In my family, the holidays have always been a time of expectancy, excitement and a modicum of begging, cajoling and haranguing. And, that’s just since I’ve been a married adult. Mrs. Claus is so good to me! Imagine the youthful glint in my eyes as a kid when the shiny BMX arrived, when Santa arranged for a weapon of mass destruction or two, when I first opened that can of forest-fresh Lincoln Logs, or when I flew into the wrapper of that first Atari system. Man, am I old!
Things have gotten a lot more confusing since the days of the Atari 2600, Commodore 64 and the Apple IIe. And, I’m so glad they have. I love my electronics and 2013 has been a huge year for gadget updates and glorious new goodies. As you plan your budget for your tech bits and bytes, there are a few things you might consider.
Faster Internet is coming
Local Internet service providers are ramping up to a 2014 where your once blazing fast 10-20 Mbps Internet connection is going to seem slower than digesting grandma’s Thanksgiving feast. In Austin, Google has spurred a race to 1000 Mbps. The days of erratic, irritating buffering might soon be as much a part of history as tinfoil-wrapped rabbit ears.
Make sure to upgrade that old router of yours to take advantage of all that speed. If so, you’ll be streaming “The Wire” without interruption as your daughter is FaceTiming all her Snapchat minions, your son is commanding an online gaming legion and your husband is pumping his fist to three online ESPN football games while simultaneously streaming his ear-piercing and strangely ironic Rage Against the Machine attack on your ears. Be careful what you wish for from the bandwidth gods, however, you might just get it.
With faster Internet also comes a towering wave of devices to drink from the bandwidth fire hy
Tablets, tablets, tablets
Like tribbles, they just keep multiplying. Tablets are relatively cheap. They’re stunningly light. They’re capable of enormous battery life and they’re increasingly peppy enough for whatever you want to shove through that massively expanding pipeline of bandwidth. Don’t settle for a lackluster, outdated version that some stores may try to slip by you. Insist on high definition screens, fast processors and plenty of storage for all those movies you’ll need to download to keep the kids from a nuclear assault on each other during next summer’s road trip. You’ll thank me later – for the shiny new tablet, and especially for the been-there-got-the-t-shirt vacation advice.
Gadgets, gear and goodies
The world of gadgets gets more interesting every day. Did you know that the curved displays are emerging? I’m not sold on them yet, but they’re interesting. Immaculate resolution already abounds. And, to this already diverse cavalcade of gadgetry, the tech titans are adding things like smart watches and eyewear like Google Glass. Is one’s nerd empire or gift list complete without them? You’ll have to decide that one.
I’m assuming some of these will trickle into the holiday buy-o-rama this year. Even so, these more gimmicky items might still need the inventiveness and marketing of an Apple to pull off the truly culture-shifting feat of widespread adoption. Huge phones prove it can be done, though. Once lampooned, the gargantuan “phablets” that emerged a couple of years ago are becoming standard pocket-stretching protocol for ladies and gents alike. And the once seemingly untouchable Retina display has been conquered by the mesmerizing qHD+ displays
currently hitting the markets. Last but not least, a wave of refreshed Intel processors means your new laptop should come with Haswell baked in or it should stay on the store shelf. Haswell-based laptops are getting eight to 14 hours of battery life! That’s great news for the road warrior worker, the dude-where’d-I-leave-my-charger college student and, especially, for all the inveterate coffee shop cave dwellers among us.
The next big thing:
You may have heard your gadget guru friend or partner gushing about 4K resolutions. The marketplace is still elbowing around in the naming queue trying to figure out what appellation will stick, but this is certain: no matter how it hits your ears, it will hit your eyes with stunning clarity and brilliantly crisp vistas of realism. From desktop displays to laptops and certainly to the arena of TV, resolution is expanding exponentially. And, trust this: all those pixels come at a price.
Early adopters will find that their eye-teasing displays will cost hundreds and sometimes thousands more. If you can afford it, go for it. You won’t be disappointed. If you’re like me and can’t afford a TV that costs as much as a year’s worth of college tuition, not to worry. The prices are falling and because we’ve already come so far, the current mid-tier display technology is already great. Just don’t settle for anything less than Full HD on just about any gadget you buy and you’ll be all set for a brilliantly crisp and clear rendition of “Elf,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “A Christmas Story” or whatever else you like to nuzzle up to as you stir your nostalgia this time of year.
Okay, enough about gadgets; let me bend your ear for a moment about how to keep all this stuff from becoming the focus of your family. During the holidays, it’s not the next cool thing that we will remember years from now. Rather, it’s the time that we are blessed to spend with each other that will outlive the recycled wasteland of gifts.
Sure, I remember the BMX and the Lincoln Logs, but what I remember more is riding bikes with my cousin and building He-Man vs. Skeletor battle landscapes with my brother and those aging Lincoln Logs.
So, if you plan on buying some of these hot, shiny new baubles this year, please find ways to help your family create positive memories with them. Technology often takes the blame for overstimulated tikes, zoned-out teens and isolated, unproductive adults. Really, it’s not all the cool devices that do that to us. It’s how we choose to use them that makes the difference.
It’s never too late in one year or too early in another to start being intentional about using the wonders of technology to bring family together, to spread cheer, to lavish one another with love and to build lasting memories that will yield a lifetime of blessings.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays!
Richard Singleton, MACE, MAMFC, LPC, is the executive director at STARRY in Round Rock.