When I registered for the RWA National Conference, coming up next month in Anaheim, I started to think about buying myself a New Gadget. Last year at RWA in New York City, my friend Jo Anne Banker and I shared her laptop computer and an in-room Internet cable. We checked email and I posted daily recaps here, mostly for my critique group.
This year I’m going alone, faced with the prospect of several days off the Internet. I don’t have a laptop, or even a smart phone. I do own a cell phone, a pre-paid Tracfone that makes phone calls and receives occasional text messages–from Tracfone, offering me more minutes. I don’t need more minutes. I have enough rollover minutes to talk for weeks. I’ve never even tried to send a text message. I have used the phone to call AAA when my car battery died, and to let Jo Anne know I’ll be late to work at the Scorekeeper. Now and then I have to turn it on for the convenience of a repairman, like the fellow who came out to my house last week to pronounce my twenty-two-year-old air conditioning system dead. I detest the feeling of being tethered to that little phone.
So upgrading my phone service isn’t particularly appealing. Maybe an IPad? People seem to love them, and they certainly are beautiful. But I have an e-reader, and I really have no desire to watch movies on a screen the size of a book. Come to that, I don’t seem to have time to watch movies in the comfort of my living room very often, and when I do I have a lovely HDTV meant for that very purpose. I’ve seen BlueTooth keyboards for the IPad, but I haven’t heard anyone rave about writing on one.
So a tablet’s probably not the solution either, if I’m going to buy a New Gadget. I like toys as much as the next person, but I have a practical streak. I may be thinking of staying in touch with my Houston friends while I’m in California, but I need a better excuse than that for spending several hundred dollars. Especially after writing that large check to the air conditioning service last week. And opening the bill for my annual homeowner’s insurance premium this afternoon.
Clearly, if I need anything at all, I need something that will take me to the Internet for email and blogging and research, that will let me read books with a Kindle App, and mostly that will encourage me to get busy and write. Sounds like we’re talking about a computer, doesn’t it?
So this morning I drove over to the local Fry’s Electronics, where I bought my current desktop computer a couple of years ago. Fry’s is a huge store. Even the twenty percent or so of the floor space devoted to computers is overwhelming. I went in telling myself I wasn’t actually going to buy a computer today, and I had no trouble sticking to that. There were just too many choices, and none of them jumped up and waved at me.
My other errands took me near the local Best Buy, another really big store, but not quite as cavernous as Fry’s. Not as many choices, and what they had was better organized. They had a nice Hewlett Packard computer at a reasonable price (I’ve been an HP fan for years), and next to it was a sign offering a visit from the Geek Squad to set up a home network for $70. That’s tempting. My techy friend Ha (who buys all his electronic equipment on line and keeps the computer network at the Scorekeeper running) tells me I can easily add a wireless router to my DSL modem, but I’m not so sure. It took me an hour on the phone with a nice lady in the Philippines to get the DSL modem working in the first place. But if I buy a laptop, I definitely want WiFi available at home. I’m not going down to the local Starbucks to get on line. I don’t even like coffee.
Then the salesman (who was born several years after I bought my first computer and wouldn’t remember what passed for a “portable” computer in the 1980s) showed me a couple of UltraBooks. Talk about tempting–usable screens and keyboards in a computer about the thickness of a real spiral-bound notebook. The Toshiba model even managed to squeeze in a CD drive. Amazing. And, of course, twice the price I had in mind.
No, I didn’t buy a new computer today. I’m sliding in that direction, but I’ll think about it a bit longer. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.