Steven Pemberton : Views and Feelings

November 2001

Did Convergence Kill the Clock?

A question that is being asked a lot at the moment is: will devices converge to multi-functional single devices, or will families of single-function devices that can talk to each other emerge?

Look around your house. How many devices do you have that have clocks in them? (Sorry, I mean of course: how many devices in your house have converged with clocks?)

In my house: the oven, every radio, the hi-fi, the telephone, the thermostat, the thermometer (!), all the computers of course, the tea maker next to my bed, and on my person I have a mobile phone, a PDA, and hey! a watch, which has converged with a text pager.

Neither my shaver nor the hair dryer seem to have clocks in them yet.

So has this incredibly overlooked process of convergence killed off clocks and watches? It doesn’t look like it. Despite the fact that people get free clocks all the time in the devices they buy, they still seem to buy clocks and watches.

(A similar recent development seems to be the convergence of MP3 players with just about anything. I've seen at least cameras, mobile phones, watches and PDAs. I look forward to the time that my thermostat has an embedded MP3 player.)

Now my PDA. Let me describe the convergence that has happened with that. It is of course my address book, a note book, alarm clock, calendar and agenda, calculator, also expense recorder, thesaurus, Italian-English-Italian dictionary, French-English-French dictionary, and map of the city I live in (and any other city when I go there).

Do I want to have all these as separately communicating devices? No thanks, convergence suits me just fine.

On the other hand, I am not wedded to this convergence, in the following sense: it is only the data I am interested in. If my PDA converged with a suitably empowered mobile phone, I would want to do away with all those applications and just reference the data on the Web.

First published in ACM/Interactions, November 2001

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