i don't care if woody allen's got one

They're not 1980s relics, says Filofax plc. Oh, no? says Matthew Sweet
Bob Holness gave me my Filofax at the height of the Lawson boom. Pressing it into my hand after two big lasses thrashed me at a round of Blockbusters, he slapped me on the back and said: "Now you can organise your life properly." That was a good 10 years ago, and I still don't know whether I should be using it.

The personal organiser is no longer an icon of the upwardly mobile, a boardroom boytoy to whop out on to the brasserie table. At least, that's the line being strung by the Filofax Group plc. It claims that a new generation of women users are responsible for its healthy profits and recent admission to the Official List of the London Stock Exchange. "Increasingly, women's lifestyles need more organisation," booms its hearty representative like a Boost-your-Confidence tape. "And, of course, the Filofax will fit neatly into most sorts of handbag". Handbag? Who is it trying to fool? And if the ring-bound diary has been colonised by women, why has the company discontinued "Pregfax", its handy guide to all things gestatory? More unconvincingly, it is keen to point out that famous Filofans include Woody Allen (proud owner of 20), Kylie Minogue, and, um, Chris Tarrant. Even they can't think of any more.

Truth is, no one gives a filing fact. The personal organiser is as gratefully dead as the white wine spritzer, the pair of spotty braces, and all those Yuppies who landed with so satisfying a thud on the pavement outside the Lloyd's Building. It will never receive any sort of retro-resuscitation because it's a symbol of everything the retro movement is attempting collectively to forget. Muji doesn't do one made out of oatmeal coloured cardboard, and no one's blowing spacegirl Filofaxes out of dayglo Tokyo PVC.

One advertising executive, Jo Oliver, aged 23, considers it a style dodo: "People have little scuffed notebooks now and scrappy bits of paper. The Filofax is too formal - the Nineties are about loose-living. It's more acceptable to have Post-Its and receipts stuffed into your pocket. It's all IKEA and linen, not chrome and black."

However, since the volcano-dance of the Eighties boom only happened in the South-east, for most people the Filofax was never anything other than an aid for shoulder-padded power-lunchers. It separated the people who deserved beating up from those who didn't. Liz Andrews, a Glaswegian writer, admits: "I've got one but I stole it from Bargain Books. They're all on the dole up here so tend not to have any pressing engagements."

These days in the City of London, the PDA (personal digital assistant) is your ticket to the muggers' excuse-me. David Heaney, a marketing manager, aged 26, laughs at a pair of pinstripes prodding their palmtops in a pub off Threadneedle Street. "Owning a Psion immediately marks you out as a friendless hardware-fetishist. These guys can't even type. I'll bet you every address they have is full of extra z's and q's." He marches over and challenges them to call up the number of a mutual client. They squint down at their respective OmniGo 100 and Zaurus ZR-500, looking as serious as if they were piloting the Tardis through a choppy patch of the time vortex. It takes them some time to come up with anything. Mr Heaney says: "It's only insurance brokers who would get sexed up about a gadget that's three times less efficient than an address book."

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