Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Jan. 20, 2005

Gadgets, gizmos and me

I can't say I'm much "into" gadgets. I still use a hand-held can opener, a regular waffle iron and a two-slice toaster. I also use a potato masher rather than a mixer, and Art hand-sharpens our knives.

When I recently received a catalogue "for the cooking enthusiast" in the mail, I had to laugh. Direct mail companies pride themselves on knowing their target markets well. But if people at that company thought I was a cooking enthusiast, well, let's just say they should go back and do some more research. I am NOT in the market for their "3-in-1 Breakfast Maker" that can brew a cup of coffee, toast an English muffin and fry an egg all at the same time.

When I saw a recent issue of Art's PC Magazine, I was blown away by the gadgets - and not just for the kitchen. I was especially intrigued by an advertorial, "Jetsonize your home," which described several futuristic appliances:

*The AOS iSeePet is a combination webcam and pet feeder for those who cannot go all day without seeing Fido or Fluffy.

*The Samsung HomePAD displays a list of items in the refrigerator and tells you when food is about to go bad. It also allows you to check e-mail and watch TV.

*If you need another news source besides your newspaper, television or the Internet, you can buy the Ambient Orb, which changes color with variations in the stock market, the weather and the pollen count.

*Then if life is just too much for you, you can sit in the iJoy Turbo 2, a robotic massage chair that "replicates the feeling of having an actual masseuse or masseur working on you."

Man, am I ever behind the times!

Certainly I've had computers at work and at home for many years. I don't know what I'd do without e-mail since that's my primary mode of communication with my sister in South America.

And, having an engineer for a husband means I've had to adjust to some new technologies. Our "digital-age" daughters have taught me a few things, too.

Still, the thought of learning new software or figuring out how a new gadget works is not high on my list of fun things to do.

My hesitation in using the "latest-and-greatest" probably comes from several sources. For one, I grew up on a farm where we had no indoor plumbing until I was 7. Another stems from my time in the Peace Corps, where a simple metal box on top of a two-burner gas stove served as my oven. I had to boil my water to make it safe to drink. But truth be told, I'm just not comfortable with new technology. If some implement works OK for me, why should I change just because a newer or faster one comes along?

But when Art gave me a digital camera for Christmas, I started pondering the possibilities.

As soon as I figured out how to turn the camera on and check out the photos in the viewfinder, I went nuts. It really struck at Art's cousin's home in the North Woods where their feeders are always full of woodpeckers, chickadees, nut hatches, blue jays and squirrels.

When I discovered I could take photos through their windows without blurring the images and zoom in to see their feathered and furry visitors close up, I took photo after photo. Art's brother said I was like a kid in a candy shop with my new toy. It wasn't long before I maxed out the small memory card that came with the camera. Art figured I'd respond that way, so he had a larger card ready to replace it.

I didn't stop at taking the pictures. I quickly learned how to download them onto my computer. Pleased with myself, I began e-mailing them to friends and family.

I guess it just boils down to what we're interested in. Art's Mom sometimes says she's too old to learn these new things. But Art always reminds her of the time he watched older people at a genealogy center eagerly using personal computers long before most people had them in their homes. If the gadget makes our life easier or more fun, then I guess we'll take the time to learn about it.

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