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Q: Origin of the "one gadget limit?" ( No Answer,   2 Comments )
Subject: Origin of the "one gadget limit?"
Category: Science > Technology
Asked by: vito-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 17 Sep 2006 16:53 PDT
Expires: 17 Oct 2006 16:53 PDT
Question ID: 766158
The "one gadget limit" is the idea that the average person only wants
to (and in most normal styles of clothing, only *can*) carry around
one gadget/gizmo/electronic device (e.g. cellphone OR pager OR mp3
player) around with them.

The iPod is the exception to this: people will carry their iPod plus
another gadget.  This is because the iPod is also a fashion accessory
and status symbol.

I discuss this idea more here, in this archived email message:

Except, I can't find the origin of this idea.  I'm pretty sure it's
not just anecdotal, and I'm pretty sure I didn't make it up (although
if I did, hey, I'll be happy to take credit for it).

Where did this idea originate?  I'd prefer surveys, research papers,
or any reliable media citation where a company cites research by name.
 I've seen several news articles where company executives state it as
fact, but not how they know that.

If this is idea doesn't exist, is there a similar one that does?  e.g.
people actually have a two device limit, or people differentiate
between communication devices and entertainment devices and will carry
one of each, or people will carry any number of devices as long as
they're under a certain size and weight, etc.

Request for Question Clarification by tutuzdad-ga on 02 Oct 2006 16:52 PDT
Dear vito-ga;

Consumer research surveys conducted by Jupiter Research Corporation
five or more years ago confirmed that most consumers preferred to
carry only one device.


The actual surveys are proprietary and they are being sold as
marketing analysis data. Naturally, as you might imagine, they are
quite expensive but you can see that some of the reports date back as
far as 2001:


Reports related to convergence:

All reports:

While Jupiter Research appears to be somewhat of an authority on the
issue in terms of what consumers desire (past and present) there also
appears to be another leading authority that may have brought first
attention to the ?one gadget? issue years ago when he founded MIT?s
Comparative Media Studies Program. Henry Jenkins, the Director of the
MIT Comparative Media Studies Program, Peter de Florez Professor of
Humanities, and one of the leaders of the Convergence Culture
Consortium, wrote a book on the subject entitled, ?Convergence
Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide? in which the evolution of
convergence is discussed in great detail. Though we cannot attribute
the coined phrase ?one gadget limit" to Mr. Jenkins, I believe that
the earliest modern version of the concept may have originated with
him ? in the academic world at least.


?Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide?

Book Review

Please let me know if this information provides an acceptable answer
to your question.


Clarification of Question by vito-ga on 06 Oct 2006 21:10 PDT
That March, 2005 Techworld article is a good start, Tutuzdad-ga, but
you didn't link to the actual survey, and I wasn't able to find it in
the site you did link to.  Nor are the Henry Jenkins links specific
enough to show an origin to the idea that people only want to carry
around one item.

I'm specifically looking for things like this Jupiter report,
discussing consumer electronics that you carry on your person, but I'm
sure there are plenty of others that won't cost me one to six thousand
dollars to read.

Plus, the older the reference, the better.  This is only from last year.
There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: Origin of the "one gadget limit?"
From: larryg999-ga on 02 Oct 2006 15:58 PDT
If you?d like to read explorations of the ?one gadget limit? idea, I?d
suggest you search for articles on ?convergence?.  An example of ?one
gadget? convergence:  a home theater, comprising several racks of
electronic gadgets, is orchestrated using a ?universal controller?.
You ask:  If this idea -- ?one gadget limit? -- doesn't exist, is
there a similar one that does?

Yes. The ?similar idea? is actually the design discipline called
?human-machine interface design?.  This is a broad field of
intellectual inquiry; I do not believe it can be reduced to a
simplistic ?one gadget limit?, as I hope to illustrate with the
following examples.
The intelligent approach to design is this: to configure the machine
inputs and outputs so that a human will derive superb satisfaction and
pleasure over a lifetime of interaction with the machine.  For
example, consider the design of various musical instruments ?
woodwinds, the violin family (bowed or plucked strings), the harp and
guitar family, keyboard instruments, percussion instruments.  Isn?t it
obvious that these musical instruments are in fact stunning works of
art, beautiful to the eye and ear, and carefully refined to respond
with perfect ergonomics to the human hand?

Ask a classical violinist if he or she would enthusiastically play a
difficult musical composition on a cell phone keyboard.

Obviously, the intelligent approach to machine-interface design, is
the diametric opposite of the ?one gadget does everything, but poorly?
approach to design.

The ?one gadget limit? doesn?t work for pocket-size devices either.
Consider some specific examples of gadgets we carry with us.  We carry
both a palm pilot for simple input tasks, but we also carry a notebook
computer because its larger keyboard and display provide a pleasurable
and less fatiguing interface to hands and eyeballs.
We wear sunglasses with a heads-up video display so we can view a
baseball game while walking, but we don?t try to combine these
sunglasses with the keychain FOB that provides wireless access to our
car.  We do not carry one ?universal? identity/cash card, but a
separate health insurance card, driver?s license, passport with
biometric chip, 2 or more credit/debit cards, actual currency and
coinage, a pocket knife, house keys, etc.

Would anyone seriously propose that all of these pocket items be
unified in one universal device?
Just today I heard a proposal for exactly the opposite: a proposal to
add one more gadget, a wristwatch-device connected via Bluetooth to
the pocket cell phone.  The wristwatch-device would display the
identity of the caller (without fishing the cell phone out of pocket
or handbag) & have a ?send to voicemail? control button ? and a few
more buttons as well.  This wristwatch-device may evolve to become the
pocket-device analog of the ?universal controller? in a home theater
Subject: Re: Origin of the "one gadget limit?"
From: vito-ga on 06 Oct 2006 21:13 PDT
larryg999-ga, you certainly didn't read the link I provided, and your
comment provides no useful insight or analysis.

I'm well aware of the idea of convergence.  I'm specifically looking
for actual research that evaluates actual consumer preferences and
actions regarding the electronic devices they will carry on their

As stated in the link I provided, which expresses this idea in more
detail, carrying things in a briefcase or backpack (which is where you
carry your laptop, not strapped directly to your body) does not

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