Ex-Apple CEO John Sculley coined the term Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). Apple subsequently released the first device that fitted the definition of a PDA, the Newton. On closer inspection, however, it diverged from the specification in one crucial respect: it wasn't any use (or was it?).

Steve Jobs killed the Newton project shortly after his return to Apple in 1997. He subsequently tried to buy Palm but was rebuffed.

PDA also means Public Display of Affection - this usually involves kissing, hugging or holding hands.

In the medical field, there's also: Persistent Ductus Arteriosus (a.k.a. patent ductus arteriosus) - a neonatal medical problem.

I've owned a small selection of PDAs for several years now – starting when I was really anal retentive in the early 90s.

First up was the Microwriter Agenda; purchased in those heady days before PDAs became commonly available. It had a neat one-handed five-button keyboard, apparently like court stenographers use and also known as the CyKey system. This was great - but the Agenda has a very small screen and a tendency to crash permanently making it totally unusable.

Next up was the Psion 3a – a forerunner of the Psion Series 5. This was very useful, and a mainstay of my anal retentiveness for many years. I would still have it today if a Swedish guy hadn’t knocked it off my desk during a classroom discussion about ERP software; causing it to disintegrate into several pieces. The Series 3 had two major flaws – no backlight, and a ridiculously fragile hinge mechanism.

I got a Series 5 soon after. The Series 5 had a neat touch screen; so natural to use that I automatically try to press the dialog buttons on normal computer screens all the time (very embarrassing in public).

These days I am much less anal: and my Series 5 / PDA usage has dropped considerably. Looking back I wish I’d spent the money on therapy and beer and used paper notepads instead (like I do now) ...

Two years on from my original post and after two Psion machines and lots of paper, I am now onto my first Palm - the M500 don't you know!

The Palm is deficient in many ways – no keyboard, very poor handwriting recognition, occasional crashes and weird hang-ups when the battery drops below 50%. But three things make it an improvement on the Psion: a near perfect synchronisation with MS Outlook, easy-to-use form factor, and it works brilliantly with my Ericsson T68i mobile phone.

Oh! All those wasted years …

"PDA" is the first single off of Interpol's Turn on the Bright Lights. If you haven't heard the band yet and are wondering what the hype is all about, you can go to their website and download an MP3 of this song (and you'll be able to sing along, too).

The cover article in the April/May 2003 issue of Magnet magazine mentions that this song is the first Matador release to get airplay on KROQ since the days when Liz Phair had some hits and Pavement put out "Cut Your Hair". Marginally interesting information, but sort of germane to a discussion of this song.

My experience with Interpol had a rocky beginning: When Turn on the Bright Lights first came out in August 2002, my beloved snatched it up immediately and played it very loudly on the CD player in our office. I was particularly grumpy that day and had retreated to the bedroom, but I could still hear the music. He asked, "Do you like it?" I answered, "No. It's too dark." He said, "But it sounds like Joy Division!" I said, "I wouldn't be listening to Joy Division today, so that's not a big selling point." (See how grumpy I was?) As the album played out, I lay in bed trying to figure out who the singer sounded like. I pinpointed it to someone from the high school era of my musical obsessions and tried to visualize the record covers that were associated with my favorite music at the time. And then it clicked: "He sounds just like Mark Burgess!" He said, "Who?" I said, "The Chameleons! Script of the Bridge! Right?" And much to my dismay, he said, "I never listened to them." (So now, of course, I have to track down a CD of Script so he can hear what he was missing and so I can relive my youth.) When the CD finished playing, I shouted, "Thank god it's over! Now play something pretty." And he put on Fountains of Wayne or something equally palatable to grumpy bitches.

A friend mentioned that he had seen Interpol live and they were amazing. I told him I didn't like them, and he was surprised because that really didn't jibe with my musical sensibilities. So I took out the CD and listened to it in the car and at work, and kicked myself yet again for being an early objecter. "PDA" was the first song that implanted itself into my brain - the chorus hooked me and now I'm a fan.

When I listen to this song, I picture wayward hipsters wandering around lower Manhattan, stumbling into a loft or warehouse, and crashing on one of the many plush couches crowded into the room.

Here are the lyrics:

Yours is the only version of my desertion that I could ever subscribe to
That is all that I can do
You are a past dinner, the last winner, I'm raping all around me
Until the last drop is behind you
But you're so cute when you're frustrated, dear
Yeah, you're so cute when you're sedated, oh dear

Sleep tight, grim rite, we have two hundred couches where you can...
Sleep tight, grim rite, we have two hundred couches where you can
Sleep tonight,
Sleep tonight,
Sleep tonight,
Sleep tonight.

You are the only person who's completely certain there's nothing here to be into
That is all that you can do
You are a past sinner, the last winner, and everything we've come to makes you you
But you cannot safely say that while I will be away, you will not consider sadly
How you helped me to stray
And you will not reach me I am resenting a position that's past resentment and now
I can't consider, and now there is this distance, so...


Audio/Video page of the Interpol website: http://www.interpolny.com/av.php
Lyrics by Interpol

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