My Magic Diary – Forgotten Father of the iPad

Step back to 1993, Bill Clinton was playing the saxophone, Jurassic Park was released, and Snoop Doggy Dog was still a man with a funny name.

I was 6 years old, obsessed with James Pond 3: Operation Starfish on the SNES, drawing cars with rockets attached to them, and making funny noises in my milkshake.

I also embarked on my first business venture, I say business venture, I had an electronic organiser. I say organiser, I actually mean the ‘Casio C-200 – My Magic Diary’. The prince of electronic organisers.

Top of the Christmas List

The magic diary was a coveted possession – it was kept in a box along with other ‘high value’ items such as water bombs and bubblegum. You may recognise some of the distinguishing features of the magic diary from the latest incarnation of Apple’s popular iPad, namely it has a display, of sorts, and also contains a battery. An uncanny resemblance I think you’ll agree.

That was not all that the magic diary shared with the most well known shiny slabs of tech however, there are plenty of features that have been ruthlessly copied onto 21st century devices…

How Siri of me

The magic diary had all the features that a six to ten year old could possibly need to organise their hectic life, such as a telephone directory which could store, literally, some numbers. I had 3 numbers in mine; my home landline, my grandparents’ landline, and my secret spy phone number (007007007007 – in case you are in trouble). The flip up case was useful for pretending you were talking to someone through the device, much like a mobile phone. At a time when mobiles weren’t widespread this was, I think you’ll agree, way ahead of its time.

There was also a conversion mode to aid in finding a favourable currency from which to elicit pocket money from your parents. French Francs proved particularly popular. Paypal can be accredited with this forward thinking. I’m no financial expert, but then again I’m not sure anyone is anymore.

Ahead of its Time

The dream factory, I mean, magic diary also featured a full Qwerty keyboard for writing your memoirs, equipped with ample special characters to start coding your own Tibco rendezvous database if you were that way inclined. It took much longer for Blackberry to cotton on to this trend for a full keyboard.

If you purchased an SB-32 communication cable from any good retailer you would also have the function of connecting two magic diaries together in order to communicate with your friend from a distance of up to a metre away! “That sounds like Facebook” I hear you cry! In a way, it was exactly like Facebook. In other ways it was the most pointless exercise in communications technology of the decade (until the pager came along).

Memo mode was also just as much of a hoot. It allowed you to write short excerpts of text to show your friends. What’s that?! It sounds like Twitter?! It sure does my friend. It sure does.

It’s a kind of Magic

But the magic diary was more than the sum of its parts. Through rigid organisation, the Casio diary gave you the freedom to plan your own day; the freedom to go about your daily business with an awkward bulging pocket, far before you reached your teen years.

Next time you pick up your iPad or Blackberry, just remember those humble beginnings. Technology companies operated with self respect back then – there were no silly lawsuits, no patent violations, just some crazy inventors with some crazy ideas that were set to change the world. And it was all planned out in their magic diary.

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About the author: James Duval writes for Centeractive, looking back at how our relationships with technology have changed the way we interact with the world today.

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