Could you track the history of our relationship to computers through the history of personal productivity or personal tracking tools?

Here's what I mean. Twenty years ago, with the first generation of personal computers, a "productivity"-related piece of software might have been a calendar or list app– something fairly generic, and probably business- or work-related. It would have borne a resemblance to business productivity tools, and would often have been used to help manage our working days.

These days, though, the list and calendar is something you can take for granted (though integrating multiple calendars is a pain). But the category of productivity tools hasn't disappeared: it's changed. Lifehacker's list of New Year's resolution management tools, and Make Use Of's list of "online services to help you out with your daily life and new year resolutions," both point to them becoming more intimate and proactive: you can use them not just to track when you have that meeting with Ted, but you can track what days you exercised and ate right– and you can share that information.

So when did the first personal productivity applications appear? When did dieting or weight management programs appear?

Their appearance and proliferation suggests two things. First, it's yet another data-point documenting the ever-greater integration of personal computing into our personal lives. Second, this category is worth watching because the big trends in this space seem to be increasing automation– both in receiving information from users, and in sending out alerts and such– and continuous engagement– they're not things you sit down with very few weeks, like Quicken, but ideally would be systems that you would use when making decisions about what to eat, how far to run, etc.. You can start to imagine how powerful these programs could become when you access them through mobile devices– or when they access you through those devices, ten minutes before you're scheduled to go to lunch, or just before you exit the freeway and pass the gym.

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