First-Gen iPod: My First Love
I felt proud and excited when I ventured to the Apple Store to make my first purchase in January 2002--the first-generation iPod. It held a mere five gigabytes, held 1,000 songs, and featured a mechanical scroll wheel--all for $399. No matter that it felt like a boxy bar of soap--I was smitten. As was the trend to do, back then, on our first outing we went to a local landmark to have our picture taken, and sent to a Web site that showed visions of early iPod users around the world. Together, we posed at the Santa Monica Pier's arch, my smiling face reflected in the iPod's mirrored surface. Things were good--for a while. The iPod kept me company in strange, lonely cities where I listened to songs about strange, lonely cities while riding trains and buses. The iPod really understood me. Back then, the concept of "shuffle" was new--and I was impressed with the iPod's ability to gauge my mood. We had a good run--perhaps two and a half years. But by the fall of 2004, the iPod could no longer keep up with me. The battery life--rated at 10 hours by Apple--simply gave up, and lasted a mere 30 minutes. Then, the 1.8-inch hard drive died. I was heart broken. No portable music player will ever take its place.
Roomba Scheduler: Things Got Awkward
A generous person gifted a Roomba to my husband and I as a wedding gift. We had wanted a Roomba for a while--as newlyweds, it seemed to be the perfect, low-maintenance addition to our small household. It easily fit in at our completely carpeted apartment, where we set up its living quarters, and giggled delightedly as it ambled about the place, bumping into chair legs and getting stuck under the couch. I watched it do its work, and followed it around--even though all the etiquette books suggested that stalking the hired help is no way to run an efficient household. I couldn't help myself. I hardly ever used the automated scheduling function--where the Roomba could sweep up while we were out--since I didn't trust it to be alone: What if it took something valuble, or broke something? But after months of my close-watching, it seems that Roomba had enough of my hovering. After we moved to a new city, Roomba quit. Sure, it pretended it was ill--bleating and blinking lights with strange coded messages. But with the warranty long expired, and all hacks and DIY-fix options exhausted, we knew Roomba was just sick of us.
Tivo Series 2: Its Not You, Its Me
We got our Tivo when the concept of time-shifting--watching TV programming anytime rather than its scheduled time--was new. At first, the money we spent on the Tivo left us too poor to subscribe to cable or satellite services, leaving us with an 11-inch CRT television and over-the-air channels. But Tivo brought us happiness in those salad days--MASH, The Simpsons, Star Trek--reruns were our greatest joy. But eventually, we got better jobs, and saved up some money. Got a bigger apartment, and a bigger TV. We got cable, too, and Tivo stayed with us, keeping us up to speed on The Daily Show, which, with our tough jobs, meant that we couldn't normally stay up late enough to watch (11pm? That's just crazy). Then, things got really good: We got an HDTV. But Tivo...Tivo couldn't record in HD. The cable company offered up a DVR for a few bucks a month, and just like that, we ditched Tivo. Yes, eventually an HD Tivo came along, but by they we were already in deep with our Motorola DVR. We know it doesn't love us like Tivo did, but its too late now.
Treo 650: The Best, Until Something Better Came Along
In 2005, the iPhone was just a twinkle in Apple's eye. American onsumers demanding push e-mail and a reliable operating system had two real choices: a staid BlackBerry, and the slightly more exciting Treo. I went for the Treo 650, which had an expandable memory slot, a decent music player, a touch screen, Bluetooth and a camera. The Blackberry? Let's just say it wasn't media-savvy, at the time. As my first smartphone, the Treo 650 was a great companion--its blinking e-mail indicator light tought me tough, but necessary lessons about work-life balance. I was able to send e-mail from anywhere, capture photo and video on the fly, and open most Web-sites. Back then, that was novel. But, little things started to get on my nerves. The Treo 650 developed an unsighly crack on one corer of its casing. The browser was slow as molasses. When the first iPhone came out, I wanted to get out of my relationship with the Treo, but I could tell it was begging me to stick around and give it a chance. I did. But by the time the iPhone 3G presented itself, the feeling was mutual. The Treo's charging mechanism stopped working, and the phone frozen often and lost all my data. It was looking for a way out. I gave it one: the recycling center. I immediately went for iPhone 3G and haven't looked back. Things are great, and we're definitely still in love.
MacBook: Keeping Things Fresh
An unexpected cash windfall in 2006 (matured gift bonds, baby!) allowed me to splurge on a MacBook--the first with Intel's Core 2 Duo chipset. I had recently experienced a series of bad relationships with HP-Compaq laptops that each managed to sport a failed hard drive, and I was ready for something a little higher-class. The MacBook did not disappoint. The 13.3-inch widescreen, glossy LCD and svelt 5-pound body were sexy compared to what I was used to. I've been using it at home ever since. But about six months ago, I finally maxed out its 60GB hard drive. In retrospect--what was I thinking? Why didn't I upgrade to at least 100GB? My drive was full with photos and videos. I also had more than two years worth of sofware filling up its measely 512MB of RAM, bringing the computer to its knees. Around the same time, I started dallying around with netbooks for work, leaving the MacBook under my bed. However, I began to miss the Mac. It was things like the perfectly integrated iSight camera and comfortable keyboard that I missed the most. I decided that our relationship could be salvaged--I popped in 2GB of RAM and suddenly the computer was responsive. Now, I'm finally going to upgrade to Mac OSX Leopard...why shouldn't it have the newer operating system? With these changes, I think there's life in the old machine yet. I expect to keep it around for another couple of years.
Philips SPC1300NC Web Cam: Playing Matchmaker
Sometimes, watching someone else get pleasure out of a gadget can be almost as good as loving it yourself. Giving the gift of tech can be a good reminder about why we love technology to begin with: It can be a life-changer. My grandfather lives in Florida, while the rest of the family lives in California or New York. When my grandmother passed away last year, he was utterly alone. By outfitting his basic Dell desktop with this Philips Web cam, and an installation of Skype, I was able to change all that. Any time of day or night, he can talk to his daughter and grandchildren face-to-face. The 6 megapixel Web cam with built-in microphone maintains 2 megapixels during video streaming at 90 frames per second, and has a face-tracking feature that hones in on grandpa's face. The wide-angle lens lets us see the whole room he's sitting in, too. It gives us peace of mind to get a window into his life via the Web cam, and vice versa.
Logitech Squeezebox: Making Beautiful Music Together
The Squezebox is my husband's baby. Since he's a geeky music snob, iTunes (which doesn't stream big fat FLAC files) wasn't an option. He needed a way to stream music from our PC in the office to our stereo in the living room. So, a few years ago he met a guy on a street corner (arranged via Craigslist) and bought his Squeezebox. The tiny black box had immediate benefits. Hundreds of gigabytes of music could be sorted, selected, and arranged in playlists over the network via a laptop on the couch in the living room. Our musical demands traveled over the WiFi to the box, up the stairs to the office, then down again through the airwaves to the box, and then to the living room speakers. It was magic. It was romantic: there was always music playing in our house, tailored precisely to our wants and needs. There still is. Since then, we've added a Squeezebox Boom in the kitchen. Now the house is really in harmony.
Sena WalletSkin: This Week's Arm Candy
If you love a gadget enough, you get a little vain about it. You want it to dress up, look good--and make you look good. That's how I feel about my iPhone 3G. Since getting it in July 2008, I've tried out a variety of cases for it. I'm definitely not ready for commitment, but I have my favorites that I like to take out for a night on the town. This week that decorative case is the Sena WalletSkin. Strangers have stopped me in the street to ask about it. Businessmen on airplanes ask me where I got it, so they can buy it for their wives (or mistresses). It is ideal for women who own an iPhone and don't want to carry a large purse on evenings out--that's because it holds all the necessities. The snap on the case opens to reveal slots for ID, credit cards, and even cash. The iPhone, with WalletSkin, fits easily into a small clutch or wristlet. I'll be toting it on Saturday evening. But next week, who knows?
BagelDrive: Simple, But Cute and Funny
Some gadgets are so useless and silly that we buy them only to make other people laugh. USB accessories are a dime a dozen and come attached to all manner of oddities: severed fingers, vacuum cleaners, plastic sushi. The BagelDrive is no different. With only 512MB of storage, it hardly earns the space it takes up in my bag (it is at least 3 inches in diameter). I only carry it so that I can offer it up to people and say, "Care for a giganosh?" Because it is made of a sort of vitrified real bagel, it looks good enough to eat.
Kindle 2: Out Of My League
Usually, I get myself any gadget I set my sights on. But for some reason, Amazon.com's second-generation Kindle intimidates me. At $359 it certainly isn't cheap for a device that essentially only does one thing. But maybe its Kindle 2's simplicity that has inspired my tech-crush. When the first Kindle launched, I dismissed it as a product designed for, well, old people. Then, there's the fact that if I really want to, I can already read books on my laptop or phone. But as I saw how much people enjoyed reading the Kindle, I began to think that this is a product I could really curl up with (on the couch, to read a book). More than 230,000 titles are available. Of course, Kindle 2 is playing hard to get: It doesn't launch until later this month, and there's already a waiting list a mile long. Kindle 2 just might be to good for me.
What about you?
It is hard to predict just which gadgets will inspire a real bond. Over the years, which gadgets have earned your favor? Which have inspired your ire? Or, maybe you hate the idea of humans forming any kind of emotional attachment to a hunk of silicon, metal and plastic. Let us know, below.