My Manifesto: Thrive in the Present

> _The past serves us only in having taught us the lessons needed to thrive in the present and strive towards the future._

I came up with this manifesto entry when I was going through a particularly rough period in my life. I wont go into details but let me suffice to say that every day seemed like a worst day than before it. I had very little motivation or desire to get out of bed, and when I did I regretted it or felt forced to and, therefore, resentful of existence itself. Despite the several reasons I gave to it at the time, what was the root cause for most of this malaise? Living in he past.

A lot of us spend a lot of time saying words like “if only” or “I wish” or “I could have”. All of these thought processes are natural but unhelpful because all of those thoughts are in the past. The past has happened. You can not change it. You can only learn from it. And most of those lessons have already been taught. We all wish that terrible thing that happened in the past – a failed relationship, a death, a lost job, etc. – never occurred. The question is, who has that made you today and how do you use that new found strength? What made that last relationship fail and how can you put it to good use in your current one? Same thing in the job. Death is inevitable and no moment in this life is guaranteed. Therefore, what can you do to ensure you treat each moment as if it is the last.

I know a lot of this sounds a bit obvious and perhaps even contrite. That being said, you would be surprised at how difficult most people find it, myself included at times, to not think about and second guess the past. By meditating on this entry in my manifesto, it helps me remember how important it is to use those lessons right here, right now to consistently become better.

Followup to iPhone Shifts The Paradigm

Thanks to all who commented on my last post titled iPhone Shifts The Paradigm. There were several items brought up in the comments that I feel require further addressing in more depth here on the main page.

First of all, I still have my last Newton MessagePad 2100. I actually owned every model of MessagePad at some point in time. I even have a wireless card for it. There is still a very active user community that continues to develop for it (including wifi drivers). I used it regularly until a couple of years ago. I would likely still be finding a use and purpose for mine today if the battery would hold a charge. I have been too lazy to get one off of eBay, and now, with the iPhone, likely will not bother. It is still all set up though. Plug it into power and I can still download e-mail, surf the web, take notes, etc. I can even sync it with Address Book and iCal in Mac OS X.

Here is a picture of my 2100, which was the largest of the Newtons made:

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It is sitting on top of the paperback edition of “The War of Art” which is, from a width and height perspective, a fairly average size for most current paperbacks. In fact, the original Newton MessagePad was the size of the smaller, older style paperbacks. Give me a suit jacket or cargo pants and I guarantee I can find a pocket that the 2100 would fit into.

I agree that there are still several things that the Newton MessagePad has that the iPhone (still) does not. For instance, in my original post, I made mention of the handwriting recognition. Well, the very same handwriting recognition technology in the Newton is actually built in, by default, to Mac OS 10.5. It has actually been there since 10.3. It is called “Ink” and it shows up when you plug in a drawing tablet. It is baffling to me why this was not built into the iPhone and, at the least, offered as an alternative to the built in keyboard. The first generation Newton was widely maligned for the handwriting recognition (which did “learn” and therefore improve with use, just like the iPhone keyboard). By the MessagePad 2100, improvements to the algorithms used as well as increased processor speed made the handwriting recognition near perfect out of the box. Since the iPhone runs Mac OS X, it is a mystery to me why, to this date, Apple is not leveraging this technology (besides the Steve Jobs “computers need keyboards” thing).

Oh, and speaking of computers needing keyboards, I agree that the iPhone would greatly benefit from being able to be used with the small and highly portable Apple Bluetooth Keyboard. Once again, seems like a no-brainer, easy to fix, sell a few more peripherals, move for Apple. Kind of strange that it has not been implemented. What I don’t agree with is that being a “must have” for most applications. I see that as a “really nice to have” if I needed to write things like longer blog posts while mobile. That is not a need I have but can see it being a killer application for those who do (and the paradigm shift will happen a bit later for those folks).

Oh, and don’t even get me started on copy and paste… Suffice to say that Apple already had the right way to do this on the Newton and there is no reason to do it any differently on the iPhone.

iPhone Shifts The Paradigm

For a very long time, I was a hardcore Apple Newton user. How hardcore? Well, for about 5 years it was my principle computer. Don’t roll your eyes! Seriously, it was. I used it for everything. I took all my notes with it, used the external keyboard to type up documents and e-mail, managed my schedule and contacts, and, with the introduction of the MessagePad 2000, used it for most of my web browsing. My desktop computers were always simply a backup and data conduit for my Newtons. I did not even own a laptop, my Newton could do all that I needed in a mobile situation.

There were many reasons for this. One of them being that the technology was, for me, the perfect balance of portability and features. It gave me all of the features and applications I really needed 99% of the time and, more importantly, nothing I didn’t. Being about the size of a small paperback book, it slipped very easily into a small bag, cargo pocket, or larger jacket pocket easily. The handwriting recognition was always very good for me and got increasingly more accurate with each new model.

It turned me into a huge proponent of the idea that handheld, pocketable devices were the future of computing. My friend Michael, an ardent Palm Pilot user, and I even produced a monthly, handheld device-format only, digital magazine. This was at a time when the Palm Pilot and various WinCE devices were catching steam, the Newton MessagePad was at the top of that heap, and it seemed as if this was the direction the world was going. Mobile Phones were something that either came with a car attached or were near the size of a small vehicle anyway – they were hardly what one would call portable. I felt the paradigm was shifting in the computer industry and handhelds would be ubiquitous in a few years time.

Of course, at the time I was wrong. Maybe not wrong, but about 10 years too early. Mobile phones got smaller and more functional, laptop sales increased as their portability and power improved, and handhelds never really caught on. Palm pilots grew up and became phones. WinCE grew up and became Windows Mobile. Then there was the Newton…

Strangely enough, Steve Jobs hated the very idea of the Newton to begin with and made a point of making it the first project he killed on his return to Apple. He stated in several interviews that PDA’s were “stupid” and that people would never use a computer that did not have a keyboard. The Newton was also the pet project of his rival, John Scully, who pushed Jobs out of Apple in a now famous power struggle. Needless to say, the Newton did not stand a chance. Most of its innovative technology was locked away in a Cupertino basement destined never to see light again.

I finally broke down, joined the cool kids, and got an iPhone 3G a few weeks ago. I held out for a long time. I even wrote about my holding out here on The Journal. First waiting for the 3G version that I knew would be inevitable and then not wanting to pull the trigger on AT&T’s confiscatory iPhone rate plans. Fact is, so many of my consulting business clients were getting one, and had questions about them, that I felt compelled to finally break down and do it.

My first thought: I’ll be damned if it’s not, at it’s heart, the Newton Message Pad. If the Newton were left on the market to organically grow along its assumed path, the iPhone is exactly what it would have become; only it would have had a stylus and perfect handwriting recognition (which it still easily could, but I will save that for a future post). It is pretty much everything that Steve Jobs said he hated about handheld devices.

My second thought, after a few weeks of use: This finally shifts the paradigm. Not just for handheld device hopefuls like myself but for almost everyone who is willing to leave their laptops at home (or not buy one at all) and trust the device. The iPhone is capable of every conceivable task I can see myself needing to do while mobile. It is fast, has a great high contrast screen, the keyboard is highly accurate once you learn to trust it, it has a wealth of applications, and it’s portability makes it able to be ever-present. On a recent trip, I took my laptop and found myself, after the fact, wondering why I even bothered. I mostly used my iPhone and, the few times I used my laptop I could have just as easily used the iPhone.

It has shifted my personal paradigm so much that now, with every desktop or web application, my choice is measured mainly by how it interfaces with my iPhone. It is largely the reason I am moving my digital notetaking from Yojimbo to Evernote. One has an iPhone application that syncs data with the desktop and “the cloud”, the other does not. Having the ability to capture short notes and thoughts or having reference material with me anytime, anywhere, is now the standard by which everything else is measured. The iPhone is a game changer in every sense of the phrase.

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