I’m as fond of toys as the next she-geek, but Really Good Tech — as in, the stuff that gets replaced at once, no question, if and when it ever dies — is something else again. In my book, to qualify for that title, the piece of technology involved has to:
1. be better than I am
2. at something I really hate doing
3. that nevertheless is usually my job to get done anyway.
This rules out my e-book reader, much as I adore it, because it just facilitates something that I’d enjoy doing regardless of the tech involved. The same goes for my crockpot, no matter how much I rely on it, because I could always fall back on the dutch oven if I had to. In fact, there are only four items, at the moment, that make my Really Good Tech list:
- The computer/word processor/printer combination. Not for writing, but for turning what I write into a submittable electronic or paper MS. I’m enough of a dinosaur to remember the bad old days, when it would take me half an hour and an unconscionable amount of White-Out to produce a single page of submission-quality typescript. There’s a reason I didn’t start getting published until we got our first computer, the Atari 800 of blessed memory.
- The GPS for our auto. Because it used to be me riding shotgun with my lap full of maps and triptiks, frantically doing arithmetic (at which I suck) in order to answer urgent questions like “How many minutes until our next exit?” and “What’s our current projected arrival time?”
- The dishwasher. Because it maintains the fragile barrier between us and total (as opposed to merely partial) household disarray, and without it I would fall behind in the dishwashing and never catch up again.
- The rice cooker. Because while it only does one thing, it does that one thing right every single time, whereas rice cookery by any other method, for me, is a project with only about a 50% chance of success.
I’ve been giving considerable thought to adding the electric wok to the shortlist, but I’m still on the fence about that one. I could fake stir-frying in a different pan, or I could adjust my meal plans to make up for the loss if I had to, and besides, I kind of enjoy cooking and I’m not all that bad at it . . . on the other hand, I really like having a proper wok.
The observant reader will have noticed that only one of the items on the Really Good Tech list has anything to do with writing, and the one that does, has more to do with the mechanical end of the job than the creative end. All you really need for the creative end are the contents of your own head and some means — pencil and paper, typewriter, dictaphone, computer, whatever you’ve got handy — of getting them fixed in permanent form.
For the mechanical end, there’s no magic in either retro or cutting-edge technology. Use whatever tech you like and can afford and are comfortable with, so long as it can get your material to the marketplace in a form that the marketplace can handle.