What if you could choose only one tech gadget? It seems like a silly question at first glance, but it actually isn’t so silly if you think about it. Our lifestyles today are filled with so many different gadgets that it makes my head spin. There are so many different “necessary” gadgets on the market, including computers, smartphones, pocket-sized pads that aren’t phones, tablets, dedicated e-readers, and more. Then there are a whole slew of admittedly unnecessary but desirable gadget toys such as game boxes, portable game machines, quality digital cameras, portable memory storage devices, and who knows what all else. There are so many reasons to keep up with everything by having at least one of everything, from social pressure not to be left out to the belief that your life will somehow be easier or more efficient if you get the stuff.
The truth is, of course, that throughout most of human history, this stuff didn’t even exist at all. My own grandparents each have an amazing story to tell about the day they first saw an electric light bulb in action and the day they first installed electricity in their own homes, and what a marvelous invention it seemed at the time. In fact, my grandmother even remembers that, while she thought electricity was neat, she couldn’t imagine what possible practical use it might have. The world has come a very long way in a very short time.
None of these gadgets are really “necessary” to life at all. We could live just fine without any of it. Oh, I’m not saying that we would want to – at least, I know I really don’t want to go unplugged. I like my gadgets. But if some sort of “Amish ray” hit the Earth tomorrow and made everything stop working, I’d survive. In fact, I’d probably get more exercise and find fewer excuses to put off doing things I don’t want to do, so I might even be better off for it.
This brings me back to the original question. It might be healthier, not to mention easier on the finances (for not buying new gadgets all the time), if I had fewer gadgets. Of course, many of the gadgets I have really are useful. Access to information and instant communications are especially important for the way I run my life and business. I also make practical use of many other aspects and features of various gadgets that I own and use on a regular basis. Still, it all seems like too much. It would be better to simplify my life down to the very minimum number of tech gadgets.
I could easily throw out so many things that are nothing more than toys. I mean, I can use my practical gadgets as toys, too, so I don’t need specialized toy gadgets. That still leaves me with several different gadgets on hand, however.
What if I absolutely had to pick just one?
Well, that’s actually a very tough question. What do I value more than anything else? I don’t even know. I’ve been thinking about it all week, and I still don’t know.
Obviously, I would choose a multi-use device, something that does nearly everything at least a little bit. This means I’ve narrowed it down to a desktop computer, a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone.
My spouse and I currently own a desktop computer, a laptop, an iPod, and multiple smartphones. We do not own (and have never owned) a tablet, though I’ve been lusting after one for a bit now. So the question is: which one would I choose, if I were to choose just one?
Now, to my way of thinking, a normal desktop computer is best most of the time. I like the large screen and the nice normal-sized keyboard. Phones have really tiny screens and no keyboard at all. Tablets have a nice-sized screen, though still smaller than a desktop’s screen – and don’t seem to make use of a keyboard, either. (I don’t know if you could plug one in if you wanted to.) A laptop computer could possibly have a fairly large screen (though none are as large as my desktop’s), but the built-in keyboards are always small and cramped, and therefore difficult to use. Of course, I can plug in a normal keyboard into the laptop, which makes it significantly less portable but does give it the keyboard advantage.
The main drawback to the desktop computer is the lack of portability. When I use my desktop, I go to where it is, sit down in the special computer chair, and start typing.
For maximum portability, the iPod or the smartphone has it all. Those devices fit in my pocket! I don’t need any extra items to make them work, either – as long as these guys have enough battery charge to work, they go anywhere and take up very little space doing it. They do just about everything a desktop computer would do – except, of course, use a keyboard. And those screens are pretty tiny. Sometimes tiny screens are just fine, but I’m not sure I’d like to be stuck with only that tiny size all the time. And I know for a fact that the lack of keyboard would bother me entirely too often. The smartphone simply would not work for me as my sole device; it’s a fantastic additional device, but it would not work as my only device.
A tablet has the larger screen, and therefore larger size. I don’t own one, but they seem smaller than the paper notebooks I used to carry to class back in the stone ages when I was a student. I could easily cradle one in my arms, or stuff it in a tote bag, which makes it portable enough for most purposes. The larger screen isn’t as nice as my huge desktop computer’s screen, but it looks like a great compromise size. The tablet holds a lot of promise as a possible compromise for a single device. The main problem is the lack of a traditional keyboard, which would probably bug me too much to make it my only device.
Though the laptop does have a keyboard, it is less portable than the tablets. You can lug laptops around, and I actually did lug one around once upon a time. However, I needed a dedicated bag the size of a briefcase in order to bring the laptop and all its essential accessories everywhere. Oh, and the regular-sized plug-in keyboard wouldn’t fit in that bag, so I usually had to leave that at home.
By comparison to tablets, the laptop doesn’t seem to be quite as desirable in most respects. However, it becomes a lot more desirable if I don’t have a desktop computer sitting at home. The larger possible screen size and the keyboard more than make up for being less portable.
Therefore, if I could only have either a laptop or a tablet, I think I would choose the laptop.
That means my one device would be either a laptop or a desktop. The question is, which one?
Well, for me, the desktop wins in the end. I keep going back and looking over my shoulder at the laptop and saying “but… it’s PORTABLE!” and thinking maybe I should choose it, just in case. However, the truth is, for my own lifestyle, I hardly ever use the laptop any more. Oh, I used to use it back when I had to go into the corporate office every day; I would lug the thing back and forth. If I were still living that lifestyle, then my answer would be different. Today, however, I rarely even touch my laptop. I would probably use it more if I didn’t have the iPod, granted, but I still wouldn’t use it as much as my desktop.
It all boils down to the good keyboard and the normal-sized screen for me. I don’t mind having to go to where my computer is. I suppose that makes me a dinosaur. However, I have my desktop computer in the best place in my house to work. The location is excellent. If I tossed the desktop and started using my laptop exclusively, I imagine I would work in this spot most of the time, anyway.
In fact, if I kept the screen and keyboard, I would probably plug the laptop into these things and come in and use it like a desktop anyway. Since the desktop is a more powerful computer, it seems silly to do that just in case I want to change locations once in a blue moon.
Now, other people might choose differently. My Mom, for example, moves her laptop between two usual spots. She plays games, talks on AIM, and does other less strenuous things in front of the television, with the laptop on her lap. Then, when she wants to do something important, she takes her laptop and hooks it up to the keyboard and monitor in her home office. For her, that’s a good setup. In fact, she doesn’t have a desktop any more because she finds it less bothersome to move one computer back and forth than to switch her work between two computers. So for her, the laptop is the better choice.
For me, however, it’s got to be the desktop. It’s just a more powerful machine, and I don’t really need the roaming.