43 Folders

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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.

Ye Olde Hipster

Day in the Life: Sunrise Home

Jefferson's Ivory Hipster PDA

Dominic Brown emails with this link from the Thomas Jefferson/Monticello site. Emphasis added.

Jefferson’s clothes, according to his granddaughter, were “simple and adapted to his ideas of neatness and comfort … and sometimes blending the fashions of several periods.” In his pockets, Jefferson carried such a variety of portable instruments for making observations and measurements that he’s been dubbed a “traveling calculator.” Among his collection of pocket-sized devices were scales, drawing instruments, a thermometer, a surveying compass, a level, and even a globe. To record all these measurements, Jefferson carried a small ivory notebook (pictured) on which he could write in pencil.

Man, if that’s not the great-great-grandfather of the Hipster PDA, I don’t know what is. Hilarious.

According to The Library of Congress:

Thomas Jefferson used these ivory sheets to make penciled notes, which could then be erased once he transferred the information into one of his numerous permanent record books.

So it was basically like a miniature, paged dive board—but with ivory instead of plastic. (here’s a big photo of Jefferson’s notebook)

Note, also, that TJ was doing what a lot of hPDA fans do now; you’re looking solely for easy and ubiquitous capture with the notebook, but the heavy lifting of permanent storage is handled elsewhere—in Jefferson’s case by a big book, and in my case, by text files and Entourage. Each tool for its job, right?

Related: if a binder clip is too modern for your tastes, you can always buy this old-timey (and surprisingly compact) brass and ivory pocket notebook, which is quite similar to Jefferson’s. “It’s the 18th century version of the PDA,” say its manufacturers.

Clearly, there is nothing new under the sun

Seat 1A's picture



WHO KNEW? We could have just as easily spent the mid-1990s being trained to use our Jefferson Planners.




An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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