I used to carry a set of pocket-sized and mid-sized gadgets. Then technology reduced them to one gadget. But now in their places are a bunch of new pocket sized gadgets that I keep on carrying. Without North Face and Columbia making trousers with ample extra pockets, where would I be?
Currently in my list of pocket gadgets: a GPS, a smartphone (with so-so camera), a "real" digital pocket camera, a PSP, an internet tablet, a bluetooth keyboard, an ipod, an MP3/wav recorder, and of course one or more Moleskine notebooks (usually two: one for work, one for personal notes, and sometimes a third for watercolor pencils). On the edge of these are the mid-sized gadgets, a ruggedized La Cie hard drive, an ASUS Eee laptop, an SLR -- not quite pocketable. Memory cards. Batteries. Earbuds.
The Moleskine and the keyboard, unlike the others, are defined by the limits of human design -- they just can't get smaller and be usable. I've no doubt that the others will collapse into something unified and smaller and instead of empty pockets I'll have some need for another generation of well-marketed pocketables. Heads-up displays for pedestrians, with integrated games? Some desperate need to keep the text of the Library of Congress within arm's length? Every episode of Heroes (and Hogan's Heroes) for ready reference? Water contamination meter? Celphone-camera detector (and laser disabler)?
Looking at street photos of a century ago, or even fifty or thirty years ago. What we don't see in those photos? Stuff. Kids with a couple of books, not a filled roller pack. People on the street without briefcases, backpacks, phones -- even in the financial districts.
In an hour or so I'm off to Spain. I'd like to think I'm packing light, and my clothes are light. It's the STUFF: no internet tablet, no mics or headphones, but the ASUS and the SLR (w/two short prime lenses), a strobe, two moleskines, the wee pocket digi, the recorder & GPS & ipod start to add up. Or do they? Total for everything: one half-filled backpack.