Laser-pointer/pen/flash drive? Yes! Can you fit a camera in there?

I bought my first computer in 1994: a Packard Bell with an Intel 486 chip. I paid extra for 8 MB of RAM rather than the standard 4, and some obscene amount for an extra hard drive, which I found later was “installed” by taping it to the chassis and power supply.

I kept that computer for a while, upgrading it myself along the way to a Pentium chip – at the time, the most nerve-wracking repair I’d ever done except for replacing the transmission on a 1970 Pontiac Catalina. In both cases, I had very little idea what I was doing. (And in both cases, I succeeded.)

I don’t need to tell you how much more powerful computers – heck, cell phones – are than that first machine of mine.

But that computer really began to nurture whatever it is in me that is obsessive about gadgets. I cannot possibly recall all the electronics stuff I’ve acquired over time.

I’ve gone through a lot of devices since that Packard Bell: personal organizers to personal information managers to mp3 players to iPods to tablet PCs to netbooks to cell phones.

It has gotten to the point where, when I saw a ballpoint pen that was also an 8-gig flash drive and a laser pointer, well, my only question was whether I should get more than one. If you understand that, then maybe you will occasionally find something of interest here.

I mean to talk about gadgets, some useful and some frivolous. In such a tech-savvy place, I mainly hope to stay out of the way. I’ve been lucky enough along the way to encounter folks with the patience to answer questions and the knowledge to answer them correctly – or admit they didn’t know – and to share their experiences, good and bad. I am sure that you can exchange ideas about repairs, recommendations for specific gadgets, notices when you find something really cool for sale somewhere.

So here’s for starters.

My family has four cell phones, and we’re within a few weeks of fulfilling our two-year contracts. I’m perfectly content with the provider I use and with my phone. But it’s also a perfect time to look around.

One of my sons is in college; the other is in high school. I promised them two years ago that if I didn’t have to buy a replacement phone for them, they’d get any phone they want. They kept their end of the bargain; now it's my turn.

Unlimited texting is a must. Figure three of the phones need to have Web access.

So my question is: Which provider do you recommend, and which phone? And why?

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Meg Dickinson wrote on May 26, 2010 at 10:05 am
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I love Verizon - I have great service and I'm happy with my plan. I just wish they'd get the iPhone already...

Mike Howie wrote on May 26, 2010 at 10:05 am
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There was a lot of talk that the exclusive iPhone/AT&T agreement would end this June, but that seems to have died down. Do you use your phone for the web? iPhone users, how well has your phone traveled?

Ace77man wrote on May 26, 2010 at 10:05 am
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Verizon has and will always be my service provider. I have never had any super smart phones before, but my new incredible is on order and should be showing up at the door anytime. I can't wait to get it. I hope it comes with the "plug straight into your brain" cable :)
Peace, Ace77man
http://www.youtube.com/Ace77man

Mike Howie wrote on May 26, 2010 at 10:05 am
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Thanks for looking. Did you have the chance to test-drive phones? How'd you settle on the incredible? Consider any others?

Gary Walters wrote on May 26, 2010 at 1:05 pm

I have traveled the country with one Carrie Newcomer... you may know of her. We both have iphones and have been just this year in Bloomington, IN, Lafayette, IN, Santa Monica, CA, Berkley, CA, Seattle, WA, Fort Collins, CO, Denver, CO, Corrales, NM, Tuscon, AZ, Washington, DC, Boston, MA, Littleton, MA, New York, NY, Madison, WI, Chicago, IL, Bloominton, IL, Atlanta, GA, Charlotte, NC, Raleigh, NC, and more. 3G generally worked with the same limits that have been published. Too many folks using the network (NY, Boston) and sometimes you can't get the Web. Or maybe a text comes way late. Or an incoming call lands in voicemail without being heard. Some hotels and/or concert venues have walls that seem to block signal. But overall, sure beats flying with a notebook computer just to check email... or paying the hotel fees to use their computer network.

Now, can I get you to work on my Toyota transmission?

Mike Howie wrote on May 26, 2010 at 1:05 pm
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Thanks for stopping by. I have heard of Carrie Newcomer, and I'm a big fan. Heard of you, too, for that matter. Didn't you just put out a new CD?

I've encountered the voicemail from when the phone never rang; very frustrating. It's good to hear that there aren't many service issues out of the norm for you.

Fix your own transmission. First thing I said after the Catalina was: I'm never doing that again.