Let's See Gadgets That Actually Work

Even though I've spent a good chunk of my professional career writing about the technology business, I've never been a gadget hound myself. In fact, I consciously resist certain habit-changing technologies.

I was last person I know to get a mobile phone, and I only recently got a BlackBerry. I couldn't live — or rather make a living — without e-mail, word processing and the Internet.

But $500 for a first-generation iPhone? Never.

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A lot of this has to do with the simple fact that I don't enjoy playing with machines. I just want them to do what I need them to do with minimum fuss.

It continues to amaze me that more than 20 years into the consumer computer revolution, fussing remains a common requirement — even for well-established products.

Here are a few examples from just the last few weeks.

My daughter is unable to download music she has purchased from iTunes onto her iPod Mini. She's bought the songs, and her gift card has been debited, but they won't transfer to the device.

Apple's support responses are cryptic and the device is out of warranty, so the problem remains unresolved. I'm sure we could get the money for the songs back if we devoted enough hours to it, but life is short.

We bought a new Gateway laptop for an employee last month. It doesn't come with Office pre-installed, so she's been temporarily using what appears to be Vista "Windows Mail."

For reasons we cannot diagnose, the e-mail program is stripping out most (but not all) file attachments. We spent 4 or 5 company man-hours on this without solving the problem, which cost us almost as much as the machine.

My eight-year-old son has been diligently working and saving for a laptop, even thought he's too young to really figure out how to use one. Recently, my wife saw a cheap Dell display model on sale and bought it for him.

The first time we tried to start it up, the machine wouldn't even boot Windows. It took hours on the phone with customer service and two rounds of full system restore to get the machine working.

On top of all of this, we also have a printer we can't seem to use because the driver has a bug that crashes my wife's laptop (or vice versa — hard to tell). I have a contact list in an obsolete Palm Pilot that I can't figure out how to transfer to anything else.

I take some comfort in reading the blog of one of my company's investors, Brad Feld, who is a certified technology genius and loves playing around with techie things.

Brad sometimes writes about his personal tech matters, and in June he had a post entitled "iBrick" about how he can't get his brand-new iPhone to work.

He finds these things more amusing than infuriating — something I aspire to but will never achieve — but at least it reassures me that I'm not a total idiot.

To all the iPhone hype I say, spare me. I don't want to be wowed, I don't want to be cool, I don't want to watch movies on my phone, and I definitely don't want to spend beautiful summer days on hold with tech support.

I just want tools that work. And in that, I don't think I'm alone.