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Tech Trauma
The ghost orchid is blooming; mystical magic in the Everglades.
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Once upon a time in a far off land, I used a single sideband on a yacht for communication and typed on a "portable" computer that used floppy disks and its own software (no additions possible).  Life was pretty uncomplicated.  Choices were quite limited.  Life has become much more complicated since then, and I am left behind.

I have an opportunity to catch up a little, but I don't know which way to turn.  I wish there was a web site that divided today's gadgetry into lifestyle quadrants.  If you are a teen in an economic bracket from X - Y, you need a WII, a cell phone, a netbook and an ereader.   Then, the analysis would include the brands, benefits and negatives, with a little survey whose answers point to the best choices according to answers, the best value to fit the criteria.

The teen bracket is just the easiest example; there are probably about 50 or more "lifestyles" broken down by income, age and living and working style to which potential technology choices could be assigned.  In particular, I am interested in mine.  I have a modest income; I am an author; I use technology sparingly but with necessity; I am not a collector but rather live a conservative lifestyle:  I buy what I need, not what I want.  Some of my friends carry cell phones for emergencies but won't give out the number; they feel free to call mine however at will.

 First and immediate issue seems to be the cell phone.  How many features does it need?  As a mature person, I need a nice viewing screen, a keyboard that is textable, a camera with video clips and potential (but not necessarily activated) access to the internet.  I use about 600 minutes a month and 200 text messages.  Where is my best cell phone plan?  What a jungle that is!  I don't presently have a contract.  Once I suffered a broken contract payment; no more.

Next is the iPad, ereader dilemma.  Since I have only a desktop these days, I need portable computing to write and read at the beach, Starbucks and even McDonald's - hot spots anywhere.  The beach is not a hot spot; I need to access the internet at the beach and in the Everglades for my writing notes, influenced by my environment.  I love to read, but I don't have storage capacity for books anymore.  While I love the feel of a print book, I want to move to ereading.   What is the most conservative yet versatile approach to solving that dilemma?

Next, television, that IQ reducer by the hour.  I still have the big boxes working great, bringing in beautiful HD television on a 32 inch screen.  My friends do have those beautiful plaza screens on their walls, 42 inches of bazaar reproductions of people with long arms and skinny bodies or fat heads and bodies in reverse.  They can be adjusted to spread out or clip off the edges of the scenes.  Which one really reproduces people who look like real people?  Should I just stick with my boxes that work okay but make me look like an outdated Neanderthal?  I tried to hang on with DTV instead of cable; that was a joke.  I went from five good stations to three pixilated ones in and out.  That left the choices:  cable, DISH or Direct TV.  Choices never end; and they come with high price tags.

When there were not so many choices, my resources went toward savings and daily living.   I don't want to fall behind.  I love a new gadget as well as the next person.  However, my experience with a Palm Pilot and cell phones is quite telling.  I never did fully master the synchronization of that palm pilot.  I recently went through three cell phones that were quite expensive and broke for various reasons from disappearing screens to dropping and rain.  I found one I had thrown in a drawer - ten years ago - metal.  I switched the sim card.  It rings, it takes messages and it txts.  However, it's starting to fade away in the middle of a conversation even though well-charged.  I think it's on its last leg.

I realize that the marketing of these gadgets has one purpose:  emotional decisions based on the thrill of a new gadget that does everything but dance and the ego that accompanies such a purchase.  I'm infected by that hype.  I keep my wall unit doors shut so they look like book cases or clothing wardrobes.  I hate to admit my televisions are big boxes still.  I do envy my friend with her plasma over the fake fireplace.  When my cell phone rings and I pull it out of its location in a wrist case, it's a bulky little thing that anyone next to me probably thinks, "look at that antique."  Those who are "faded out" are just not happy.  I'm also stuck in this office with computing until I have something portable, and I'm not reading as much as I should.   

Unlimited financial resources and ostentatious spending are not, however, on my plate.  I need the most conservative plan to get what I need to function better in today's technology-based society.  I also need a guide through the morass of gadgetry that is distracting.  Once I make my choices, I'm stuck with them.  Tomorrow, they'll be antiques.