When I started writing full time, word processing was unheard of, the Apricot computer was the height of cool and we only had 4 TV channels. It's amazing to think how radically life has changed for all of us since then. Everything was laboriously typed up on a manual typewriter. Mistakes meant re-typing, while multiple copies meant using carbon paper (the right way round!), or paying 5p a sheet at the local library for a photocopy. Real, paper manuscripts had to be laboriously packed up and taken to the post office. If you think it takes a long time to get a reply from your editor or agent now, imagine having to add in postal delays! All research had to be done via the public library and in my case that meant a forty mile round trip, with a baby. That's unimaginable in these days of 24 hour news and the Internet. There are now a bewildering number of gadgets available to make our lives easier, and here are my current favourites:
1. ALPHASMART NEO
Much as I love the Internet, it's a terrible time suck. If the modem is on while I'm working on my computer, I cannot resist dipping in and out. That's where my Alphasmart Neo comes in. It's simply a keyboard with a memory. That's it. I type into the memory, and then upload it onto my computer. No frills, but no distractions either. It's battery powered, which makes it brilliant for my life-of- many-powercuts and my first set of batteries have lasted for 2 years while in everyday use.
What can I say? I take it we're all addicts here, for better or worse?
3. MOBILE PHONES
These are definitely a two edged sword. My husband loathes his Blackberry. He works in finance, so it has to be on all day from the moment he wakes until he goes to bed at night. If he doesn't check in regularly, the number of incoming mails builds up to an intolerable level. On the other hand, I love my mobile because I so rarely turn it on. I take it with me whenever I leave the house, but only use it in emergencies. These include shopping expeditions, when one of the party gets lost! It also comes into its own when the children are away from home. They know they can always contact us or ring for help, wherever there's a signal.
I love cooking, especially making all sorts of bread by hand. Nothing compares, but once you've tasted it, supermarket bread is relegated to the occasional bacon sandwich. Unfortunately, there are times when quite frankly I'm too tired to organise and knead. That's when my electric breadmaker comes to the rescue. It takes only five minutes to start it off, fresh hot bread can be ready in less than two hours, and my hands stay clean throughout. No floury fingerprints on the phone or the door handles. The fragrance that fills the house is unbeatable, too!
When you spend your working life driving a desk and a lot of your spare time either cooking or eating, as I do, there's one big problem. Writer's bottom! My treadmill is a basic version which operates on friction, rather than electricity. That is, I'm powering it! This means I can get plenty of exercise even when the weather is bad or the days are short. Combined with my pedometer, it's a good way to make sure I get some exercise every day.
All these wonderful new gadgets have definitely improved my life, but I wonder what happened to all the extra leisure time and the paperless offices we were promised 20 years ago? Not to mention the idea 'they' keep trying to resucitate about replacing all our everyday foods with one little pill. That's been popping up for decades.
What are the gadgets you couldn't live without? Do you have any favourite predictions about our brave new future that didn't come true?
Christina Hollis writes Modern Romance for Harlequin Mills and Boon, which appear as Harlequin Presents Extra in the US. Her latest title, The Count's Challenge (UK title: The French Aristocrat's Baby) is available from Harlequin at http://bit.ly/lIOG1a and Amazon. You can catch up with Christina on her website, http://www.christinahollis.com on Twitter,http://www.twitter.com/@christinabooks and Facebook http://on.fb.me/9rv4df