Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, December 6, 2013

Gadget or Tool -- What do you think?

I have noticed recently that a lot of the tech news writers use the term "gadget" whenever they want to depreciate a certain product or trend in the computer technology world. However, the term is not only being used in a derogatory manner, it is also being misused. A gadget is a small tool with a particular function. A specialized bottle or can opener is a gadget. A tablet computer or a laptop is not a gadget. All of the tech offerings are really general purpose tools used for hundreds of applications.

My use of the iPhone is a prime example of a general purpose tool. For example, with the newest versions, there is a built-in app for using the photo flash on the back of the iPhone as a flashlight substitute and I have used it for that purpose many times. The way my iPhone as a general purpose tool is used continues to expand as I find out more about its capabilities and the hundreds of thousands of applications or apps available.

From time to time, I have been accused of "buying all the latest gadgets." This is technically not true. I have been guilty of buying very specialized tools used for a specific repair or whatever, but I do not buy gadgets as such. One thing is certain, I do buy computers. I once figured out that I had spent more money on computers than all my other purchases combined including cars and houses. Of course, it helped in this calculation that I was in the computer business for many years. But now I do have the quadruple threat of the computer world: the desktop computer, the laptop computer, an iPad or tablet computer and a smartphone or iPhone. Why do I "need" all those devices?

Let me give you one good example of buying a device. Some years ago, I was asked to do a presentation about genealogy. I have taught classes all my life and even taught at a local community college for about five years, but this was a "presentation" with a PowerPoint and all the formalities. I decided to buy a video projector, just in case I might need one for that presentation and maybe a few in the future. I was quite concerned that I was buying another electronic device that might not get used much. Well, that turned out a lot differently than I expected. That Epson projector has been used hundreds of times and dragged all over the country.

I think that when a device becomes integrated into your day to day activities, it stops being a "gadget" and becomes a tool. I have building contractor friends carry around a truckload of tools almost everywhere they go every day. My wife always surprises me with the things she carries around with her every day also. My lineup of tech devices has become a basic day-to-day part of writing, presenting and teaching almost every day of the week. I am constantly trying new ways to speed up the process of writing and preparing for a seemingly endless series of classes and presentations. Don't get me wrong. I am not complaining. I enjoy teaching and writing. It is what I do. But don't begrudge me my devices as I attempt to cope with the huge flood of information every day.

A last note. All of my devices are connected. My calendar, my files, my apps, my genealogy files, everything is connected. So I can pick up my iPhone and start working while I am sitting and waiting in line or for some other event. This is actually what I dreamed about being able to do many, many years ago. So, in effect, I am living the dream.

The next time you head some one referred to as a "gadget" collector, make sure that is really what is happening.

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