The Eight (Seven…Six?) Information Devices I Can’t Live Without

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Roku digital player, which connects via Wi-Fi and the Internet to Netflix’s Watch Instantly service and Amazon Video on Demand. (Because I got the Roku box around the same time I canceled the cable, this was technically a one-for-one swap rather than a subtraction.)

The land line telephone. The AT&T cellular signal in the neighborhood of my apartment recently improved to the point that I was able to cancel my Comcast digital voice line. The signal still isn’t great, and I can’t rely on it for important conversations or interviews. Luckily, there’s always Skype—which now has a great iPhone app, in addition to its trusty Mac and PC versions.

The death toll among information devices is likely to increase over time—with the iPhone and similar mobile devices as the perpetrators. As Dan Shapiro, CEO of Seattle-based Ontela, has argued in a perceptive column for our own Xconomist Forum, smartphones are crossing what he calls the GET, the “good-enough threshold,” in more and more areas, and consequently putting older information devices in danger of extinction. Clearly, phones have already crossed the GET as media players, and Dan thinks point-and-shoot cameras and game consoles are next in line. I would add GPS receivers, portable DVD players, and pocket-sized HD video cameras like the Flip.

My own list of eight devices could decrease to seven if I wanted to do without my Kindle 2. It’s the newest of my gadgets, and the current darling. But I can read all the same e-books using the Kindle app on my iPhone.

And seven would shrink to six if my ancient Dell laptop expired, as it eventually will. I keep it around for two reasons only: to store my digital photos, and to run Quicken, where I’ve built up about 10 years of financial and tax records. But both of these functions are rapidly migrating to the Internet. My camera’s Eye-Fi card sends all of my photos to Flickr automatically, and I’ve been experimenting with Quicken Online, which isn’t as powerful as the desktop version but is, in many ways, easier to use.

Six devices is probably my absolute minimum, barring some startling technological change. As long as I work for Xconomy, I’ll need the Mac laptop. And even the iPhone 4G or 5G or 6G isn’t likely to duplicate the functions of my HDTV, Xbox, Canon camera, and Roku player. (But I wouldn’t be too surprised if my next TV had something like the Roku built in—which would subtract one device, leaving me with five.)

So, what are your indispensable information devices? Would you like to have fewer, or are you perfectly happy juggling a dozen or more gadgets daily? Let me know in a comment below. I’ll compile everyone’s feedback into a future column.

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Wade Roush is the producer and host of the podcast Soonish and a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @soonishpodcast

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  • Wade,

    What about the rice cooker which is prominently featured – any comment on the importance of fuzzy logic rice processing?


  • Right now it’s my Lenovo laptop and BlackBerry Curve that I can’t live without. I don’t know how many more gadgets I really want to carry around with me anyway.

  • S. Morris Rose


  • Only 7 I can’t live without…

    Sony XRDS 60′ Flat Panel
    PS3 (for Blu-Ray, really)
    HD DVR Cable Box
    Bose Noise Canceling headphones (for travel)
    BMW Nav System

    Everything else is nice to have…

  • I just spent a week in Italy completely device-free so my current desire (for today at least–first day back in the office) is to reduce the device demands in my life.

    BUT…I do “need”:

    –My minimalist Motorola phone which I would actually like to replace…I want a phone that facilitates texting more than voice calls, like I had when I lived in Ireland. A better UI.
    –With this trip I finally made the switch from film to digital, with the Canon Rebel EOS I bought months ago but never adopted for personal use
    –Peek Email Device

    When my kids were smaller, I would have said our digital thermometer. Haven’t hauled that out in ages.

    If Mike Troiano would like to shed some devices, I would gladly accept his Bose Noise Cancelling headphones. I borrowed a pair on the flight from Europe yesterday. Sweet. Too bad the “Seventeen: Back to High School” in-flight movie did not merit the headphone usage.

    And since I have ZERO sense of direction, I could also use Mike’s Nav system, but I am guessing that is attached to the BMW, which I will take too, if I have to.

  • I’m a simple guy:
    – MacBook (not Pro, that is next time)
    – Verizon EVDO card
    – iPhone 3G

    They come with me everywhere I go.


  • Victory is mine! hahaha…
    Great post, Wade. Didn’t we have a wager on this? ;-)

  • 1. iPhone 3Gs
    2. Macbook Pro
    3. Verizon WANN access usb thingamobob
    4. Canon T1i with my fisheye lens
    5. Nodal Ninja and tripod (for panoramic photos)

  • Bill Ghormley

    Hi Wade — here’s my list:

    iPhone 3G (will go to s later) @ 3.0 — both me and spouse
    Macbook (client group A > 80% of use) on Leopard OS
    Airport wireless n/w — just upgraded s/w to 7.4.2 (?)
    Dell Inspiron 8600 laptop (client group B
    Braun coffee grinder, Bose CD player, MSFT XBox 360 (Ann adds)
    Electric tooth brush
    Cuisinart, Kawasaki rice cooker (w salmon)
    Sharper image floor mini-heaters + Mitsubishi A/C
    + others too numerous or embarrassing to mention

    Best, Bill

  • Mike

    You should of done an ‘after picture’ to show, that not only do you require less devices, but that some of them do more and are even smaller than back in 2005.