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Beacon Senior News

What to know before buying your first gadget

Aug 04, 2020 11:27AM ● By Adam Cochran

More BEACON readers reached out to me in July than in all four years I’ve written this column combined. I’m not sure if that’s because you’ve been trapped indoors avoiding coronavirus, or whether there’s been a surge in technology problems on the Western Slope. Chances are it’s both. Throughout the month, I jotted down some of the advice I gave (including about your first gadget):

1) People who are trying to sell you something are trying to sell you something.

This is especially true about technology. When purchasing a new piece of tech, talk to somebody with no vested interest in your purchase. This advice applies to kids, grandkids and anyone else who may benefit from it.

For example, if you ask your grandson which computer to get, he might recommend one that works best for video games. If you ask your granddaughter which smartphone you should get, she’ll probably recommend the one she would buy to maintain her social media career. Neither will be the right one for you.

2) Don’t try to learn the computer, smartphone, camera, etc. Instead, learn how your technology can help you do what you want.

Trying to learn how to use your device is like trying to learn how the human body works—no single book can thoroughly cover all of the systems and uses.

Instead, type your questions into Google and search websites and YouTube videos.

3) The purpose of your first gadget is to make you aware of everything you need in your second gadget.

I’ve helped a lot of people buy their first phone, tablet, laptop or digital camera. Many people buy the most expensive device that will do everything, when all they really need is an inexpensive device with specific features.

No matter what your first gadget is, you’ll soon realize where you went wrong. If you buy a device that does everything, it’ll be too complicated. If you buy a budget device, you’ll realize its limitations. It’s best to buy a device that does what you need for as little money as possible because, within a year or two, you’ll likely be making an educated purchase of the right device for your needs.

I call this philosophy, “Buy ’em cheap and buy ’em often.” It means you’ll buy more gadgets, but likely waste less money on features and tools you don’t need.

4) Turn it on and leave it on.

Back in the days of amber or green monitors and 5.25-inch floppy drives, computers consumed a lot of power. It was important to shut them down when not in use.

Today, leaving your computer on does not consume enough power to make any significant impact on your electric bill. If your computer is a laptop, the amount of power it uses is about 60 percent less.

When your computer is turned off, it won’t receive updates, emails or run virus scans. When you turn the computer back on, it often runs slowly because it’s trying to catch up on maintenance.

Additionally, computers that are turned off frequently have significantly more hardware problems than those left on. Of course, if you’re leaving the house for a long time, feel free to turn it off. But you probably don’t have to.