Guest Check PDA

27 May, 2005

A while back, Merlin Mann at 43 Folders came out with an idea that's since caught fire: the Hipster PDA. The idea was that, instead of using a complicated digital handheld that made you learn a secret scrawl and a special stylus to write things down, you could just use a piece of paper. And if you clipped a bunch of small pieces together (say in the form of index cards) then they'd be easy to organize or give away or do with what you will.

Recently, I've noticed friends of mine who work as servers (for example Chris and Amy) have been ending up with Guest Check pads at home, and they're using them. Sometimes they end up at home by accident, by ending up forgotten in a back pocket. Sometimes they get brought home on purpose because they seem useful or have useful notes in them.

What we've been finding is that they're great as PDAs.

(Here you can see some notes I took in my Guest Check PDA while working on the MFDZ player.)

You're used to carrying it in your pocket, so it feels comfortable there. The pages are perforated to rip out easily so if you need to give someone a note or organize some individual notes into a group by stapling them it's nice and neat. I haven't really done this yet, but you could use those boxes and categories at the top as organizational categories or space for metadata.

What got me started using the Guest Check pads as a PDA was using my pad at work for non-work-related things: giving out the name of the currently-playing band to customers who asked (especially when it happened to be a Music For Dozens artist) writing down ideas that occur to me, or taking note of some memorable thing that someone said or that happened. I started finding that at the end of my shifts I'd have pockets full of little notes that needed processing (that's another satisfing thing about the Guest Check format -- easy-of-rip-out-and-crumple makes for a very satisfying way to cross something off a to do list) and I just got used to building my whole system around it. I still use my Moleskine a lot of the time. It just feels more dignified, part of the luxury of wearing non-stainproof clothes and sandals on days when I don't have a shift. But when I need something that's totally utilitarian, that I'm not afraid to destroy or cross things out in the Guest Check PDA is like the comfortable pair of New Balances that I wear to work: they're a little worn and not as white as they once were, but they make it easier to get the job done.

You can see some more pictures of my Guest Check PDA in action in my relevant Flickr photoset. I'll be adding more pictures next time I get some time to shoot some of the pages I've got sitting around or when I generate more.

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