Most technological breakthroughs are not breakthroughs in all ways; there’s often a drawback of one sort or another. As has been noted widely, PDAs are great but they don’t have the permanence of datebooks. A few years ago I leafed through my grandfather’s datebook from the 1950s; it was fascinating, in a time-travelling way. I don’t imagine the data in my Pilot (not to mention the Pilot itself) will be around in fifty years (or ten).
But there’s no drawback, for a journalist on a road trip, to a digital recorder. I recently purchased an Olympus DM-1, for which Mac software is available (essential for my iBook), and my current trip to Pakistan is its first test. I’m in love with it. My backpack is not filling up with a dozen or two dozen tapes that are a pain to carry around; more than 20 hours of interviews fit on a 128 MG chip, and the DM-1 is half as large as the tape recorder it replaced. Just as important, no longer do I worry about losing my precious tapes through theft or negligence or bad luck; I download everything at the end of the day, so I’ve got a backup on my laptop, and for extra peace of mind I can email crucial interviews to a server that stores them until I return to New York to write my story.
It’s bliss. Thank you, John von Neumann.