So I read this article on NYT today called, "Sooner or Later, All Electronic Gadgets Will Converge Into a Single Gadget" and it got me thinking about what I'd actually want from a single gadget.

Let's look at all the things that these little devices (mobile/cell phones, multimedia players, etc.) can do right now.

My phone (which isn't terribly new) can play music and video (albeit short, terrible quality video), and can tune into radio stations. It's got a calendar, alarms, todo lists, it contains contact details for hundreds of people, and it can send email and browse the web via WAP. On top of this it has games, measurement conversion and timer apps, and a world clock. Oh, and it can do phone calls and text messages.

That sounds like a fairly decent little device on paper doesn't it? It's got multimedia capabilities (to an extent), all the communication options I use, and plenty of tools to help me organise my life. What more could I want?

Well the answer isn't as straightforward as naming things it can't do. Really, it is more or less capable of doing everything I'd want it to do. The problem is, I want it to do a lot of things better.

Let's take email as an example. If I want to send an email from my phone, it'll take a bit of time and I'm fairly limited in what I can do. I can attach files, sure, but other than that I'm pretty restricted to straight text. Add on the fact that I have to connect to my service provider using GPRS, plug in the destination email address manually (no, I can't get it from my contacts list), and wait patiently while it slowly disappears from my outbox. And if I need a response? I've got to connect and check for new emails periodically because the phone doesn't do that itself. Basically, we're talking about a device that offers nearly complete email capability... that takes me 5 times as long as it would sitting at a computer.

I could go on naming functions that are made available by my phone but take too long to use effectively but I think you get the idea.

So that brings me back to my original question: What do I want in a single device? I think I can summarise it by saying I want what I have now, with a better interface. Of course a better screen and updated hardware would be nice; it can be a bit slow sometimes, and video is not really watchable, but it's more about how easy and efficient it is to access the features. One button to get to my MP3s would be a lot nicer than the eight I currently have to press.

Damo "Visa" Brady

Damian Brady

I'm an Australian developer, speaker, and author specialising in DevOps, MLOps, developer process, and software architecture. I love Azure DevOps, GitHub Actions, and reducing process waste.