What technology can I not live without?
As much as I love gadgets and technology, I can easily live without most of it. I don�t need to take my music with me anywhere, athough I love the convenience. A home theater, while amazing, doesn't solve any pressing world problems. I even find myself stepping away from the computer to do more in the real world, knowing I can quickly check the status of my online business in a few minutes via cell phone. As I started thinking through the list of things I wouldn�t want to be without, I noticed a common theme � they all help reduce the complexities of attention and eliminate the need to rely on memory. Put more simply, these are technologies tha t help me increase focus on things I should care about by handling the minutiae. So what technologies can I not live without?
Turn-by-turn directions � Whether you plot your trip by typing your destination in Google Maps and printing a map, your car has a factory navigation system, or you drive with the help of a Tom Tom portable GPS, turn-by-turn directions are life changing. No longer are husbands berated for failing to ask directions. There's no need to invent excuses for being late to a meeting, because knowing how to get there means you won't be late. You can easily avoid the accidental wrong turn into the �bad part� of town. With a stable of companies mapping the roads of our world, getting from point A to point B is a simple matter.
Comparison shopping � I used to evaluate the offers in the Sunday cirulars looking for the ultimate rebate. No longer. Comparison shopping online makes it simple to find the best price on almost anything, including items available in the retail store down the street. Comparison shopping has the added benefit of driving prices down across the board because shoppers are a few clicks from the prices at hundreds of stores and can vote with their wallet to encourage best price behavior.
Online Search � So many parts of life benefit from online search. Finding a hotel near your next business meeting; researching the best college for your major; fixing a frustrating computer problem; Making a great meal from a list of available ingredients; Locating the answer to the bar trivia challenge. Before search jamming as much data in your head as possible was the key to avoiding a long research project. I remember doing research in the library, sifting through microfilm data by first reading summaries of what data was available and then scanning the files to find information. Now a world of information is a few keystrokes away. There's plenty of garbage in the search results, so the challenge has shifted from finding the information, to knowing how to pick the best information from the possible results.
DVR � I grew up with a neighbor who recorded movies by the dozens on VHS. He�d bring over boxes of movies for us to watch back before video rental stores were commonplace. In many ways my old neighbor was like having a DVR because there wasn�t really a due date and we could easily skip commercials on the few tapes that had them. Today, Tivo and the various service offerings from Comcast and the rest of the cable universe offer pause for live television and the all important time shifting that makes any time the right time for "must-see" TV. The time savings of commercial skipping coupled with freedom to avoid planning life around television events is liberating.
Automated reminders � For years I tried numerous paper-based systems for helping me remember to do things in a timely way. The achilles heel of this system is needing to remember to review the paper regularly and at the right time. Automated reminders eliminate this problem, by putting the reminders where they need to be � in my face before the event happens. Ever since I started adding reminders to Outlook, having them interrupt what I�m doing on my computer and appearing on my cell phone, I�m much less likely to forgot. Better yet, I don�t have to carry that data in my head, I simply trust my reminder system will work and use my brain for more pressing issues.
While there are plenty of other great technologies I love, these are the ones I�d be lost without. What technologies would you prefer not to live without