Copyright © 2007 Henrietta W. Hay
January 19, 2007
I was born about 40 years too soon. Here I am with absolutely no excuse to buy an iPod. All I can do is drool.
There are car nuts and ski nuts and neat nuts, but I am a gadget nut.
The American Heritage Dictionary says that a gadget is, "a small specialized mechanical or electronic device; a contrivance." I would call it an adult toy, something you definitely don't really need, but want to play with. Sometimes it is something that will actually make life better, like wireless headphones that allow hard of hearing people to hear and understand television speech. Actually, though, that may or may not make life better.
Many things are taken for granted today which were gadgets when they were first invented. How about paper clips, safety pins, pill bottles?
But in later generations the gadgets are mostly electronic ones.
Ah, that first working computer I had. It was a Tandy TRS-80, sold by
Radio Shack. It was an absolute basic computer which came on the market in 1977. It was a provable gadget, because more than 50,000 of them were sold. I had to program it myself. The process of learning how is in the list of things I prefer to forget. But I was able to produce several workable programs, including an inventory of the furniture in my house. The last line read, "400 Print 'I don't know how to put this away yet.'" And I did a financial statement and printed it on four inch wide silver computer paper.
Now that was a gadget! But by the time I became an Apple fan, the computer was a basic part of our lives.
Not too many years ago I was having lunch in a downtown restaurant when I saw a woman holding her hand to her ear and talking to herself. My lunch companion said, "Oh, she's talking on the phone." That was a bit hard to believe -- chatting with someone miles away while having lunch in a public place. But, of course, almost everybody except me owned a cell phone in a very few years.
One day I was sharing a lunch table here at the Commons with a local doctor and his mother. The conversation was quite normal until he showed me his computer. It was less than half the size of a cigarette package and contained extensive Information about medicines, his medical records and his schedule, al in that little package. Today, of course, an instrument smaller than that contains a phone, computer, e-mail, camera and, for all I know, a small stove.
The digital camera has taken over amateur photography almost completely. Nearly everyone I know has one and you never know when you are going to be shot. I have pictures of my London granddaughter that never saw film or a postage stamp. They flew in cyberspace directly to my computer. That is one of the gadgets that I really envy.
If you are under 60 and don't have an i-pod you are definitely not "cool." I have been told that you can put as many as 6000 songs on it, or several books. I guess even if I had one there would be only five or six songs that I can remember. I am definitely "uncool."
The day of the gadget is with us, but I fear I am long past it. For the sake of my pocketbook, it is probably a very good thing.