot, a Walkman, the first portable CD player made by Sony, two woks several decades apart, the first Kaypro lunchbox computer, the first XT, the first AT, the first Pentiums I, II, and III, a succession of increasingly tiny cell phones, a home fax with its own dedicated line; and now I find I even sort of want one of those MP3 players you can carry around with you to play tunes on, just like a transistor radio--but it's digital!

But I don't want a Palm. Why? I do not know.

Why don't I want it to do my calendar for me? Right now I have my calendar in a little leather book. It's so inconvenient. When I want to find out what I'm supposed to do during a day, I have to open it up and look at what I've scribbled in it at some previous time. If I had a Palm, I could write my appointments on the little electronic pad, and they would be entered just like that. I could take it out anytime and look at them.

Why don't I want it to contain my address book? I could core dump my entire Rolodex and have all those people right in the Palm of my hand! At this point, it is true, I spend most of my day returning calls from little slips of paper that have all the information I need right on them. But it would sure come in handy to have all the numbers of the people I have already spoken to over the past decade right in my hot little Palm.

Why don't I want to input my memos onto the little pad at the bottom of the Palm, where they could be instantaneously transformed into text files that could later be loaded into my computer and then printed out (after, to be fair, considerable editing due to the limitations of the medium)? Now, when I'm on the move, I am sometimes forced to write stuff down on a piece of paper. Sometimes I am forced not to write anything at all until I can get to a convenient place, wasting critical minutes in unproductive activities.

Why wouldn't I want to update my business contacts right after I have a meeting? You meet a fellow Palm owner, and he can beam his business card to you over the infrared connection. Which is amazing, considering how much use we all have for business cards.

And why, oh, why, wouldn't I want to tap into the Internet wherever I want? To look up restaurant reviews and movie times and stock quotes as I made my way from one meeting to another, or on weekend trips to the supermarket, the mall, museums, the movies--wherever I go on this entire planet, really?

I could write the name of a Website with that itsy-bitsy wand and then touch a button and go right to that very site--with no computer connection!--and cruise the Web and very shortly even stream the music and video I like.

What the hell is the matter with me? Why wouldn't I want to do that?

Why wouldn't I want my music downloaded into one of those amazing IBM microdrives, one gig big? To read novels on my little screen? To carry my kids' photos so they can be accessed at any time, unlike the ones in my wallet, which are so often tucked between credit cards and other random stuff? To download the newspaper and read it right there in that teeny window instead of folded up in my hands in that inconvenient way we've all learned to live with? To use my mind in short bursts in which I follow up on everything I do and think and read immediately, rendering it into digital form for later mulching and processing?

Don't I want everything I do to be useful and accessible?

Apparently, I don't. Even right now, thinking of all these great applications, I still can't generate any genuine excitement in myself. Right in front of you, I have tried once again and failed. And I am well aware that in the past eight minutes, while you were reading this, more than a few of you have considered the attributes I have discussed and said to yourselves, "Yes, this is all very well, but I'm going out to get one of those things right now."

Well, I hope you do. I want your future to be full and productive and Palmful. But me...I'm not going to.

Because I don't want one. It's terrible, I know, this...absence of wanting. I know what I'm missing, don't worry--all the filing and note taking and writing and beaming and categorizing and scheduling and most of all the sense of my entire life force, heavy in my own hand.

But that's only part of it. What if it doesn't stop here? What if I don't want the next thing that is bound to come along, no matter how cool and essential ... and the next after that? Pretty soon, I'll start not wanting anything all the time, and then where--and who--will I be?

By day STANLEY BING is a real executive at a real FORTUNE 500 company he'd rather not name. He can be reached at stanleybing@aol.com.