Cataloging my Gadgets Part 4: Other

Before smartphones, the mobile computing device of the day were PDAs. I was fascinated by devices such as the Psion Series 5, the Nokia 9000 Communicator and eventually the Windows CE powered Pocket PCs Siemens Pocket LOOX and Compaq iPAQ.

Of course, I was still a kid back then, and these devices were way more expensive than anything I could afford (or had a practical use-case for, to be honest). There were, however, simpler “organizer” devices that I had.

Other Small

Casio Data Bank DC-2100ER

An extremely simple organizer whose main feature was storing phone and fax numbers organized by name. Phone numbers were limited to American NPA-NXX-xxx format making the organizer somewhat less useful in Germany.

Rolodex Flash PC Companion RFLS-8

This was a slightly more advanced organizer. Its most distinguishing feature was the PC software it came with, allowing you to sync contacts from a computer to the organizer via the Timex Data Link: For this, you pointed the organizer at the computer screen and pressed the sync button on the device and in the software. This made the software flash horizontal bars across the screen, which were read by an optical sensor on the device. It was quite fascinating to watch, but only worked on CRT screens, meaning I could no longer use the organizer when I switched to my first laptop.

HP Jornada

As I said, I didn’t have a PDA when they were en vogue and didn’t get my first smartphone until 2007. The PDA you see above was gifted to my technology collection a couple of years ago by a colleague when he was clearing out his own collection.

Of course, compared to the smartphones of the day, the PDA was bulky and under-powered. Its resistive touchscreen required using a pen or your fingernail and didn’t support the gestures of  capacitive touchscreens used on smartphones.

The software, however, had a lot going for it. The Windows CE on the device looked and felt a lot like the Windows on your PC, though sticking with the desktop metaphor on a handheld device was probably a stretch. Still, it supported copy&paste for text throughout the system, something the original iPhone did not.

See also

Cataloging my Gadgets Part 3: Calculators

For whatever reason, schools in Germany seem to prefer Casio calculators, while in the US everyone was using Texas Instruments. So while I grew up with the former, I switched to TI after I first got to use one of their graphing calculators during my time as a foreign exchange student in high school. All calculators I bought thereafter, were TIs. I particularly loved the TI-89 I had in college (see below).

Calculators Small

Casio fx-115s

In active use 7th grade until the end of High School
Type Scientific calculator
Comments The first calculator I got for school in 7th grade and the only one we were allowed to use on exams.

Casio Euro Conversion

In active use 1999-2002
Type Basic calculator
Comments Between 1999 and 2002 Euros were used in electronic transactions (such as securities trading) while Deutschmarks were still used in cash transactions. So when I got interested in the stock market I thought I needed a calculator to convert between the two currencies. I was wrong. This calculator was barely used.

Texas Instruments TI-81

In active use Junior year of High School
Type Graphing calculator
Comments This model was a loan from the school when I was a foreign exchange student during my junior year of high school. Getting into programming at the time, I wrote a few utilities for the TI-81, e.g. for converting between the metric system I was used to and the units used in the US.

Texas Instruments TI-89

In active use College, Business School
Type Programmable graphing calculator, computer algebra system
Comments This calculator is amazing. On many exams in college they allowed programmable calculators, since in some states students had already been using them at the end of high school.
I don’t think, though, if they were aware of the capabilities of the TI-89 which was far more advanced than anything the other students had: symbolic differentiation and integration, statistics package, note taking app that synced with a PC, downloadable apps.
Needless to say, learning to use the TI-89 effectively made my exams a whole lot easier. Except for one time, when the calculator crashed during an exam, refused to restart and I had to use my old Casio instead. It worked like a charm again after I had installed an updated version of its operating system.

Texas Instruments BA-II Plus

In active use CFA exams
Type Financial calculator
Comments There are only a handful of calculators allowed on the CFA exams and this one was the cheapest.

Texas Instruments Little Professor

In active use (never)
Type Backwards calculator
Comments I saw this calculator long after I had graduated college and thought it would be a nice addition to the TI-89 and the BA-II Plus, completing my collection of Texas Instruments calculators. After I bought it used, I played around with it for a while, but otherwise had little use for it.

See also

Cataloging my Gadgets Part 2: Phones

Looking at the phones I’ve used over the years, I think it’s funny how until circa 2007 they used to get smaller with each generation. Once touch-screens were introduced, however, devices have been getting bigger with each generation.

Phones Small

Nokia 5110

In active use 1999-2003
Operating system(s) (proprietary)
Comments The first cellphone my family owned to be shared among family members.

Siemens MT50

In active use 2003-2005
Operating system(s) (proprietary)
Comments My first own cellphone.

Siemens M65

In active use 2005-2007
Operating system(s) (proprietary)
Comments Got this from one family member after they got a new phone and passed it on when I got the HTC S710.

HTC S710

In active use 2007-2010
Operating system(s) Windows Mobile 6
Comments My first smartphone, though with a traditional form factor.
Bought Outlook specifically so I could sync contacts, calendar etc. with my computer.

HTC HD7

In active use 2010-2012
Operating system(s) Windows Phone 7
Comments My first “real” smartphone with a touch screen, cloud sync etc.

Nokia Lumia 920

In active use 2012-2015
Operating system(s) Windows Phone 8, Windows Phone 8.1
Comments

Microsoft Lumia 950

In active use Since 2015
Operating system(s) Windows 10 Mobile
Comments

See also

Cataloging my Gadgets Part 1: Computers

Over the years I’ve bought, used and discarded a number of phones, computers and assorted other gadgets. So far, I’ve mostly kept them in storage once I no longer used them. However, as gadgets have kept piling up, it seems like now is a good time to get rid of those that are no longer working.

Instead of simply throwing them out, however, I’ve decided to catalog them here first. This first installment lists all the computers I’ve had. Phones, calculators and other gadgets will be subject of future articles (links at the end).

Vobis Highscreen

Vobis-PC aus

In active use 1995-1999
CPU Intel Pentium 120 MHz
RAM 8MB, upgraded to 32MB
Storage 1.2GB HDD
Operating system(s) Windows 95 with Microsoft Plus!, Windows 98
Machine name Augustus
Comments The very first computer my family owned.
Still worked when I powered it up on 24-Apr-2016, its 20th birthday.

Unnamed Computer

Pentium 200

In active use 1999-2001
CPU Intel Pentium 200 MHz
RAM 32MB
Storage 2GB HDD
Operating system(s) Windows 98, Windows 98 Second Edition
Machine name (unknown)
Comments Discarded sometime in the early 2000s, so the processor shown above is all that’s left.

Gericom Webboy

Gericom Webboy

In active use 2001-2006
CPU Intel Pentium III 1 GHz
RAM 256MB
Storage 6GB HDD
Operating system(s) Windows ME, Windows XP Home
Machine name Brutus
Comments My first very own laptop and the first computer I paid for with money I had saved and earned through my first jobs.
Still works, even though main and CMOS battery died long ago.
Because the processor is actually a desktop processor, the fan is extremely loud. During hot summer days, I often had to turn it off to prevent overheating.

LG M1

LG M1

In active use 2006-2013
CPU Intel Core Duo 1.66GHz
RAM 1GB, upgraded to 2.5GB
Storage 80GB HDD, upgraded several times to eventually 128GB
Operating system(s) Windows XP Home, Windows XP Professional, Windows Vista Business, Windows 7  Ultimate, Windows 8 Pro with Media Center, Windows 8.1 Pro Preview with Media Center
Machine name Caesar
Comments The computer I’ve used the most.
Still works, even though the main battery died long ago.
Also have a docking station and second, extended capacity battery.
Used occasionally for installing and testing OS preview versions.

OLPC XO-1

OLPC XO-1

In active use (never)
CPU AMD Geode LX700
RAM 256MB
Storage 1GB Flash
Operating system(s) Fedora-based with Sugar GUI
Machine name (none)
Comments Played around with it for a while after getting it.
Bought through the Give One, Get One campaign.

Microsoft Surface Pro

Schreibtisch

In active use Since 2013
CPU Intel Core i5-3317U 1.7-2.6GHz
RAM 4GB
Storage 128GB SSD, 200GB microSDXC
Operating system(s) Windows 8 Pro with Media Center, Windows 8.1 Pro with Media Center, Windows 10 Pro
Machine name Domitian
Comments My first laptop/ultra-book with tablet-like features.
Bought with several accessories, only some of which I still use.

See also

Definitely Too Many Gadgets

A few years ago, I posted a picture of my (then) new home office after having written about my previous setup a year earlier. This past month I’ve been remodeling my room and used this opportunity to change my setup again. While in previous years, I had only ever added more gadgets, this time I have actually simplified quite a bit.

Schreibtisch

Compared to the 2013 picture a couple of devices have gone that I simply had no use for anymore:

  • Since almost all of my Xbox 360 games now play on the Xbox One, I no longer need my Xbox 360. It now serves as a set top box for my parents, so they can run Netflix and a few other apps on their TV.
  • Instead of having to monitors, I now have just one 32 inch display. It’s actually a lot simpler to arrange windows on one screen using Windows’ snap features.
  • Since signing up for Netflix I no longer buy and rarely ever watch DVDs, so the external DVD drive is gone. I have a handful of Blu-ray disks which I watch on the Xbox One.
  • With all my family back in the country, I rarely make audio or video calls on Skype anymore, so the bulky headset is gone. Instead I sometimes use my phone’s headset with Skype’s mobile app.

I also got rid of stacks of installation disks containing old software that was taking up to much space in my desk drawers. So while still hang on to the installation disks of every major version of Windows since Windows 95, I did manage to let go of the 2001 edition of PowerDVD that came with the laptop I bought 15 years ago and that I probably haven’t used in  10 years.

In the end, I now have a much clearer desk and also more space in my room, as the new desk can now be substantially smaller than the old one.

Travel Tech

I just came back from a business trip to Hong Kong and I was kind of embarrassed by how many electronic devices I had to unpack when going through security.

While packing I actually gave some thought to whether  I really needed all of these things. However, after careful analysis I concluded that every single item was indeed serving a purpose and deserved to be brought along.

  • Laptop: It was a business trip, so naturally I had to bring the company laptop, even though it’s bulky and doesn’t really do anything but allow me to VPN into the company network.
  • Surface Pro: The flight from Frankfurt to Hong Kong is a long one, and since I can’t play movies on the locked-down company laptop, I needed my Surface Pro. I also back up my photos to the 128 GB microSDXC card I have permanently installed as a sort-of second hard drive. And when I’m connected to Wi-Fi at the hotel, it automatically syncs with OneDrive, too. Since the Surface Pro is a full-fledged Windows 8.1 laptop, I can even touch up my photos in Photoshop Elements and/or post them to my blog using Windows Live Writer.
  • Mouse and Type Cover: While it’s nice that I can use the Surface Pro in touch-mode, I’m often more efficient with a mouse and keyboard. I once said that I bring the Touch Cover when I want to travel light. However, it has become less and less reliable over time; often not recognizing key strokes, thus forcing me to go back and retype or slow down and type more carefully. Hence, I only use the Type Cover nowadays. It’s not that much heavier, but so much better to type on. If it weren’t for a few missing keys (e.g.  the right-mouse-click) and slightly different keyboard layout, I would be as fast as I am with a regular keyboard.
  • Kindle Paperwhite: You can’t always watch movies and on a 12h flight, eventually the Surface will run out of battery power. So it goes without saying that I also have to bring an eBook reader. I thought about upgrading to the Kindle Voyage a short while ago, but the 190 EUR price tag seemed a bit hefty, given the Voyage doesn’t offer a whole lot of advantages over the original Paperwhite.
  • Nokia Lumia 920: Again, no-brainer to bring a smartphone. Even though I’m kind of paranoid about roaming charges and hence kept my phone in flight-mode through most of the trip. I was tempted to upgrade to the 930 when it came out, since my phone had developed a few glitches over time: dust has gotten into the front-facing camera’s lens, making every picture look extremely foggy. And the proximity sensor stopped working, so at the end of every phone call, I have to hope the other side hangs since my phone constantly thinks I was holding it close to my ear and therefore keeps the screen locked permanently. A colleague has the Lumia 930, so I checked it out. Alas, I couldn’t justify the upgrade, given the minor advances Nokia made with that device. I am looking forward to whatever the flagship device for Windows Phone 10 will be.
  • Sony Alpha 58: Judging by the number of Photography tagged posts on this blog, you might have guessed that I’ve gotten into that a bit. And since I had some time to myself to explore the city, I just had to bring my camera. The camera on the Lumia 920 is pretty good, but it doesn’t even come close to a real DSLR.

Micro-USB For The Win

It is really fortunate, that both my phone and my Kindle can be charged via Micro-USB. Since the Surface Pro charger has a USB output, I only had to bring one additional USB to Micro-USB cable. And I can even use that cable to connect my camera to my Surface for downloading pictures.

Even more gadgets

Back in 2012, I posted a picture of all the gadgets I use regularly. Interestingly enough, none of those listed above appear in that picture even though it was taken only two and a half years ago.

It’s Nice to Have Options

When I originally bought my Surface Pro, I got it with a Touch Cover. The Touch Cover was thin, light and I had heard good things about the typing experience.

It's Nice to Have Options 2

And for the first couple of months that was true. But over time, I got the feeling that the sensitivity of the touch keyboard was deteriorating. More and more often, I had to hit keys multiple times until they were recognized. As a somewhat fast typist, this was getting annoying.

Therefore I got myself a Type Cover 2 as well. Contrary to what I had expected based on the specs alone, it doesn’t actually feel that much thicker or heavier. But it does provide a much better typing experience than the Touch Cover. Though, of course it cannot beat the regular sized keyboard and mouse I use when the Surface Pro is docked at home.

Nonetheless, I think each kind of these keyboards has it’s own use-case. So I use a

  • Touch Cover when I use the Surface Pro on the road in tablet-mode and I just want a cover to protect the screen.
  • Type Cover when I use the Surface Pro on the road in tablet-mode but expect to do some typing, e.g. taking notes in a meeting.
  • Regular keyboard and mouse at home or on the road for heavy duty typing when the extra baggage is not an issue.