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Palm Pilots, Pocket PCs and Boogie Boards

Those who know me know I’ve been immersed in technology since getting my first two computers, Osbornes, in 1982. There were Palm Pilots, Pocket PCs and Windows Phones long before Android and iPhone were familiar terms. After a keynote address by Bill Gates and the introduction of Microsoft OneNote in 2003, I became enamored with touch computing – the ability to write and draw naturally on a computing device. Today, I have touch monitors (27″ & 24″) connected to my office and home desktop towers, along with a Microsoft Surface Book, Surface Go and Surface Duo – all able to receive input with a digital pen. It’s all good.

Through the years, I’ve been first in line each time a new digital note-taking device with pen input came onto the market. And each time I bought that cutting-edge technology, I was soon disappointed by its inability to perform as advertised. I stopped trying a decade ago – not because I lost interest, but because my need for taking notes had diminished. I kind of felt let down, never having achieved the objective.

Recently, notes have again become an important part of my daily routine. I was dismayed to find that things really hadn’t changed much. Of course, there are tablets, and my Surface Go does a great job taking digital notes. But it’s like using a 20-ton dump truck to deliver pizzas. Lots of extra energy being expended for simply jotting something down, that I’ll mostly be deleting within an hour or two. And let’s not even get into all those interfering updates and notifications that come out of nowhere, and the frustration of auto-off. I don’t need a journal. I need digital scrap paper.

The two leading products on the market today for taking digital notes are the Amazon Scribe and the reMarkable. They’re both very nice devices… and expensive – in the $300-$400 range to start, for a digital notepad! Of course, you can read eBooks with them and do stuff on the Internet, and so on, and so on, and so on…. Oh, and they’re way too big for taking short, simple notes. There’s that 20-ton dump truck again.

I decided to take things down several levels and go back to basics. Boogie Boards have been around for a while, but I’ve only recently taken an interest in them. They’re cheap, they’re the right size for replacing a basic notepad, they never need recharging, and they don’t do anything except display what you write with the supplied stylus (or your fingernail). Perfect. They come in a variety of sizes and there’s a whole line of kid-friendly devices for drawing and learning. I settled on a 5×7 Versa Pad for the apartment (you can stick it on the fridge with the installed magnet) and the 5.5×7.5 Blackboard for the office and my bag (you can never have too many Boogie Boards), which has the added capability of changing backgrounds to suit your needs (I made a couple of my own). The Blackboard can be matched with an optional portfolio to keep things neat and prevent damage. It also has a lock slide to prevent accidental erasures. You can get an optional digital pen that will transcribe your hand-written notes directly to your phone through an app connected via Bluetooth, but most all of my notes are temporary – needed for an hour or two and then discarded. If there’s something important on my Blackboard, I can take a photo with my phone and it will get saved to the app for future reference. That’s good enough. I’ll be helping to save a tree each time I tap the erase button.

With the holidays coming, Boogie Boards are something you may want to take a look at. It’s low-tech for sure, though it simply does what it’s designed to do. No firmware updates, no recharging, no batteries (the Blackboard has a small lithium cell for their Exact Erase feature), ALWAYS on and ready when you need it to be ready. Awesome.