Low-tech

by Joel Friedlander on January 15, 2011 · 3 comments

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Newspapers, TV shows and blogs at this time of year are full of information about the latest gizmos and gadgets being introduced at the mammoth Consumer Electronics Show. Manufacturers use this show to launch their latest technology products, each of which is apparently able to transform life, help you lose weight, beam a message to the moons of Saturn or otherwise revolutionize your TV watching.

Some of these products will sink without a trace, and many products that have been “introduced” somehow never actually went on sale, like the Microsoft tablet computers that have often made a splash at CES, never to be seen again.

But in our day-to-day life, it’s often the low tech that makes life a little better than it might have been, even when it comes to our high tech gadgets. Here are 4 of the most useful of these low tech products I’ve been using recently.

  • iCooly iPhone standiCooly iPhone stand from AmazonThis little piece of plastic is designed only for the iPhone 3 series of phones from Apple. What does it do? It just sits on your desk, holding your iPhone. The package claims that it will make your iPhone “look just like your iMac.” That’s a bit of a stretch, but this is incredibly useful. Smartphones keep becoming more essential as app developers find clever ways to use their convergent technology. I use my iPhone throughout the day for its calendar, calculator, social media updates and a host of other tasks. It used to lay on the desk and would slide under stacks of paper or book proofs. Not any more. Now it stands proudly, at exactly the right height and angle, and the iCooly will even rotate to landscape mode if you like. It’s sturdy enough to take moderate tapping, and has openings for all the ports on the phone so you can charge it at the same time. About $25 at Amazon.


  • Compass iPad standTwelve South Compass iPad StandAnother stand, this time for the iPad. The market for iPad accessories is exploding as the handy tablets become more popular. It seems like every manufacturer has some kind of docking station, combo cover-and-stand, or charging dock. Most of these are bulky, ugly or both. But the Compass solves all functional and aesthetic problems by providing a classy, folding, sturdy stand designed for iPad that puts the device at the exactly perfect angle for work. I’m using it right now, in fact. Made of brushed steel, it folds to the size of a couple of pencils and, as a bonus, you get a lovely soft case that fits the Compass perfectly. With its extra fold-out leg, you can also use it to hold the iPad at an angle better suited for using the on-screen keyboard. I love this thing, and you can get it for $39.99 at Amazon.

  • YogaNo Keyboard Cushionlow tech accessories for iPad
    Okay, I made up the name of this product. There is no “YogaNo” but here’s where it came from: When I’m out of the office I use the Apple Bluetooth Keyboard ($69 from Amazon) since I find it impossible to type more than 2 words a minute on my iPad’s on-screen keyboard. Although the little Apple keyboard is perfect in almost every way, it has one shortcoming: there is no padding of any kind on the bottom. The result is a rough, rattling feeling when you’re typing on a hard surface (like the tables at your local coffee shop, for instance). This can actually make my fingers start to hurt after a while, and the keyboard has a way of “walking” across the table. Solution? Jill cut a section out of an old yoga mat exactly the right size for the keyboard and exactly the right sponginess to cushion it. Now typing is a pleasure. Clearly, there’s an unexplored product category here, so you manufacturers out there, let’s get busy making keyboard cushions in fashion colors.

  • Dynex Flexible TripodDynex Flexible Tripod from Best BuyThis device is another crazy-great low-tech idea that’s just plain fun to use. In the photo you see it with a point and shoot camera mounted on it, and you can see just how flexible and grippy the legs are. The have articulated joints, flat rubber feet, and rubber band-type bands on each segment. It looks a little like a close up shot of spider’s legs but it’s endlessly adaptable. You can mount your camera on a tree, or drape it over the back of a chair. I use mine for my webcam, and mount it on the Laserjet next to me or over the top of the iMac, and you can get exactly the right angle. $21.99 at Best Buy.

I get a lot of pleasure out of these devices I’ve come to rely on, and having an accessory that makes it even better is a low-tech thrill.

Photo by alykat. All Amazon links are affiliate links.

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    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    Roger C. Parker January 15, 2011 at 9:29 pm

    Dear Joel:
    I love the idea of low-tech writing tools; my personal favorite is using 3-ring binders to organize manuscript drafts printed on 3-hole punched paper.

    There are dozens of ways 3-ring binders can help authors, including the ritual of printing out your latest drafts at the end of writing sessions and saving your latest work as you complete each writing session. Nothing buildes positive momentum like a 3-ring binder that get thicker and thicker each day!

    Reviewing printed copies of your work is also likely to reveal problem areas far better than reviewing your work on-screen.

    Finally, a recent (and, thankfully, temporary) blog server problem reminded me, once again, of the importance of saving and printing out hard copies of each blog post as you write them, and saving the copies in a 3-ring binder organized by categories.

    Thanks for yet another idea-sparking post.
    Roger

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 17, 2011 at 5:00 pm

    Roger, that’s a great idea about “backing up” blog posts. I have friends whose blogs have gone down, either accidentally or by being hacked, and who lost virtually all their writing. Thanks!

    Reply

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