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The Ultimate Gadget

Date:  Fri, 7th-May-2004prevnext

Tags: Commentary, Hardware

I often carry a plethora of gadgets around with me and the unnecessary burden has made me wish for an ultimate gadget, the one that does it all...

I have a great digital camera and a nifty little iPAQ with Navman GPS jacket which, until I acquire an iPod, also serves as a MP3 player. The problem is that I don't always have these devices with me. This unfortunate situation means that I often miss good photo opportunities, get lost, or have to find a scrap of paper and a pen to jot down some information I need.

What I need is a device that's portable, yet well specified and guaranteed to be always close to hand. What I need is my ultimate gadget.

There is one piece of equipment that is always with me, come rain or shine, and that is my cellular phone. I have the base for the ultimate gadget right there - all the technology I need should be incorporated into a cellular phone.

Let's begin with that then. I use a Nokia 6310i and have found it's dimensions to be perfect for my needs. It is highly portable, slips easily into any pocket and yet is large enough to prevent it being easily misplaced. Ergo, my ultimate gadget should, for now, be around 5" long by 2" wide by 1" deep.

The phone should be usable anywhere on Earth. It should have GPRS and Bluetooth and, let's push the boat out here, push-to-talk. Furthermore, it should be 3G enabled.

With the iPAQ, the only applications I use with any regularity are the basic ones: tasks, calendar and address book. I also use Pocket CoPilot which is the navigation package for the GPS receiver. The 6310i already has task, calendar and address book tools, so the only addition would be a GPS receiver and software.

At this point it becomes obvious that the screen of the 6310i would not be suitable for the navigation system. The screen of iPAQ, however, is perfectly adequate. So let's redesign the phone to incorporate a backlit, touch-sensitive, 240 x 320 resolution screen capable of displaying around 64,000 colours. The dimensions of my ultimate gadget must be revised accordingly, increasing at least the width to accommodate the screen. We don't need to change the length if we do away with the traditional telephone keypad and use the touch-sensitive screen to display a keypad as required. Our width is thus increased to 3¼" (the approximate width of the iPAQ).

While I'm taking the iPAQ to pieces, I'll also take its infra-red transceiver, increase its range and spread and, with the aid of a little software, turn my ultimate gadget into a cool Philips Pronto clone. This means that, at a stroke, I've also managed to deprecate the cluster of remote controls that I am forever misplacing.

To facilitate data exchange, the ultimate gadget must have a CompactFlash reader and 802.11G networking.

Next up is the digital camera. This doesn't need to be too exotic, I have a standalone camera for when I'm in that "professional" mode, it simply needs to be able to take quality snapshots and, perhaps, small video clips. Let's create a basic specification then: the camera should be capable of at least 800x600 resolution photography with 24-bit colour. It should have in-camera facilities for image rotation, and basic adjustment tools like cropping, colour adjustment and contrast/brightness adjustment. The camera should have a few decent programme modes along with aperture and shutter-priority controls. As this is just a "snapshot" camera, the zoom can be digital rather than optical - so let's add a 6x zoom. Naturally there should be an integrated flash with red-eye compensation.

The only major item still to be incorporated is an MP3 player. Naturally this should, like the iPod, be HDD-based. Having a hard disk in the ultimate gadget is a necessary prerequisite since we've already specified a considerable range of software and we need to be able to store all the PDA data, the maps and associated files for the navigation system, the images from the digital camera and the MP3 library! Thus we need a further adjustment to the device's dimensions - increasing the depth by around ¾" to house the HDD.

Of course the MP3 player's interface should be at least as good as that of the iPod. Track selection should be quick and intuitive. I must be able to organise my music - by artist, album and genre. I must also be able to put the player into random track selection mode. Having an MP3 player in my ultimate gadget dictates that I must also have the means to connect headphones. We already have a microphone (remember our cellular phone roots), so I'd appreciate a facility for using my ultimate gadget as a voice recorder. The voice clips would be managed with the same software used for the MP3 player, so that I can organise my notes and easily retrieve them at any time.

To round off the audio we'll take this high-technology ultimate gadget and add a distinctly lo-tech FM stereo receiver so that I can listen to the match while I'm hiking. In fact, to heck with it, I'll stick a DAB digital radio unit in there too!

The ultimate gadget would be a very tempting prize for the criminal community. So I want a built in taser as a last line of defence. I know this is possible because James Bond had one just like it in Tomorrow Never Dies!

Considerable battery power would obviously be required for a device with this much functionality. Like the iPod, the ultimate gadget should be able to play MP3s continuously for "up to 8 hours" (grin) and, like the 6310i, it should be able to run on standby for at least a week.

So there it is, the ultimate gadget revealed. Mr. Jobs, if you're looking for inspiration for the next iPod, call me - we'll do lunch!

Now, dear reader, it's over to you. What would your ultimate gadget consist of? Does mine already exist? What did I forget to add?

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