In the great tradition of great (and not-so-great) bloggers, it’s about time I compiled a list.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not one of these anally-retentive types who has to have lists for everything, like the Rob character in High Fidelity, who catalogues pretty much everything in his life – and reveals much about himself in the process – as a succession of ‘top 5’ lists. In fact, I have a long history of compiling lists which I subsequently fail to complete / lose / choose to ignore (delete as applicable).
Anyhow, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I do like my boys’ toys. So, for what it’s worth, here are my top 7 gadgets du jour, in no particular order. Feel free to read into the list what you will …
1. iPhone 3G: It’s an Apple product, so of course it’s gorgeous to look at. (I spent much of the first 24 hours after buying it stroking it lovingly as one might a favourite pet.) But it’s so much more, and it’s the 3G and wi-fi capability which are the iPhone’s real killer apps. Where else can you access the internet (well, most of it), get directions via GPS and Google Maps, download and read e-books, listen to music (and download more via iTunes), and – most importantly – turn your phone into a lightsaber or tricorder (complete with sound effects), all in one pocket-sized box? Oh, and you can make telephone calls on it too, if you want to get all 20th century on me. Sure, it’s not perfect: the battery life is poor and the camera is rubbish. Who cares? I spent last night out at dinner with some friends; S spent half the evening excitedly playing with my iPhone. Must. Have. Gadget.
2. HD camcorder: Full-HD capability. Ability to record 4 hours of HD content on a single 16 GB SD card which, at the time of writing, can be bought for as little as £25. (Or alternatively, there are models which record directly on to an internal hard drive with greater storage capacity than a Sky+ box.) Wrapped up in a package about two-thirds the size of a Coke can. All for less than £400, in the case of the camcorder I recently purchased (a Panasonic HDC-SD9, if you want to know). Anyone remember the old VHS over-the-shoulder jobs which were all you could get 15 years ago? They are about as comparable with the new generation of HD camcorders as the BBC Micro is with a MacBook Air.
3. Sky+ (or better still, Sky HD): Buying a HDD (hard disk drive) recorder nearly three years ago revolutionised my TV viewing. No more waiting for the video to finish recording. No more trying to work out which tape that episode of The West Wing I recorded two months ago is on. No more going on holiday and only being able to record 8 hours’ worth of stuff. On top of all that, having Sky+ doubles your money, with its ability to record two programmes simultaneously, obviating the need to scour the schedules for repeat showings of programmes whenever you have a clash. So now there is no excuse for missing re-runs of Deep Space Nine on Bravo. Result!
4. iPod: Yes, they’re pretty much ubiquitous these days. And yes, there are other cheaper and/or better MP3 players out there. But it doesn’t matter. The iPod is still the best-looking, and iTunes is still the best front-end application for those who, like me, just want something easy to use. It’s not exaggerating things to say my iPod has transformed the way I listen to music. The ability to access my entire collection no matter where I am without having to lug around 300 CDs: let’s just say I listen to a broader variety more often that I ever would have done. More than that, my 60GB video iPod is now nearly three years old, and I don’t feel a burning need to upgrade it for the latest model. For a gadget, that’s amazing.
5. Noise-cancelling headphones: The best combination of gadgets I own is the iPod coupled with a pair of Bose QuietComfort 3 headphones, which I bought in Canada a couple of years back. Yes, they’re incredibly expensive – around £270 in the UK – but, boy, do they make a difference. The benefit is most obvious on planes and trains (the first time you try it on a plane, the ensuing near-hush makes you think someone has switched off the engines), but even at my desk at work, it’s made me realise how much background noise there is, from the hum of air conditioning to the gentle buzz of fluorescent lighting. The sound quality is excellent too; I rarely use my standard iPod in-the-ear ‘phones any more.
6. PowerMonkey Explorer: I’ve just ordered one of these, because I’m fed up of always having to cart around a variety of chargers wherever we go, or getting caught short when my power-hungry iPhone runs out of juice and there isn’t a mains point or USB port in sight. One bit of kit with the various relevant connectors, which slips easily into a bag or pocket and acts as a backup charger for any of my gadgets which need a power top-up. Better still, it can be recharged via an attachable solar cell as well as at the mains. Portable power, it’s the way forward. I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to get one.
7. DAB digital radio: No more crackly sound, but more importantly access to the full array of BBC digital-only stations, which means no more cursing at the radio when they announce the football match I want to listen to can be followed “on our sister station, 5 Live Sports Extra”. We have one DAB radio in the house and another incorporated into the stereo in my car. It makes a small difference, but it’s a big difference, if you know what I mean.
Okay, I know seven is an odd number to stop at, but we are in an economic downturn, after all, so a top ten feels a bit decadent. It’s nothing to do with the fact I couldn’t think of anything else I own which fit the bill. Still, Christmas is just around the corner … plenty of time to aim for the full ten …