Consider the overloaded cellphone/PDA/camera a harbinger. It won't be long before all our gadgetary needs get rolled into the ultimate device - the all-in-one machine that lets us do everything from sending e-mails to holding conference calls. But what will this Pert Plus of a product look like?
At present, cellphones are in greater supply than good drinking water, but if the world's tech companies are to be believed, the shape and form of the device that will encase all life's basic digital needs is still up for grabs.
So let's indulge in a brief interlude of Quartz-based nostalgia, and look back to a time when the most prized accoutrement was the clunky calculator watch.
Somewhere in its brief affair with our wrists and hearts, the goofy calculator watch lost our affections. Perhaps one too many geeks tried, unavailingly, to program a phone number into it. Perhaps its catalogue of tinny alarms drove us to pitch it into the dustbin.
Either way, the calculator watch, in all its beautiful utility, fell from grace, leaving us largely without an everyday electronic tool until, of course, the cellphone's bloated birth and subsequent slim-down.
Perhaps the calculator watch was just ahead of its time. In today's world, it makes a lot more sense to have a permanent strap-on digital accessory than an eminently losable cellphone floating about in one's personal ether.
Manufacturers are again exploring the watch's potential as a vehicle for our current needs. MSN tried, mostly unsuccessfully, last year to give us wristwatches with perfectly gratuitous services like customizable weather reports.
Subsequent efforts to create something workable out of the MSN Wrist Net technology have fared a bit better. Fossil's Dick Tracy watch one-ups the nostalgia factor by referencing the style and allure of the pulp hero's impressive timepiece. All it really needs to be truly viable is the same phone capabilities that Tracy had. Of course, there's something bizarre about whispering into your watch, but, as hordes of cellphone-headsetted Bay Streeters talking to themselves prove, we can get used to anything.
The Wrist Net Dick Tracy watch comes with MSN Direct service for $12 a month, though it's hard to imagine anyone using much of the information - weather, headlines and sport stats, for example, via FM signal - on a display that's barely big enough for a miniature cartoon of the watch's namesake. But the seed of an idea is here, and is also present in a slew of watches that now boast portable hard drives that connect with your computer via USB.
Yes, the tech in wrist science has a long way to go, but go on it must. Any cursory social survey of the stylish set will tell you that the calc watch occupies prime nostalgia real estate in many a soul.
My friend Julia sports a vintage Casio and gets stopped on the street regularly.
"I get everything from 'I love your watch' to 'But you're not a geek,'" she says.
The calc love is further underlined by a host of recent calc-inspired designs - from Paul Frank's vintage plastic take to Tokyo Flash's pimped-out, Lite-Brite-inspired model.
Substantive proof that the hour is nigh for lo-fi meets Wi-Fi: if people will wear ironic mullets, they'll also wear modern incarnations of the calc watch, even if it comes down on the side of oppressively large. Imagine a watch that gave us Wi-Fi access, a speaker phone and all the accessories that characterized the old calculator watch. I will only say, 'If you will it, it is no dream. And if you build it, they will come.'
And if you can't come on time, don't come at all. OK, scratch that last one. Bring it on Casio!