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1. I don't much care for all the electronic gizmos out there. They're mostly worthless junk, discardable toys for adults. All the techno-toy fetists in the audience, who chase after every Latest Cool Gizmo, may think otherwise, but yet with their destructive locust-like behaviour prove the point.
(Digital) cameras? As I'm not much of a (photo-)artist or a reporter, and since touristy holiday photos are mostly lame – casual photos are a poor approximation of reality – I find that a camera would only be useful if you happen to stumble upon something that merits being photographed. But of course you're not carrying a camera then, and the ones integrated into cell phones are too crappy for even such photos. Thus, having a camera would just be wasteful.
The latest craze, hand-held GPS devices? I like being half-lost, that's half of the fun! Sure, if you really do go out in the wilderness, GPS could really become of use. But as a separate hand-held toy for geeks to play with in the city – what a waste of natural resources and labour power, and too much of a burden to carry to be at hand in the rare situations where there would really be the need for it. However, GPS support in a cell phone or other portable device that already has a screen and other common and necessary components, should be just software and a few extra circuits, integrated or as a small separate module. (Infact, if cell phones had USB connectors instead of proprietary ones, perhaps a simple off-the-shelf USB module could be used. Not that the techno-toy fetists will settle for such even though it would suit their needs, if separate hand-held devices are “cool”; if it is cool to have a device for every pocket – and a lot of pockets.)
Game consoles? DVD/CD players? My single home computer fills that role. It is pointless to have yet more electronics junk filling the flat when a single general-purpose device can do the job very well – even better than a special device, as I can use the software I like. But, oh, my computer, being over a year old – mostly a bit over two, infact, and some parts at least four – is actually too old for the most arrogant advocates of rampant consumerism, who complain that I should buy a new one – again – when I have an issue with software bloat. But maybe I will have to do so soon although I would not want to. Mostly the system is quite adequate for my needs , but it appears that all the interfaces are changed every year these days – just to sell more shit – and nothing stays compatible for long, so upgrading just a single part becomes nearly impossible.
I also do not care for a second monitor for the reasons mentioned above. I have better uses for the space, and don't want more electronics junk that will be obsolete in a few years around my flat. I might go for a widescreen display, though, when my current TFT reaches its built-in obsolescense date (I'm almost sure it has one), or when something truly better comes along (and not just an insignificant improvement).
Laptops? The only affordable ones are just crappy tabletop computers, being huge with displays up to 17 inches, weighing a tonne, and the battery life being just enough for a laugh. But the smaller and more expensive ones aren't much better. Sure, there's marginally more battery life, and at least you can reasonably well fit one in a backpack – I prefer travelling with only a backpack – with there still being space for other things. But I still don't find them good enough. I find them too bulky for some uses, such as for reading (for such short periods that one can tolerate the shiny display), lying on one's back on the sofa or a hammock. (Not that I've ever used such a computer, but I suspect so from the specs). The tablet hinge also seems too fragile and unsturdy, and all this foldability of course adds to the weight and the space the device needs. I also suspect the keyboards start to have too small keys in some of the smallest models.
As for palmtop/handheld/pocket/whatever computers, they are at the same time too small and too big. They're too big for most pockets, and yet too small to be of much use. Especially the tiny keyboards are absolutely useless; something like Graffiti or (real, taught) handwriting recognition is much better for devices of this scale. But also the size of the display and the storage capacity limit the usefulness of these devices.
The only two portable gizmos I've found any use for, are the hard disk “mp3” player and the cell phone, with reservations. The cell phone primarily serves as a watch, with the phone function being there for the occasional need to use a phone, I never even having had a line telephone, and public phone booths becoming sparse. Ideally playing music would be the primary function of that device, and the separate mp3 player would be unnecessary. Unfortunately none with enough capacity in small enough space exists to my knowledge – even my 20GB hard disk mp3 player (not one by the corporation with trademark ugly white teenage hell design, but about the same size as the models with similar capacity) is too bulky for normal trouser pockets. But then again, cell phones are again becoming too bulky as well, yet offering nothing of use for the increase in size. Now, less memory would be needed on the player itself, if for longer trips there was another device providing the space, or it was possible to conveniently download music from the home computer or a public service when in reach of good communication networks
2. I'm, however, a bit divided on the issue of mobile connectivity. It's good to be out-of-reach and “out of the matrix” every now and then. Fortunately the cell phone hasn't become much of an annoyance for me, as few people have any reason to ring me. But it is also good to occasionally not be able to access the internet. It is too easy to waste hours in front of the computer without accomplishing anything; not even relaxation.
3. Nevertheless, occasionally more connectivity than what the simple cell phone can offer could be useful. So, having bashed the usual electronic gizmos into a hole in the ground, if I were to have some mobile computing power and connectivity beyond the cell phone and the mp3 player, the device I'd like might be as follows.
Yes, you heard me right. I am proposing dropping the keyboard as an essential component. A good one simpy takes too much space, and I don't expect to normally do much “serious work” on this kind of device. Primarily it would serve for viewing things, and making the occasional note. This also does not imply advocating the WIMP paradigm as it is seen on “desktop” computers. (The physics meaning of the acronym, Weakly Interacting Massive Particle, is quite apt a description of the “modern” desktop environments, by the way.) Indeed, perhaps thanks to the constraints of computing power, screen space, and the input device(s), many embedded devices do have much more usable programs and interfaces than the desktop WIMP GUIs, although some could be improved in some of the directions I have suggested – and prevented from heading in the direction and complexity of the “desktop” WIMP GUIs – including the featureless ones. Infact, although I'm no fan of the ACME interface on the usual vertical-screen-and-horizontal-controls tabletop computer, it could prove to be quite decent on a touch screen tablet (that will not replace the former for all uses, however). Other interesting ideas to try include Raskin's Zoom interface.
So, the device of my possible liking, would essentially be a portable screen the size of a pocket book – a small electronic notepad or tablet in the true sense of the word, as opposed to the pseudo-tablets of the hinged laptops – with some computing power, storage space, and connectivity. The device would be small enough to carry in a backpack and, if need be, in a big pocket, and would provide for the extra storage space needed for an audio player in a small cell phone-like device with just a couple of gigabytes of memory in itself. Obviously the cell phone would also provide GSM and such connectivity, but possibly other functions could also be integrated with it. Of course, a lot of stuff could and should also be integrated with the home computer (or other server) as well, essentially forming a chain of devices with diminished computing power and functionality but increased portability from the home computer (stationary) to the portable screen (backpack or big pocket) to the pocket device the size of a small cell phone (small pocket) or perhaps a bracelet for those that prefer such.