By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
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Kopeloff, who handles a lot of the nuts and bolts of film producing, uses his small PDA made by Psion for spreadsheets and taking notes. "In a crunch, instead of pulling out a Post-It and having it fall by the wayside, I have everything here," he says. "I'm just the guy who's looking for the next tool to make things easier."
While location scouting under the Manhattan Bridge for an Infiniti commercial, Kopeloff used his spare time to figure overtime costs with a spreadsheet application on his Psion, and also created maps to the location. "It used to be people did everything on paper," he says. "This works much better."
But when asked how the technology has affected his personal life, he admits that it has its pitfalls.
"I dated a girl who worked in the magazine industry and it drove her nuts that I was so invested in the technology," he says. "It bothered her that I never stopped working. It'd be one in the morning and the pager would go off. She'd look at me like I was the devil. I would sometimes feel guilty when my cell phone rang."
Both Li and Goldstein relate similar problems when their significant others were confronted with a battery of buzzes and beeps at the dinner table. Perhaps it is the idea that plastic and silicon take precedence over flesh and bone that's offensive part of the deep, dark fear people in general have of technology.
"I saw The Matrix," says Li. "The irony is that they needed to invent the [special effects] technology to show how bad technology is."
On the flip side, though The Matrix ultimately comes down hard on technology, it not-so-subtly pulls at the gee-whiz strings in your heart, drawing repeat audiences who want to see the technological wizardry behind its pioneering F/X. People have become more enamored of gadget culture, embracing the technology that once befuddled the masses.
According to figures produced by industry analysts at International Data Corporation (IDC), a market research firm, there were 2.5 million handheld devices Palm Pilots and handheld PCs shipped in the U.S. in 1998. "We're projecting that figure to go up to 6.9 million in 2002," says Jill House, an analyst at IDC. "These products are simple and compelling and easy to use. It'll drive other gadgets and more people will buy them."
Goldstein looks forward to increased choices for consumers. "It'll get better and better for the average buyer as time goes on," he says as he plugs one of his old cell phone chargers into an outlet in his office. "They'll find things that are more useful to them." The cell phone fails to charge. He shakes the wire. The light goes on.
How Wired Are You?
What You Need to Join the Gadget Elite
Analog cell phone: Get rid of it.
Alphanumeric pager: Get rid of it.
Numeric pager: Keep it. Probably the one reliable device anyone has.
Digital phone: Everyone's got one now; where's yours?
PDA (personal digital assistant): The reigning device is the Palm Pilot, which basically is a fancy date-and-address book. Look out for the Palm V and VII, which look much cooler and which you can use to send and receive e-mail.
HPC (handheld PC, a/k/a CE machine): Basically a smaller laptop that uses the Windows CE platform, a smaller version of Windows. Unless you travel a lot, not necessary.
Laptop: Get one instead of a desktop.
Smartphone: Though not on the market yet, it integrates Palm Pilotlike features into a digital phone. But don't give up your phone or Pilot just yet it could suck.
Virtual assistant: General Magic in Sunnyvale, California, has come out with Portico, a personalized 800 number that synchronizes with your per- sonal information management program, which you can access by phone using voice commands.
Two-way pager: Research in Motion, a company out of Canada, has produced the most esoteric tech toy of the moment, the BlackBerry pager. It synchronizes with Microsoft Outlook and Exchange, can send and receive e-mail using your current e-mail address, and can even send "text to voice" messages through the phone using a synthesized voice program, though that tends to freak people out. E.L.