News Articles
Written for the
Pride of Rochester

November 2002 Article

"Shopping For Technical Gadgets"

Whether you're preparing for the upcoming holiday season, or you're thinking of what to buy for someone's upcoming birthday, shop smart when looking to purchase a technical gift for that very special person on your list. In this month's article, I'll share with you some shopping tips on purchasing some of the newest tech toys.

Shopping Tips:

If you're like me, you can't afford to purchase the latest gadget that hits the market and because companies are always upgrading their products, it's best to wait at least 3 months to see if the either price has come down or if they have a newer model out. I like to comparison shop. I've found stores like Sears and Walmart have great electronics. Just because a company specializes in them, doesn't guarantee that the products will be the best. Make sure you hold on to your receipts and consider purchasing the extended warrantees. Also consider purchasing electronics that have more than one feature to them. They not only save you money, but it reduces the number of units you have to connect and use.

During February of this year, Walmart had a sale on DVD players for $59. Well, I didn't have one and at that price, I figured I'd explore and purchase one to see what the rave was all about. During July of this year, I noticed another store had VCR/DVD/MP3/CDR/CD players on sale for $199. Well, I like the idea of having an all-in-one unit, and so I purchased two of them. One for myself and one for my daughter who went away to college. When I hooked one of them to my television, the DVD and VCR component worked fine, but the CDR and MP3 component didn't have any sound and the store instructed me to call the 800 number before I returned the merchandise. Needless to say, I returned the units back to the store and have decided wait for the price of the all-in-one units to come down. At the rate technology goes, I figure by November/December, they should be on sale for $99 - $100. And if I have to deal with a product that's not working, I don't want to invest a great deal of money into it.

Hottest Electronics:

If you're looking to purchase a DVD player, purchase one that has multiple features to it. The DVD/CDR/MP3/VCR players will play your video tapes, music CD's from the store or the type that people make on their computers and they will also play CD's that people have saved songs as computer files. Look at it like this. Would you rather purchase four items or one?

If you're loved in a runner or a jogger, they have watches that will store songs on them as computer files called MP3 files. They allow the user to listen to music up to 5 hours while they job. Though the watches run for $125 - $199, I'm sure if you shop around during the months of November to December, the prices may be lowered.

If you like to listen to music while you sleep, they have alarm clocks with CD players. I enjoy music, but unfortunately, I like to listen to it with a lot of base and volume so be cautious that you don't use smaller units that play music as stereo systems. Smaller units don't have speakers and woofers to handle songs with a lot of base. You can purchase a CD player / boom box if you like it like that. If you're looking to purchase a new one, make sure it provides you "base" capabilities and you can play a variety of music files like CD's, CDR's and MP3 files. If you're a traveler and like to listen to music, I like to take a CD Walkman, but I purchase small speakers and use my Walkman as a small boom box. I'm not a great television person, but utilizing mini speakers to my CD player provides me a great deal of variety for music. Especially when I'm traveling.

If purchasing a television is on your list, check out the ones that have the VCR player a part of the unit. A friend of mine just purchased a 21-inch TV/VCR for $169.

If computers are on your list, I'll start with purchasing a complete system.  If you're looking to purchase a computer and you don't have computer experience or a great deal of money, consider purchasing a used system. Make sure you ask for the minimum specifications as follows: Three to 10 Gig Hard drives. If you don't have children installing software, games or programs to your computer, a three - five Gig Hard Drive. But if you'd like your children or grand children to use the system, consider purchasing a pc with at least 10 Gig Hard Drive. You should have at least 64 to 128 MB Ram. Try to have at least three to four USB ports to connect any new hardware you purchase. Most newer devices come USB If you need a printer, consider to purchase the all-in-one units with printing, copier, scanning and you can find ones with faxing capabilities if you need to fax information. These printers sell from $150 - $299. I'm a big Hewlett Packard fan but there are others units from other makers that are cheaper than Hewlett Packard's.

If you're looking to purchase a digital camera and have never used one, consider purchasing a cheap one. This will give you an inexpensive opportunity to get familiar with the unit and once you have, you can always give it to your kids or grandchildren you've graduated to a more technical unit. You can find them on sale for as little as $100. Some cameras come equipped with built in memory to store your pictures. Make sure you ask the sales associate about this. If you're camera doesn't, you'll need to purchase a memory card/stick which sells for as little as $19.99. If you consider purchasing a used unit, you can purchase all of the outlined equipment for as little as $1,000 to $1,500. If you purchase a brand new pc, consider adding at least $350 - $600 more to this figure. Either way, make sure a pc is on your list. Another item to add to this computer list would be computer classes or training material. Make sure you have advanced knowledge and skills in the use of your pc. Many computer technology centers in Rochester provide free computer classes. The Rochester Fatherhood Resource Initiative, Inc. located at 775 South Plymouth Avenue where I volunteer to teach classes provides up to advance skills in computer literacy.  Because of the holidays, we won't begin our classes again until January 2003.

Now for the technical people with some computer skills, the gadgets I recommend you put on your "To Buy For Me " list would be:

External USB Hard Drives. These hard drives give you the capability to save your computer files to an external hard. This is a drive that you can connect to any computer or laptop. You can even use them as backup files and if you have never backed up your computer files, this should be the first thing on your list. The second thing on your list is to make sure your security software protects you against viruses attached to your email and that will prevent ads from popping up while you are on the Internet.

If you're a big cell phone user, a friend of mine, just told me about a headset unit for the cell phone that is equipped to play FM Radio. If you like gadgets, this is truly one of them. If you're cell phone is not equipped with a palm pilot, it should be number three on your list. When my old cell phone broke and I had to purchase a new one, I was lucky to catch the palm pilot cell phones on sale for $149. They normally retail for $499. At the time, I didn't really have any need for a palm pilot, but as you can tell I like getting a bang for my buck and so, I purchased it. This cell phone not only stores my phone numbers, but I can select a number from the directory and have my cell phone automatically dial the number. I can also store all of the phone numbers, email addresses and contact names in my email account to my cell phone and if I ever need to have access to this information, it is automatically stored in my cell phone and my computer at home. If you're a big cell phone and gadget person, you can consider signing on with service plans that provide the access to the Internet on your cell phone. You can receive email, search for movie theaters online and store your favorite web address on your phone to view them when you get the opportunity to.

Well, that's enough gadget talk for now. Make your shopping experience for computer items an enjoyable one. Shop around, ask questions and make sure you're getting the most for your dollars. For any questions regarding my favorite stores for shopping for particular items or for computer classes in town, email me at