Saturday, February 02, 2008
Americans have always been on the move. Perhaps this trait comes from the fact that we're all descended from pioneers of some sort or another, but the fact is that even now, we hate to stay still. Which is why gadgets that allow us to stay connected and productive while we're on the move are so popular.
It used to be that in order to be accessible, people had to stay in their homes or offices so that they could be close to their phones. The same was true in order to get work done. While many older type writers were fairly mobile- especially the models that were powered mechanically instead of by electricity- the advantages of computers kept people in one place in order to use the bulky machines for many years. Even the invention of the laptop computer, with its high price tag and limited power, wasn't a good enough alternative to the less portable though far cheaper desktop computers of decades past.
In the past decade or so, we've seen an explosion of gadgets that allow allow their users to do what they have to do without being fixed in any one place. The two most basic examples of these gadgets would have to be the mobile phone and the laptop computer. Mobile phones basically allow people to take calls no matter where they are, and as laptop computers have caught up to their desktop counterparts in terms of value and power they've become a legitimate alternative for many people to stay in productive while in a greater variety of places.
More recently though, a greater variety of gadgets have appeared to make people even more mobile. For example, if the major thing that a laptop computer is used for is to store address information, it's better to dispense with the computer altogether and just store that information on the mobile phone where it's more accessible anyway. For basic word processing, a palm top computer might be a better option than a laptop computer. (There are professional writers who have composed short stories on palm top computers in the spare moments they have over the course of the day.)
Of course a variety of newer gadgets make the palm top computer obsolete by incorporating its capabilities into mobile phones. The result is called a smart phone and there are a bunch of gadgets that qualify as smart phones on the market right now. Many of these gadgets outdo palm top computers in terms of functionality with the use of built in keyboards for thumb typing and web access for browsing and email. (To be fair, many palm top computers have these features as well, but they're fair from standard.)
In addition to all of these productivity and communications gadgets, there are also a variety of gadgets that can provide entertainment while on the go. These are mostly adaption of MP3 players with the additional capability of playing video and often video games. More recently, these capabilities have been included in smart phone type gadgets. This means that many smart phones on the market today are really completely miniaturized offices and entertainment centers that can be taken anywhere.
For the first time in human history, it's possible to watch TV, talk on the phone, listen to music, and write a novel all on the same gadget. That's progress.