Reflections on a single-device world

December 8th, 2011 by Chad Dorsey

We put the last clock radio in our house in the Goodwill pile last week. Seeing it sitting on the pile to go downstairs was a surprising revelation for me. Somehow it felt wrong for a reason I couldn’t place. Then it hit me: a clock radio was my first real gadget purchase.

For those who don’t recall, there was a time when clock radios were quite a novel invention. The ability to wake to the radio instead of some raucous bell was an entirely new concept. And to a budding radio-phile like me, it seemed like the newest of frontiers. I remember looking across the counter at our local Sterling Drug for many a visit, and piling up birthday money and allowance until the mound was enough to purchase this coolest of things. The red glow of the lights and the late-night sessions listening to AM talk radio or trying to pull the strains of Dr. Demento out of the static seem as close now as they did then.Clock radio destined for the dustbin

This was a first – a multi-function gadget. And the mere concept of combining the functions was mesmerizing. Now, it’s entirely replaced by one entirely multi-function gadget. I use my iPhone both to listen to radio as I’m falling asleep and to wake me up. Of course, our family point-and-shoot camera and car GPS device are also starting to gather dust at a surprising rate.

This is no new revelation, of course, but the fundamental nature of my feeling at this loss was interesting to note. What other fundamental weirdness will we be in for as technology continues to contract our world of life and transform the world of education? The first time a teacher enters a classroom without a board he or she can write on? The first time a mom realizes she doesn’t need to buy any spiral-bound notebooks at the back-to-school sales? The first time a principal realizes that she can find out about the misconceptions all of her students hold on a given day about science concepts they are studying, even the students who transferred in to school that morning?

Time will tell with all of these. For now, I need a nap – Siri, can you set a timer to wake me up…?

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