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My top 10 favourite gadgets

By Ashbourne News Telegraph  |  Posted: November 08, 2011

  • Tin opener

  • HTC phone

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I ADORE technology. I embrace it to the fullest extent my meagre disposable income will allow me to and, recently, I've been writing about gadgets rather a lot.

It's a rubbish excuse for updating my blog, I grant you, but I thought I'd compile a list of the 10 gadgets currently in my house that have made an impact on my life in one way or another.

I must stress this is MY list and I'm fairly strong-minded when it comes to tech. There's no tablet computers, the over-hyped iPhone is banished from my blog altogether and some choices are much less obvious than you might expect.

So here, in ascending order, are the 10 best products technology has brought into my life, along with my reasons for choosing them.

 

10. Electric Tin Opener

Price: From about a tenner

AS my wife would no doubt testify, it takes a lot to make me angry. But one gadget that will categorically not appear in this list - or even a top 1,000 list for that matter - is the tin opener.

 It may have revolutionised the modern gastronomic world but they're an absolute nightmare. They rarely work properly, they make your hands hurt, and their inevitable failure will lead to frustration, hunger and then eventually a slow and painful death by starvation.

 Enter the electric tin opener. Technology's answer to this horrendous problem that it created for itself all those years ago.

 Mine, a posh chrome Kenwood model, is particularly special to me as Lizzy bought it for me following a rather unpleasant episode in my mum's kitchen involving a tin of beans.

 

9. Wireless Weather Station

Price: From about £40

I FIND the weather absolutely fascinating so this gadget is an absolute joy to have in my house.

 At a glance I can tell what the weather has been doing, what it's about to do and whether we're in for any dramatic conditions in the coming hours or days.

 Forecasting weather is all about monitoring trends and any weather station (mine's only a basic one) will display these trends and give indications of numerous different current conditions.

 Even for non weather-geeks this is one of those gadgets you never realised you needed until you've bought one.

 To be fair you don't need an all-singing all-dancing weather station, but an outside thermometer is more useful than you might expect and both Lizzy and I are always glancing at it to help us decide what to wear or whether it's worth rescuing the geraniums from an impending frost.

 

8. Kameleon Universal 6-in-1 Remote

Price: About £80 back in its day

I'VE had this gadget for more years than I can actually remember and it's never missed a beat.

 Any technology-lover worth their salt will relate to the problem of having far too many remotes sat on the coffee table and an all-in-one remote is the obvious solution.

 The market's flooded with such devices these days but when this one came out it was the Rolls Royce of them all and I just had to have it.

 Apart from looking gorgeous and functioning incredibly well, this monstrous remote control operates up to six devices and can be programmed to perform a number of commands, at the touch of a button in one go.

 This means, by pressing one button, I can turn on my Sky box, my TV, set it to open the TV guide, select a channel and even adjust the volume or play a DVD all in one go. It's brilliant and I absolutely love it.

 

7. WiFi

Price: From free (with a contract)

THE internet can be credited, in no small part, for propelling all the changes we've seen in the technological revolution that has been the last few decades.

 And one of the biggest advances in the short life of the internet has been wireless transmission of data.

 Can you remember when we had to sit at a desk in our homes to use the internet? It reminds me of telephone tables, specifically sat in a hall by the phone as there was no option but to stay rooted to one spot during your conversation.

 WiFi has changed all that. Now we can wander round our house with our laptops, tablet computers and mobile phones and now, increasingly, we can pick up signals around the country.

 It's made the office mobile. It's meant we can tap into our work or home lives from just about anywhere.

 Some people find that a frightening prospect but those who love the internet and properly exploit it for all its many uses, it's a fantastic advancement and I can't imagine not having a wireless connection in my house any more.

 

6. Slingbox

Price: As little as £30 on ebay

IT'S a little-known piece of kit this, and I've never been sure why that is because it's absolutely brilliant.

 To explain it as simply as possible, it basically sends whatever appears on your TV to the internet - which you can then view from your computer, laptop or even mobile phone.

 It probably doesn't sound that impressive yet but what it gives you the ability to do is watch, for example, your own Sky+ box from anywhere in the world. (As long as you've got the internet)

 For me it's a fabulous way to watch TV in any room without wires, an ariel or even a telly. I just use my laptop, tablet or my smartphone.

 It also means we can keep an eye on our Sky+ planner, record programmes, delete stuff if it's getting full or even watch the Formula One while on the move.

 It's absolutely ingenious and a second hand box can be had for less than £50 so it's an absolute bargain too. I love it.

 

5. Parrot Car Kit

Price: Around £150 plus fitting

OKAY, so this isn't actually a device in my home as such, it's sat on my drive in my car. But it's such a good gadget that I get so much use out of that I just had to include it in my list.

 When it comes to using a mobile phone safely in a car I think I've tried every single type of product that has ever been invented.

 And when it comes to listening to digital music I've exhausted many of the most plausible options without finding a single satisfying solution.

 That was until I decided to just "sod it" and spend out on the Parrot MKI9000. It cost £170 to have fitted and that's a lot of money whichever way you look at it but it's perfect.

 At the press of a steering wheel-mounted button I can make and receive calls, cycle through all my contacts, activate my iPod (which is sat in the glovebox on charge) or even control the music I have stored on my mobile phone wirelessly.

 It's re-kindled my love of listening to Podcasts, I'm no longer locked into the few rubbish radio channels available and it makes me safer in the car.

 A gadget that does so much in one simple fuss-free format. £175 doesn't sound so expensive now does it?

 

4. Casio Protrek PRG-40 watch

Price: Around £120

THIS is my second Casio Protrek after my last one died suddenly for no apparent reason, following many faithful years constantly by my side.

 Its departure left a gaping hole in my life as the Protrek series of watches crams so many features into such a neat package.

 My current Protrek has a compass, barometer, thermometer and an altimeter, alongside all the usual features you'd expect from a rugged watch.

 The barometer is one of its killer features for me as I'm always watching the weather and, once you've learned to read the trends of a digital barometer you can make your own - fairly accurate - weather forecasts.

 It's useful, it looks good, it never fails me and it's always by my side. I'd hate to be without a Protrek watch ever again.

 

3. Sky+

Price: From free (with a contract)

FOR a gadget to make it into my top three it has to be something truly life-changing. And I think Sky+ has actually made a difference to my life. (Bear with me here)

 Were it not for the meteoric rise in personal video recorders (PVRs) brought about by the digital switchover Sky+ could have easily become a generic term as widely used as "Biro" or "Hoover. As both a noun and a verb.

 For me digital video recorders are much more than just the widely hailed benefits of "pausing and recording live TV" it's about the way I now watch TV.

 Years ago, to save me having to muck about with the dreaded VHS casettes I'd have to dash home from something important to watch Top Gear or time my Sunday out around the start and end of Countryfile.

 If a new series began I quite enjoyed, this would mean my evenings were out the window for several weeks while I religiously tuned in.

 But now, now that Sky+ has entered my life, I just tell a computer to record them for me, tell it how many I would like recording and I come home whenever I like to find all the programmes waiting for me.

 One of the biggest joys with PVRs however, and in this world of commercialisation and profit maximisation I don't know how we get away with it, is that adverts are no longer blighting my life.

 Because I very rarely watch live TV these days and, because Sky+ has a fast forward button as well as a rewind button, I can now skip through every advert. What joy.

 

2. Laptop Computer

Price: From £100

COMPUTERS were always going to be high on my list and it should be no surprise that an incarnation of this world-altering device has made it to my number-two spot.

 The computer, with a little help from the internet, has changed everyone's life for the better.

 I got my first computer as a small boy and my Dad must have really decided to push the boat out. It was a Commodore 64 and I adored it. I still have it now in a box somewhere.

 Things progressed, and I stayed as close as I could to the technological landslide that soon followed and I traded up from desktop PC to desktop PC until I finally made the leap to laptop computer.

 It was a revalation. My desktop computer was more powerful but the laptop was infinitely more convenient.

 It changed the way I used the computer and it meant I wasn't tied down to a desk and chair when I wanted to pop on the internet.

 To digress slightly, laptops appear to be in the process of being superceded by the relentless onslaught of tablet technology.

 While I will admit to owning a tablet, I still can't get around the fact that I find them fiddly, awkward and I'm not sure I'll ever truly understand what makes them anything more than a big mobile phone. Of course, that's no bad thing but it's a trifle pointless in my eyes.

 The laptop, for me at least, is still the way forward for the practical computer user.

 

1. Smartphone

Price: From free (with a contract)

CALL me predictable, but my number one favourite gadget simply has to be my mobile phone. No other piece of tech I own has enriched my life to such an extent.

 I've owned dozens of mobile phones buy I'm on my fifth smartphone now and it's by far the best yet. It genuinely never leaves my side and, given the vast array of things I can do with it, it's easy to see why.

 At a glance I can predict the weather, I can check my email, pop on to Facebook and Twitter, I can use it to listen to podcasts, take excellent photographs and videos and surf the world wide web.

 I can store thousands of songs, thousands of books, watch live Sky TV, read the news, map the solar system, understand moon phases and watch videos on Youtube.

 It warns me when it's going to rain, lets me know if a frost is on its way. It's a torch, an alarm, a radio, an encyclopaedia, a games machine and a sat nav.

 I can tell, at a glance, how many nectar points I have, what beer is best when I get to a bar, how fast my broadband is, what my rabbit's up to at home, the phone number for just about anything and I can even send a postcard from it - from anywhere.

 I can pluck it from my pocket, buy all my Christmas shopping on it, follow live timing of Formula One races, identify any song that's playing, and check into my online bank.

 It's even got technology that allows me to point the camera at just about anything and it will tell me all about it. I can read barcodes, for example, and then check the prices of things against other shops.

 My third smartphone introduced me to a fantastic outdoor sport called Geocaching, which my next two smartphones made even more enjoyable.

 And, even after doing all these things on one single battery cycle, I can even use it to make telephone calls to anyone in the world.

 I cannot bear to think of life without my mobile phone. It crams so many functions into such a small package.

 It truly is the digital age's answer to the Swiss Army Knife and is the undoubted king of the gadgets.

Long may it reign.

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