Digital vs. analogue: How to live efficiently while staying cool

While the vortex of information overload is wearing out a growing number of people, evolving technologies also make today's breakneck life easier by helping organise things and executing time-wasting chores in a snap.

Ever-smarter mobile gadgets and software help cut costs and save time. They are getting better at analysing users' life patterns, tastes and even habits, sorting out and providing precise information.

Smartphones and tablets lead the pack. Though some may call them the very culprits behind the digital distractions, they play a key role in improving the mobility and ubiquity of information and its consumption.

With them, everything is on the go - no one needs to rush to their home or office to check the breaking news on television or a computer.

Also in constant evolution are applications for mobile devices. Products such as T-Map, Olleh Navi and Daum Map give the fastest possible routes in real time even in the midst of a Friday afternoon traffic snarl.

Recipes are instantly available for head-scratching dishes required for ancestral rites on traditional Korean holidays. Some programs read business cards through the camera, digitalize the information and add it to the user's contact database.

To help busy office workers navigate a sea of information, many private institutes offer online and off-line classes on self-improvement, time management and how to set goals and a vision for their lives.

Run by the Korea Leadership Center, the Success Shop offers lectures on the use of digital planners and communication skills and places for gatherings and activities, and sells items that it says will improve efficiency and save time in one's daily life.

The Globalization Strategy Institute is gearing up to launch its 34th nine-week course on enhancing "success capabilities" in mid-January.

Each week, up to 24 participants will learn ways to better manage their goals, time, human networks, finance, health and images.

"The reason why we need to manage our time and organise our thoughts is not to save time and live our lives more effectively, but to avoid wasting our emotions on unnecessary matters and pay greater attention to more precious things, especially those related to our families," says Lee Sang-hyuk, the author of a 2013 book titled "Note-Taking Techniques" and cohost of a popular podcast on new, innovative stationary products and note-taking tips.

For all the conveniences and addictions of the digital age, more people are daring to defy the technological evolution and go back to "analogue."

A spate of small pubs thrive in Seoul's hotspots around Itaewon-dong and Hongik and Konkuk universities, enticing aficionados of the sound of vinyl records.

Top Korean singers including Cho Yong-pil, Shin Seung-hun and G-Dragon have recently launched new albums not just as digital downloads but also as vinyl records.

The trend appears to be an international one.

In 2012, about 4.6 million vinyl records were sold across the US, up nearly 18 per cent from a year before and 460 per cent from five years ago, according to Nielsen SoundScan, an information and sales tracking system. Annual sales in Japan have also been doubling since 2010, reaching 300,000 in 2012.

Interpark, an online retailer here, had an almost 500 per cent surge in its sales of vinyl records, turntables and other related items last year.

Some are collecting antique typewriters, cameras and quill pens, while others are sticking to paper planners or schedulers, rather than Google Calendar on their mobile phones.

Lee Soo-kyung, a 30-year-old company worker, writes in her diary two or three times a week, especially after watching a good movie or reading a book, or simply when she has "special feelings."

It is the traces of time and the beauty of handwriting that makes it irresistible to her, she says.

"I think I can illustrate my emotions and organise my thoughts a lot better with a pen. I've also downloaded a diary application on my iPad and tried to write there, but I just didn't feel like it," she said.

"It may look outdated and old-fashioned, but it's the way I keep my body and soul together and sensibility alive."

To cater to such nostalgia, a rising number of companies are seeking to add an "oldies" twist to their state-of-the-art products. Those items not only are cool, they say, but also could be productive and efficient if combined with a technological touch.

Moleskine, a maker of planners, notebooks and accessories, joined hands with Evernote, which provides note-taking and archiving software and services, to pick out its best digital and analogue features and blend them for a smarter, easier experience.

If users take a photo of any page in a Moleskine notebook with the Evernote Page Camera, it instantly becomes digital so that they can save, search and upload it online.

Samsung Electronics introduced a stereo system equipped with a radio tube last year, which it says produces vinyl records-like sounds.

LG Electronics' "Classic TV" aims to evoke the 1970s through a pair of channel and volume dials ― yet with its full high-definition screen and world-class light-emitting diode technology.

"Though we completed the design a year and a half ago, we had postponed its launch on worries that nobody would buy it," Kim Jun-ki, the designer of LG's Classic TV, said upon its unveiling in August.

"But the TV is gaining popularity not only among women in their 20-30s but also those in their 60-70s who have reminiscences of the old cathode-ray tubes. The analogue's popularity will continue as long as the nostalgia exists for old memories."

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