Technology Top 5 for 2009

by Chris Guld,

Jim and I are always learning about new technology – it’s what we’ve done since the early 80s – and there is plenty to keep us occupied.  But, 2009 has been remarkable when it comes to the proliferation of useful technology tools.

There’s something qualitatively different this year about technology and gadgets.  People are actually *using* them.  You don’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 they’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 – I use a laptop computer a *lot* and  I don’t listen to very much music, otherwise I’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 – maybe we’ll get enough credit to buy our next toy (a USB Video Camera)!

Ok, here they are – in reverse order:

#5: USB External Hard Drives

I put this in last place only because they aren’t sexy.  But, OMG are they useful.  They’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, you’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 haven’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.  “Jane, stop this crazy thing!”  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 I’m doing.  It actually fits in the RV.  I’ve logged over 12 hours of exercise in December and I”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 – we couldn’t get one.  We’ve been waiting for something similar that uses Verizon’s network.  That’s the Droid – powered by Google and Verizon.  It came out a couple months ago, but we wanted to wait for some reviews.  They’ve been pretty good, and Jim couldn’t stand it any longer, so he used is ‘new every two years’ credit with Verizon and brought home his new Droid just yesterday.  As soon as he gives the thumbs up – I’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 that’s just the beginning.  It’s a computer with plenty of applications all it’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.

#1: NetBook

$350 for a full-blown Windows computer!  It’s so small, I can fit it in my purse (yes, I do have a big purse!.)  And, with plenty of battery life, I don’t have to carry around the power supply. They claim 10.5 hours – we haven’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 ‘Net, these devices will handle all your basic computing.  They don’t have a DVD drive, and they don’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.  They’re a wonderful choice for RVers who need a second computer for when they’re on the road.

The keyboard and screen are small, I wouldn’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 ‘Why Not?’ purchase for many people who couldn’t justify having a computer for personal use.


How about you?  What did you get, or give, or buy for yourself :-) this holiday season?

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5 Responses to Technology Top 5 for 2009

  1. Charles Foss says:

    Love my new Droid, but GPS app is not yet ready for prime time. Great to be connected. I “pull” mail on demand rather than have the phone notify me of every message. Saves battery, also. Minor complaints, major convenience. Happy Droiding!

  2. Jim Linville says:

    If the lights in my RV blink, I will know that I am in the same RV park with you and your electronics and if I “think” I hear thunder look outside. It could just be you exercising.

    A couple of comments:
    1. I have used gmail for years because it has better junk mail controls than many other email providers. Plus I can link multiple gmail accounts easily together. I.E. I use a “more public” gmail account for registering on the net and correspondence such as this. Note the”reg” in the above address . For “people I know”, I use a separate gmail account.
    2. It is unlikely a phone will ever replace my Nuvi 1490s and their huge 5″ screen in my RV and toad. The 1490 I put in my toad was $299 at Staples and Best Buy matched it. Even Verizon has dead spots – particularly in states with small populations! Thank you I will stay with the dedicated GPS
    3. I went with a Toshiba netbook during the summer BECAUSE it had XP. MS does not have a stellar reputation with the release of new operating systems and I avoided the Windows Me of the 21st Century(Vista). My laptop and 2 home desktops all have XP. I will wait until Windows 7 has some mileage on it before I consider switching OS with new computers.
    4. Kindles are great ereaders with a vast library of books available at Amazon, but you should know that my wife and I both enjoy our Sony ereaders and the ability to download EPUB books from our hometown library from anywhere in the USA.

    my thoughts
    Have a happy new year!

  3. Dave Watkins says:

    Hey, like your 5 toy listing, but I’d go with the iPhone before the Droid. Also, Google will have their ow phone on the market later this week. Are you using any Apple systems or are you wedded to the Wintel environment? If you’d like to convert your new netbook to an Apple unit running Snow Leopard, read about the Hackintoch on the web. I have such a unit and it’s very nice. Of course it’s rumored that Apple will have a tablet (iSlate could be the name) announcement to make January 26. Stay tuned.

    Thanks for the good work you guys do.

    dave watkins
    130 fairway drive
    washington, nc 27889

  4. Brooker says:

    I feel I need to add my two cents,
    # 5 is great everyone should have one mine is a 1 terabyte so I will not run out of room
    4) To expensive and the kindle received a bad rap from consumers the Sony is much better
    3) The Wii is a great choice and great need for many
    2) The Droid is a good choice many around and yes I would not go with Att either
    1) Net books are a waste, to small, to low on resources, can’t upgrade, and now laptops are the same price, bad choice in my option

  5. Rosemarie says:

    I bought an Innovative Technology device to transfer our 35 mil slides that we took of our children while stationed in Europe in the early ’60′s. I have transferred about 200 slides onto my laptop so far, although you don’t seem to be able to improve the pictures with Picasa. I have tried the “I’m Feeling Lucky” tab but nothing seemed to happen. I am entering dates and comments. Once I have all the pictures on the laptop I then have to decide which is the best way to get them onto a disc so each of the kids can have a copy. I need something easy so if anyone has used something easy, I would be interested in hearing from you.

    The next thing I hope to buy is an external hard drive to put our travel pictures on, rather than discs.

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