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I'd like to thank my wife for my wonderful Christmas gift. It's a cell phone, which also plays music and videos, takes photos, surfs the Web, sends e-mail, sends text messages, helps with driving directions in my car, and opens the garage door. I had been hoping to get the model that waters the lawn, makes dinner, and changes a baby's diaper.

Okay, so I'm exaggerating. But some of these new toys truly fascinate me. Isn't it amazing how much information you can store on these little fellows? I don't know how I've survived my career without these wonderful new electronic devices. The only problem is it takes two weeks out of your life to learn how to operate those darn things.

I'm still stuck doing some things the old way. One day last week, I was reviewing a set of plans for a new industrial complex near our city. I pulled an old yellow legal pad out of the bottom drawer of my desk to make some notes. (For those out there under 30, a legal pad is bound paper, on which your write with a pen or pencil.) While doodling around, I turned some of the pages back and realized there were some numbers that I haven't used in quite a few years.

Trying to remember their purpose, I turned to my old brown daytimer I've carried for about 15 years. It's more durable than any of these new tools. I've thrown the book out of the window and left it on top of my vehicle at a jobsite, only to have it fall in the roadway.

I don't know how many times I've updated it. Some of the telephone numbers are so old, they don't have a three-digit prefix in them. Not really, but some of them are pretty old. If you've been in this business for many years, I'll bet you have at least one notebook that is full of information and telephone numbers.

Remembering pagers

My thoughts quickly drifted to thinking about how the information highway has changed. Traveling down memory lane, I tried to make a list of the ways I used to keep up with all of the information that was sent out on jobs and how we got it.

When I first started many years ago, pagers were popular. You simply went to the bank or favorite drive-in market every three or four days, got a roll of quarters, and kept them in the ashtray of your vehicle. Whenever you got a page, you pulled over to the nearest pay phone and called the person back.

Then we started using mobile phones and fax machines. We got really industrious and started receiving CDs in the mail, and we have e-mail. Now all you have to do is log onto some plan room's Web site, gather the information, put your prices together, and send an e-mail with the quote attached.

The wireless card that fits into my laptop is now my favorite. It's transformed the information superhighway into my own pathway of escape. Now all I have to do is pull over somewhere, turn on the laptop, and gather whatever information I need. You push two buttons on the computer to complete the bid, save the info to a file, close the program, and off to the golf course you go.

There's one increasingly popular use of this high-tech stuff that I hope doesn't affect me. I just read in the newspaper that 25% of teenagers have used text messages to break up with their boyfriends or girlfriends. Oops, got to go. My wife just messaged me.

jimambrose@aol.com