Scott Hanselman

Four Life-Changing Gadgets - GPS, iPod (MP3) and Tivo (DVR)

May 23, '07 Comments [14] Posted in Musings
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USA Today just published their 25 years of 'eureka' moments...their list of the 25 gadgets that changed people's lives. To be clear, these are gadgets, so we're not touting the creation of the MRI here, or the LifeStraw.

There was an article in PCWorld a while back called "The 50 Greatest Gadgets of the Past 50 Years," after reading that article I realized that I might be an early adopter.

For me there's three four devices that have changed my day to day life experience. I could live without cell phones and blackberries, as addictive as they are, but these devices all did one thing and did it well. They ultimately gave me time - the one thing we're all running out of. They say Real Estate is a good investment because "they're not making any more land" (Unless you live in Dubai, where they are actually making more land) but anything that gives me more time, or makes the time I have more useful and enjoyable is a good thing.

In no particular order:

GPS - Handheld Global Positioning Systems

I love my Garmin Nuvi 350 GPS. Love it. We use it all the time and have mounts in both cars and switch it between them. Even though I've lived in this city for 34 years, I don't know every nook and cranny - certainly not in the suburbs. Now, I never get lost. The Nuvi included one free Map Update so I was able to get 2006 v8 Maps for free via a download and automatic update. It has a slot for Add-On Maps (like Europe, or the US if you're in Europe) via SD Card. It speaks the street names, it's a photo viewer, MP3 player and Audible book reader. It even knows when I'm walking, notices, and suggests better routes on foot. All this and it's the size of a deck of cards. My wife loves it as well. All these devices have a high WAF. Even better that good GPS's are in almost all decent cell phones, including the Blackberry Pearl.

MP3 Players (iPod)

Seriously, hasn't your MP3 Player changed your life? While audiophiles with vacuum tubes (and Carl Franklin) are lamenting the death of the Hi-Fi and berating us for buying lossy-compresses "damaged" music I'm enjoying America's Next Top Model on a Video iPod at 30,000 feet. Try that with your RCA Victor. My entire CD collection - every CD I've ever owned - is inside my 80gig iPod, lovingly ripped by RipDigital.com (What? You rip CDs yourself? ;) That's so 2005.). An MP3 player is worth the cost of entry just for the Audiobooks.

Digital Video Recorders (DVR, ReplayTV, Tivo)

When is House on TV? I seriously don't know. It's on whenever I like at my house because I've got the "House Channel." Same with Grey's Anatomy, The Office and Heroes (Heroes Spoiler: Why didn't Peter just fly away himself? It would have saved Nathan the trouble).

Aside: Did you know you can watch FULL Hi-Res episodes of Heroes online for free, as well as download them in even Higher-Res with the Viiv Universal Player? Even MORE amazing, they've got Full Video Cast Commentary in a secondary window for each episode. Brilliant.

I watch them on my time. Sometimes I skip commercials, sometimes not. Sometimes I turn on the captions and watch them in double- or quadruple-speed. We've got the whole season of Signing Time (DVD's just remastered and rereleased and Rachel has a blog also) so my son can do American Sign Language anytime. We always watch the news, even though dinner is at a different time each day. DVRs fundamentally change how we watch TV (if you can get over the "Psychic Weight" of a full DVR and a whole season of Dexter to catch up on.)

Insulin Pump and Continuous Glucose Meter

I got the results of my blood tests yesterday. Diabetics should have their blood checked for a 3-month indicator of their blood sugar. Pricking your finger tells you your blood sugar at an instant, but the hA1C blood test gives you an idea of how the last three-months have been. You can kind of think of it (simplistically) as a measurement of a percentage of blood cells that are coated in sugar. My value was 5.8% which is at non-diabetic levels. You, Dear Reader, as a likely non-diabetic have an hA1C between 4 and 6. My value is now "high-normal" but still normal. To be clear, I'm VERY diabetic, but I'm managing it so closely that my blood test indicates I'm more or less successfully emulating my damaged pancreas with the insulin pump and continuous meter. I'd be lost without these devices. They've made my life better and allowed me to more easily travel the world.

What's your top four list look like?

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. I am a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007 12:07:52 AM UTC
TiVo would certainly be high on my list as well. I literally can no longer fathom that we were bound to watch a show at a particular time.

Wi-fi would be up there for me too. Surfing the web from anywhere in the house (or yard)...priceless.

Thursday, May 24, 2007 12:17:07 AM UTC
Could you please suggest inexpensive glucose meter for my mom?
Srikanth
Thursday, May 24, 2007 1:47:01 AM UTC
i'm not a gadget guy but they say that peter is concentrating on controlling ted's power so he cannot focus on flying, :p
Thursday, May 24, 2007 3:19:47 AM UTC
I'd agree with the DVR (Stargate Atlantis, Heroes, NCIS, and Dresden Files on mine) as a top gadget. But instead of an iPod, I have a PocketPC. I use it almost exclusively to read e-books, so it doesn't really count as an MP3 player. Right now it has an SD card with the entire Baen Free Library; 100+ free e-books.
Gone are the days of carrying two or three paperback books around!
Krenn
Thursday, May 24, 2007 4:19:57 AM UTC
Life-Changing Gadgets, hey? I'm still mighty impressed with the digital wrist watch.

And I'm looking at lashing out on a PDA/Mobile Phone thing.
Thursday, May 24, 2007 6:59:17 AM UTC
Peter could only use one ability at a time. There isn't much emphasis on this, but Claude teaches him earlier in the series.
Ovidiu
Thursday, May 24, 2007 7:19:10 AM UTC
1. Mobile phone.

Now I don't need to strap a clock to my wrist. I can carry one around in my pocket instead. Unlike an old 'pocket watch', this one doesn't make me look like I'm a weirdo just for owning it.

2. The little hand held whisk thing in the kitchen.

This saves some wrist action when stirring liquids and probably has some other fun use but I haven't worked out what yet.

3. Digital camera.

It's like a normal camera, but you don't have to worry so much about getting home from holiday and finding that your film wasn't loaded properly. It also costs a lot more than a cheap 35mm point-and-shoot, so you feel like you've had a proper holiday when you look at your bank balance.

4. Mobile phone.

This one gets a second entry because I forgot its other brilliant function. The camera 'flash' is in fact an LED which you can switch on - and use your phone as a torch. Genius!
Thursday, May 24, 2007 1:39:30 PM UTC
Your A1c is AMAZING! Well done!
Pumps & CGMS are hard to come by here in New Zealand - and OMG-expensive, too. So my top pick for nifty little devices would have to be the blood sugar meter. Without it, I'd be stuffed.
My second choice would be the CGMS which I so badly want, but just can't have... but I hope some day they become as popular as the BG meters.
My third: my cellphone. I take it everywhere with me, especially when I'm out walking. If I have trouble with low blood sugar or any other emergency, at least I know I have contact with the world. It's just a basic phone - no pxt, no music, just plain-Jane phone & text.
As for the last one, I really don't know... maybe my electric blanket?! Can we make it play MP3s and make coffee? Then it would be perfect!
Thursday, May 24, 2007 2:22:59 PM UTC
Can we have a *** SPOILER *** alert re. Heroes for those of us outside the USA?!!!
DuncS
Thursday, May 24, 2007 3:32:29 PM UTC
I would put XM radio on my list. I haven't listened to terestrial radio or a CD in my car for years. I am a baseball fan and XM gives me the opportunity to listen to every single game on the MLB schedule. The music is pretty good too.
Rck Stone
Thursday, May 24, 2007 3:41:31 PM UTC
DuncS - I'm SO sorry! I had no idea it was delayed!
Thursday, May 24, 2007 3:49:30 PM UTC
DuncS, I changed the text to White. Sorry!
Friday, May 25, 2007 7:17:06 PM UTC
Mine is my black motorola razr phone, rated my favorite dad gadget: http://www.dad-eblog.com/favorite-dad-gadget

Not only does it take pictures (not great ones, but good enough to capture the moment), but it takes videos and has games on it that keep my 5-year-old occupied at occasionally critical periods of waiting time.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007 3:28:42 PM UTC
Scott,

Speaking of Tivo, have you dumped your Comcast piece of poo yet? I just bought a Series 3 from Amazon for $600 and Tivo is offering a $200 rebate. Paid $200 for my Tivo S2 a year ago so I am trying to feel good about my new purchase at roughtly twice the price.

-Andy
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.