What do you want for Christmas this year?

Here at the de Burgh Group we are closing the appointments diary for the year and preparing to take a break for the Christmas period. It is time to relax a little with our families after a very busy year and I for one am looking forward to slipping into a Yuletide routine which will no doubt involve trying to resist the lure of a mince pie for breakfast.

Of course, before I reach that state of festive Nirvana, I must complete my Christmas shopping. Thankfully technology means that my days of anxiously tramping around the shops, ending up in a last-minute dash to the petrol station co-op at the end of the road on Christmas Eve are no more. In the age of the click it is all far too easy, although this breeds another sort of anxiety, one that comes with the question, “What do you want for Christmas?”

Over the years, I have suffered from a distinct lack of imagination in this department. I should be more adventurous, perhaps requesting a wood whittling kit to fire up a new hobby, or at the very least a troupe of sea monkeys to nurture. Instead, I tend to default toward the practical, presents that may not be exciting, but are in fact quite useful.

This set me thinking about the must have gadgets of Christmas past that filled executives’ Christmas stockings before filtering their way to the wish lists of the general population. So here’s a brief roundup of my historical must haves:

1970 – The Calculator
The calculator is now a ubiquitous accessory, and one that we all take for granted, but in 1970, the launch of the Pocketronic was received with the kind of awe that one would expect from a new Apple product launch. For the retail price of $345 (factoring in inflation that is the equivalent of over $2000 in today’s money), the calculator was a revolutionary device that brought infinite mathematical power to the executive’s fingertips. Adding, subtracting, division and multiplication had never been so easy and would never be the same again.

1971 – The Home Answer Machine
How easy it is to pick up a phone message these days. Just like the calculator, we don’t even give it a second thought. However, once upon a time, the thought of picking up phone messages at home was as novel an idea as having a drone deliver your Amazon order. That was until the arrival of the PhoneMate 400 in 1971. Weighing as much as five Mac Airbooks it stored 20 messages, which could be listened to in private with an earphone.

1980 – The Filofax
Although it had been around for a while, in the early 1980s the Filofax was the equivalent of today’s smart phone for a whole generation of upwardly mobile professionals. The name was an abbreviation of ‘file of facts’ and the Filofax allowed for planning and scheduling your whole life – private and work – in one place. It may seem like a quaint notion now, but back in the 80’s it transformed business lives!

1984 – The mobile phone
Before the Dynatec 8000x, making a phone call required the caller to conduct their conversation in a fixed position on a dedicated phone line. The first truly mobile phone (and weighing almost the same as one Mac Airbook) it was instantly adopted as a status symbol by the yuppie generation and cost an eye watering $4,000.

1996 – The Palm Pilot
This is the device that put technology into the palm of consumers’ hands and is now widely credited as being the precursor to the smart phone. Its huge popularity and must-have status was a consequence of its technological wizardry – including the ability to synch contacts and calendars (wow!) and a touch screen that enabled the user to write on it.

2004 – TomTom
Before 2004, there was only one way to get from A to B, and it was called ‘a map’. However, TomTom changed the way we do journeys, and in the years since has done away with a lot of the inconveniences that used to be associated with driving to see a new client – such as getting lost. Nowadays, if you’ve done a wrong turn it’s likely that TomTom told you to do it and there’s a whole generation who have grown up not being able to map read and are totally oblivious to how they got from A to B.

2007/2010 – i-Phone/i-Pad
I have lumped these in together for the simple reason that, love Apple or hate it, these two devices and their influence on smart, hand held technology have transformed our lives. No longer a must have for the professional on the move, like the dear old 1980s Filofax, the smart phone / tablet has brought a sense of organisation into our professional and personal lives, allowing us to be connected 24 /7…

Having completed my list, I think I am now able to answer that question, “What do you want for Christmas?” In a perfect world, I would love to be able to disengage completely from these enabling technologies for a few days over this festive season and enjoy the sensation of being busy doing nothing! Mince pie for breakfast? Don’t mind if I do…

Luan de Burgh

December 2016

Luan de Burgh is a speaker, writer and founder of The de Burgh Group – a specialist business communication training provider dedicated to helping people perform at their highest potential.