There is nothing like consumer electronics under the tree to excite a kid at Christmas. And an adult, if truth be told. Today’s dizzying array of electronic devices are a marvel, and it is changing the way we live and relate to one another.
Last January everything changed for my family when Rogers video closed its doors. Our only source for movies was now online. So we upgraded the wi-fi, hooked up the Wii, and while we were at it we hooked up our old second-hand computers too. Then I won a Kobo at a party, my son got an iPod, work gave me an iPad, and then I had to replace our old laptops with new laptops. In a few short month we went from not wired at all, to totally wired-in.
Now, I can now read my email simultaneously from no less than 8 devices in my house. I am typing this article in Word’s Web App on one of the new Macs, and I will be able to access this article from almost any device, anywhere in the world where I can get an Internet connection. We are most amused. As I type I hear the pings of new emails on my iPad, and my BlackBerry is cheekily flashing at me.
It took exactly one day since we got the new laptops to ask myself ‘can I just have one device that does what I need?’. The answer is no (for now) but one day I am sure that will happen…I hope it does anyway!
While we can all list the benefits of all of these devices (we are bombarded daily by ads that tell us why all this is good), but what are the downfalls of all these cool toys?
- Cost. From iPods to computers to phones and the monthly phone bills, these devices are not cheap. In less than 12 months we replaced failing computers, bought an iPod and a new Blackberry phone. Over $4,000 outlay for this year. That will leave a mark, and in 3 to 4 years I will likely get to do it all over again!
- Cords. I have a charger for each item and need to keep track of it (otherwise I pay the hefty price and inconvenience of replacing it so these expensive devices do not turn into paperweights).
- Productivity? I am not convinced! I am so distracted by the technology that I sometimes forget why I got it in the first place. And my kids have homework to do, and it cannot get done on an iPod!
If there is a cautionary tale here, it is that you can easily get sucked into the super-cool world of these devices. They are fun, but expensive and can end up keeping you on the couch for long periods of time, detracting you from family-time and can get in the way of other priorities (fitness, homework, or even housecleaning!).
Advice is a dangerous gift, but if I were to give any advice: first know what you want and have to do in terms of computing. Is it just email? Just surfing the Internet? Are you entering data into spreadsheets? Are you writing? Have a look at our post on online services for some helpful information on what services are available to you for free.
Second, you need to know your budget, and tell the salesperson what that number is. If they listen, you will find them very helpful, and you may find you need less than you think. If they do not listen they will try to sell you something you don’t need. If you feel that is happening, then don’t buy (there are lots of stores out there).
Doing the “right thing” in terms of personal technology often means doing more research than you like. It also means using judgement and willpower (before and after you buy). Know your needs, your budget, and your wants. And do not get so excited that you buy before you think.