In the first of Workshop's IT columns, we talk to structural engineer Tony Fitzpatrick of Arup USA about the role technology plays in his life and work
What gadgets do you carry?
I'm not really a gadget man. I still use a paper diary. It's much quicker. I have two mobiles, one with a US number, one with a UK number. There's nothing that makes a client feel more remote than having to dial an international number.

What hardware do you use in the office?
My office is in my bag: it's a lightweight Toshiba Portege 3480CT laptop. It's Arup special issue – the others get standard Dells. It has an AirCard Wireless card that slots in and allows me to log onto the Arup network on the train without using a phone.

Is construction in the US further ahead technologically than here?
It's streets ahead in its use of communications IT – there's more need for it as people are dispersed in offices around the country. You can't send things around on a courier like you can in London. But they're not ahead in other areas. In the UK, there are trials of barcoding stuff coming on to site and things like that. I've not come across that in the US.

What's the most exciting IT development you've come across recently?
Solid state memory cards. I got mine on Monday and I've been absolutely astonished. It cost 200 Hong Kong dollars, it weighs nothing, it's got no moving parts, it sits in my top pocket and I can put 128 Mb onto it. CDs are going to die and it's all going to go solid state.

What's going to be the next big thing?
On-screen freehand sketching. Something that would allow you to sketch on a screen and turn it into a digital format you can see and store and email. That's the single biggest reason we have to go to face-to-face sessions – because we can't sketch except face to face.

Will your office ever be paperless?
It already is, except for sketches and drawings. We sketch on paper, then scan them in and dump the paper. But drawings still have to be printed out because nobody's figured out how to check designs on screen.