I’ve always had a weird form of Technojoy.  I love technology, I love new gadgets, and I like playing with technological… stuff.  The issue I’ve always had with technology is that it’s prohibitively expensive to always be on the cutting edge.  The cooler, shinier, sleeker, gadget-ier it is, the more expensive it is.  This expense is pretty well directly at odds with my frugal (read: cheap) nature.

There are lots of gadgets which are nearly ubiquitous that I live without, or have lived without until recently.  I’ve never really owned a modern laptop because I have a desktop computer which I keep reasonably well upgraded.  Since I don’t travel that often, a laptop seems like one of those luxuries that I wouldn’t get a lot of use out of.  I do have a “craptop” which is a 12 year-old beast I inherited from my wife when she upgraded, and really the craptop is typically enough for my needs.  It plays my MUD software when I’m on a trip, and has the basics one needs from a mobile computer (internet, wireless, word-processing).  This year my wife will likely upgrade her laptop again (that is, she will replace it with a shiny new one), so I’ll likely once again inherit her old laptop and the craptop will be re-purposed into a satellite media platform for our craft room.

The craptop is very similar to this. I like how the guy that took this picture left his smokes in. Classy.

Smartphones are another gadget I’ve done mostly without.  I do have one now, but it’s about as stupid a smartphone as you can get while still calling it one.  I’ve never been much into the smartphone.  Many of the apps I hear about seem largely useless except in very specific instances and many of these apps require you to pay for their limited functionality.  My dumbphone does what I need from a smartphone: it makes and recieved calls, does text messaging, browses the internet, and takes grainy pictures when I have need.  I’ve also got a few games on it, but I largely use my DS if I want to play a game while on the road.  The only thing I wish it did was GPS, but having seen GPS phones in action, I realize I’m probably better off just buying a dedicated GPS device rather than relying on the kleeky phone version of GPS.

Plus the monthly fees for a service plan that can handle a smartphone is more than I want to pay.

Tablet PCs don’t really intrigue me, both because they’re rather expensive, and I’m not really sure I’d actually get any use from it.  It might be nice to take on a trip in place of a laptop, but most of the traveling I do is for business and I typically need the full functionality of a craptop on such a trip.  That is, I typically need to read CDs and DVDs, something which tablets don’t typically do.  An e-reader is a different creature here, and I certainly want one of those. My wife is considering upgrading to a new e-reader so I’d be happy enough with her old one since it would do what I need: display books and PDFs.

Actually, a tablet PC would be really nice at work so I could take schematics with me on repairs and fill out PM sheets while on site, but it’s rather unlikely that I should expect the hospital to start handing those out to us engineers.  So it goes.  I could also see a tablet PC being useful for playing videos for Tron during long car rides; though I’m unconvinced that a $400 tablet PC would do this job any better than a $75 portable DVD player.

Tablets are one of those things that would be an awesome replacement for paper but a few things need to be streamlined or removed from society before we’re really going to be ready for that.  The first is voice to text needs to be firmed up so you can speak at a tablet rather than use cumbersome touch screen keyboards (or some other kind of portable, accessible user interface device needs to be dreamed up).  Second, the policy of requiring employees to print out all their important paperwork would need to go away.  My work is “paperless” which means we fill everything out on the computer before we print it out for our own records.  This really removes the benefit of using tablets as a work device for anything other than a handy way to have portable schematics.  As an idea I like the tablet, but as yet the execution has not caught up to the ideal.

THE FUTURE! OK, now print out two copies and sign one of them. Send the signed copy to Equipment Management and keep the other copy in your giant filing cabinet full of similar forms. Oh, and you'll have to dock that thing to your PC before you can print on this network. In fact, you might as well print out 3 copies so we can keep one in the general employee cabinet as well. You should sign that one too.

Another gadget I’ve lived mostly without is an MP3 player.  I like music, but I don’t typically listen to it anywhere other than in the car, and my car has a CD player that plays MP3 data CDs.  If I’m in the house, generally I put a movie in instead of music because I prefer the experience of ignoring a movie rather than ignoring music.  If I’m traveling as a passenger I typically have my DS with me, so I use my headphones to connect to that rather than a music machine.  If I’m walking somewhere I typically don’t find a sound track necessary to get me where I’m going.  And, if I’m reading, I typically get so engrossed in the book that I don’t even notice the lack of ambient music.  So yes, I’m not an audiophile by any stretch of the imagination.  Heck, I can’t even tell the difference between a 5q encoded Ogg Vorbis file and raw sound most days.  Granted,it’s harder to tell the difference than you might think.

I told you all of that to let you know that I recently purchased an MP3 player for my car.  My car has an aux jack for MP3 players so I figured I could get myself a cheapo player and fit all my music on it rather than swapping MP3 CDs around every time I want to listen to something different.  I’m still in the process of getting all my music onto the damn thing, so time will tell if this is an idea that pans out for me.

There was probably a quicker way to tell you that.

-Confusion is a state of mind, or is it?