by Chris Guld, www.GeeksOnTour.com
Jim and I are always learning about new technology â€“ itâ€™s what weâ€™ve done since the early 80s â€“ and there is plenty to keep us occupied. But, 2009 has been remarkable when it comes to the proliferation of useful technology tools.
Thereâ€™s something qualitatively different this year about technology and gadgets. People are actually *using* them. You donâ€™t have to be a geek to want this stuff.
Not all my top 5 are brand new this year, but this is the year theyâ€™ve gone mainstream. Everyone I know had at least one technology item on their holiday gift list this year.
You should also know that this is my personal list â€“ I use a laptop computer a *lot* and I donâ€™t listen to very much music, otherwise Iâ€™m sure some of the fantastic new music players would be on my list. Every item shown below we have purchased and are currently using. If you are interested in buying one yourself, the links provided will take you to Amazon. They have good prices and good service, and, these links will tell them that you heard about it from Geeks on Tour â€“ maybe weâ€™ll get enough credit to buy our next toy (a USB Video Camera)!
Ok, here they are â€“ in reverse order:
#5: USB External Hard Drives
I put this in last place only because they arenâ€™t sexy. But, OMG are they useful. Theyâ€™ve gone mainstream this year because the capacity has grown and the price has dropped. 500 Gigabytes for $99. This can back up your entire laptop computer! If, like us, you remember your first hard drive at 20 Megabytes and $3,000, youâ€™ll probably buy two of these. All you have to do is plug it in to a USB port, no installation required.
#4. Kindle Book Reader
e-Book readers are proliferating now. I havenâ€™t tried any of the newer ones. We bought one of the first Kindles last year and still love it. And, what a boon to RVers. You can have hundreds of books and only take up the space (and weight) of one small paperback. According to Amazon, they sold more Kindles than books this holiday season!
#3: Wii Fit
This device is in the Gee Whiz! category. It looks and feels like something the Jetsons would use. â€œJane, stop this crazy thing!â€ With the Wii Fit, I have my own personal trainer with dozens of exercise routines to choose from and a tracking system to know how Iâ€™m doing. It actually fits in the RV. Iâ€™ve logged over 12 hours of exercise in December and Iâ€m enjoying it more every day.
#2: Droid Smart Phone
We have been so envious of people with their iPhones! But, since iPhone requires AT&T service and we like our Verizon â€“ we couldnâ€™t get one. Weâ€™ve been waiting for something similar that uses Verizonâ€™s network. Thatâ€™s the Droid â€“ powered by Google and Verizon. It came out a couple months ago, but we wanted to wait for some reviews. Theyâ€™ve been pretty good, and Jim couldnâ€™t stand it any longer, so he used is â€˜new every two yearsâ€™ credit with Verizon and brought home his new Droid just yesterday. As soon as he gives the thumbs up â€“ Iâ€™ll get one too.
This phone will be the biggest change in our digital life so far. It is always online with easy browsing to websites and email, and thatâ€™s just the beginning. Itâ€™s a computer with plenty of applications all itâ€™s own. GPS Navigation is included with the Droid for free. With a screen almost as large as our Garmin Nuvi, it might actually replace the Nuvi.
$350 for a full-blown Windows computer! Itâ€™s so small, I can fit it in my purse (yes, I do have a big purse!.) And, with plenty of battery life, I donâ€™t have to carry around the power supply. They claim 10.5 hours â€“ we havenâ€™t specifically tested that, but it has been used for at least a couple days of normal use without needing a charge.
Called Netbooks because their primary purpose is to connect you to the â€˜Net, these devices will handle all your basic computing. They donâ€™t have a DVD drive, and they donâ€™t come with enough memory or processing power to run Vista, so for quite a while they were sold with Windows XP. As soon as they started using Windows 7, we got one. Theyâ€™re a wonderful choice for RVers who need a second computer for when theyâ€™re on the road.
The keyboard and screen are small, I wouldnâ€™t want to work on them exclusively. But, you can always plug it into an external monitor and a USB keyboard. This low price point is making them a â€˜Why Not?â€™ purchase for many people who couldnâ€™t justify having a computer for personal use.
How about you? What did you get, or give, or buy for yourself this holiday season?