5/100 Technology That Empowers Me

Let me start by saying that I’m not a gadgeteer. I don’t rush out for the latest and greatest. That said, apart from Mac computers I have had my fair share of palmtops and phones over the last decade. Nine gadgets in 10 years isn’t bad. I’ve only ever bought one gaming console, a Nintendo … Continue reading “5/100 Technology That Empowers Me”

Let me start by saying that I’m not a gadgeteer. I don’t rush out for the latest and greatest. That said, apart from Mac computers I have had my fair share of palmtops and phones over the last decade.

Nine gadgets in 10 years isn’t bad. I’ve only ever bought one gaming console, a Nintendo Wii, which I bought last Christmas and haven’t played much (it’s more for the kids) and other than that I have no “spare” computers. I’ve resisted electronic photo albums, I don’t have a massive HD TV, I do have a DVD recorder (at me mums), I don’t have a Gameboy, PSP, DS or any other handheld devoted to games, I’ve never owned a WindowsCE/PocketPC/Windows Mobile device though at one point I had real gadget-lust for a Casio model. I do have an iPod Video 60 GB which stores the kids movies and my music (which means I don’t need to break out the DVDs when the kids want to watch something). Every old Mac has gone to a new home so it’s only a few other smaller, more personal, gadgets that remain.

  • Newton MessagePad 120 – given away
  • Newton MessagePad 2000 – can’t quite bear to part with it
  • Palm Vx – lying somewhere about the house
  • Ericsson T39m – traded in…for…
  • Sony-Ericsson T68i – traded in…for…
  • Motorola RAZR V3 – in my room, as a spare phone
  • Sony-Ericsson K800i – spare phone again, just in case
  • Nokia N800 – sitting in the house, abandoned…
  • iPod touch – with a new master
  • iPhone – toy of choice

I guess it depends on how you define empowerment.


# To equip or supply with an ability; enable: “Computers … empower students to become intellectual explorers” (Edward B. Fiske).

For the most part, the phones never changed the way I worked. The only devices which have seriously changed the way I did things were the Newton MessagePad 2000 and the iPhone.

The MessagePad was the first device that made me leave my laptop at home. When travelling I’d have it on the plane, keyboard placed behind the screen, typing away. I’d download email over the modem before dinner at the hotel, eat dinner and reply to email and then when I returned to my room, upload my replies to the mailserver. It worked well. It had enough utility to mean I stopped bringing a heavy Dell laptop bag everywhere. When I got ethernet and a VT100 terminal emulator on it, it became indispensible for my work. I could connect to the routers and switches in the network using either a serial cable or over ethernet. The battery life lasted days rather than minutes (my DELL had a battery life of about 90 minutes) which meant it just stayed with me everywhere. Of course it was massive which meant I had to keep it in my hand, inside a large jacket pocket (and this was before fatigues-style cargo pants were fashionable). It changed my lifestyle. I felt connected. But it got left behind as my job became less “footwork” and more “deskwork” and the keyboard was no match for the Powerbook that graced my desk and powered a 21 inch monitor. People still wax about the Newton and take the jokes about it in a good-natured way. No-one who really used it found it funny – it was just essential and we’re reminded of it every time we empty the trash in Mac OS X or delete a message on the iPhone.

The iPhone has done much the same. Heavy laptop and bag doesn’t often leave the house. It’s still used in the evening because it has apps I need (iWork, Mail for the accounts I don’t carry with me, XCode) and a massive screen. But day to day I carry iPhone with me because it means when I get home I have 10-20 emails to clear down rather than 200-300. Again I feel connected but this time it’s the real thing. The technology here makes Star Trek look positively dated. The only issue is battery life. I get a full day of heavy usage out of it but I’d really like a good bit more than that. It’s not much different to my crappy, blocky, slow K800i but the difference being that I’m actively using the device all day. It’s checking my email every 15 minutes, dragging down updates all day, letting me view my new house, searching out WiFi hotspots continuously and dazzling me with the brightness of the screen. I’ve yet to completely run out but this device is working constantly for me. Web pages load faster than on my allegedly 3G K800i and the whole device is just a lot more fun.

Other than that – technology that empowers me?

  • WordPress – accept no substitutes.
  • Mac OS X – working with Windows every day makes me appreciate my Mac all the more.
  • Cocoa – based entirely on what I learned and achieved last night with NSMutableArray and NSTableView.
  • RSS – because it brings the web back to 1995 in terms of formatting and delivers it to your doorstep. Content-enriched!

There’s more. Digital photography so I can keep photos of my kids with me everywhere. Instant Messenger applications which help me work, collaborate, ask questions, help friends and otherwise be part of a rich social network. Text-Messaging (SMS) because it’s the norm for communication – it’s like RSS – a content rich form of communication with really low overheads. And I’d add social networking because it’s how I met her-indoors. And I’m really grateful for that.

I can’t wait to see what technology empowers my kids. They’ll take so much for granted and it’s getting to the point where they will need to have their own computer, complete with iSight, just to maintain their own social network. I would like to think that our children would grow up educated and informed and wouldn’t be stupid and arrogant enough to believe they can get away with things that are illegal or just wrong.

We can marvel at the iPhone but I marvelled at the Newton and the comparison there is 10 years of technology. Our iPhones now will look as bulky and ridiculous as the Newton does now by the time my kids are in their teens.

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