Martin Hesp: Get connected with only best gadgets and gizmos
As I write, the house is filled with the sweet and heady perfume of drying apples. It is a really good year for the fruit here in the South West, as I reported this week in the newspaper – but what do you do when your garden trees produce enough apples to turn your lawn to cider?
I remember climbing, as a boy, into the dusty barn lofts owned by distant relatives on the Somerset Levels and seeing massive racks of apples that had been carefully arranged in old newspapers so that the cool air could preserve them for the long winter months to come.
Like most people, I don't have anywhere near enough room for such traditional storage techniques – but I do have a new friend...
It's my hi-tech food dehydration machine. It cost 35 quid, runs on the same amount of energy as a light bulb, and is absolutely brilliant. The gadget arrived yesterday and already I have dried a batch of windfall apples, a bag of field mushrooms, some tired kiwi fruits and a droopy cucumber.
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The leathery shards of apple tasted as sweet and as rich as wine gums. The mushrooms, which would by now have turned to mouldy mulch, are destined for future stews. And I am about to try out a Japanese salad in which the dried kiwis and cucumber (which now have an amazingly satisfying crunch) are soused in rice wine vinegar and served with smoked fish.
Smoked, that is, by my own fair hand. Because – being gadget-boy – I of course have my own home-smoker.
And that's what this column is about. I'm not out to sell you the idea of buying a food dehydration machine or anything else. My mission is to defend the kind of modern technology which so many people of a certain age and over treat with much disdain.
The older I get the more I love gadgets of every size, shape and hue.
Recently my bosses at the newspaper gave me an iPhone – after a fortnight in its excellent company I have come to the conclusion that I could never, ever, spend a single day without one again. It does so, so much. Indeed, I have worked out that I use it as an actual telephone less than one per cent of its valuable time.
I email, tweet, take photos and shoot videos on it. I could even write this article on it, although I'll admit that would tax my ageing eyes. The gadget's on-board calendar, which is linked to the one on my computer, tells me where I should be and what I should be doing. And the phone's GPS mapping will tell me exactly where I am and the best way to get to my destination.
A tiny spreadsheet programme works out my expenses. I can find out which restaurant or pub is doing a special offer near to wherever I happen to be. I can check out train and plane times, beam it at barcodes and understand what's on offer, get the latest news and sports results... Oh, and it even acts as a torch.
The sales bumph for computerised phones makes lofty claims that they give you the world in your pocket – but not once have I ever heard the trades descriptions people criticising manufacturers for making such sweeping assertions. They really do.
Meanwhile, on a recent walking holiday, I used a tiny camera that I've been loaned for testing. It came in a box with not one, but three, different lenses. All of it – the camera, the lenses, the spare battery, the image capture cards – I carried in just one anorak pocket. It was so lightweight, I could not sense the gear was there. The quality of the photos was superb. Never again will I go walking with a heavy camera clonking about my person.
Gadgets... I love them. And why not? I cannot understand anyone who believes they are all part of some kind of technological conspiracy to wreck and make less human our lives.
Yes, I know there are a plethora of useless gizmos out there – indeed I have just received an email advertising a watch that allows you to: "Stay connected anytime, anywhere – the wearable extension of your smartphone that helps manage your connected life."
My "connected life"?
The only real connection I want is with things that make my life easier, more fun, more flavoursome, more healthy, more dependable – all with much less hassle. If gadgets can do that – bring 'em on...