I love gadgets – but only if they actually work, save time or make life easier. My ASUS eee notebook means I can work on the train without damaging my shoulder carrying a laptop. My iPod means I can listen to music or podcasts travelling by car, plane or train. Coupled to a nifty nike+iPod gadget turns it into a way of tracking my running – or lack of running 🙁

So a Christmas gift of a record turntable that allows you to record direct to my iPod was exciting. All those vinyl LPs from the seventies and eighties abandoned in the garage were suddenly accessible again. They had last been played 14 years and 4 house moves ago so, it was like discovering old friends.

But old friends that hadn’t aged well. Then there was my record collection. Motown and Joni Mitchell? Prog rock and punk? New wave and new age? What was I thinking?

I had forgotten how high maintenance vinyl LPs are: the ritual of carefully handling them, cleaning off the dust, carefully lowering the diamond stylus, before hearing ….. a crackly sound, with occaisional clicks from minor scratches. Hmm. The anticipation was not fufilled by the reality.

Showing my teenage son the albums, record deck and whole ritual for the first time was an eye opener. You could just tell he was thinking “what a palaver!” iTunes is just so much easier – pay and play. But it was interesting to see him pour over the album covers themselves with the artwork, information, factoids and photos. It’s just not the same when reduced to a 4cm sq image in iTunes or a poorly printed CD cover.

It is indisputable that we have gained immensely from technology, gadgets and new ways of presenting information. But just like those detailed, artistic album covers, what have we lost?

I recently came across a team that had abandoned using their database to log and manage enquiries for valid reasons that needed resolving. A quick fix was just not possible. Going back to using paper forms to log enquiries was one possible interim solution. It would certainly be more efficient than taking 30 minutes to log one enquiry.

Deja vu. I was taken back to the early nineties, to a time when I still played those dusty LPs. The company I worked for wouldn’t invest in pcs let alone servers and networks. Enquiry logbooks and paper forms were the only way we could track the hundreds of enquiries we handled each week.

I clearly remember when we finally leapt into the digital age and got computers and a LotusNotes global database. I’d like to say there were some advantages to using paper systems but I really can’t think of one. Any time saved through quickly jotting down enquiry details on paper (versus typing in details) is lost through lack of collation, tracking and reporting.

So, like those beautiful but defunct album covers, have we lost anything in the tranisition from paper to digital?

Not a thing! It just confirmed it. I love gadgets.