Christmas in September

I love technology. In fact, keeping technically current is critical in order for me to do my job well.

I am not, however, one of those people that feels the need to have the latest and greatest version of anything. No, I tend to buy something that’s been out for a little while and then use it until it’s time to bury it in the ground. (I still use my 1996 HP laptop to drive my 1997 HP LaserJet printer).

And so it goes with tablets. Early last year, a co-worker bought a Galaxy Tab 10 to work and I got to play with it for a while. It was too big to fit in my purse, and too heavy to easily carry around, but I got bitten by the idea that I could use free WiFi in the Chicago train station during my semimonthly six-hour layovers. And it seems like free WiFi is everywhere.

And so the quest began. What brand of tablet should I get? What size? How about an iPad Touch? What weight can I tolerate? And today, how can I justify laying down a bunch of money when I don’t even travel through the train station anymore?

The search went on for nearly a year, but was decided in an instant recently when Amy and I were at Parmentiers for an observing session with the group. Amy was using her binoculars to work on her list of objects, and I was using mine to complete the binocular Messier certificate.

At some point, Amy pulls her relatively new Kindle Fire out of her backpack and starts playing with a star chart application she had downloaded that day. As she’s looking at constellations and clicking on stars and getting all this information about individual objects, a light bulb goes off in my head.

Later, when we’re packing up to leave, we stopped at each observing station to say hi and let everyone know we were leaving. Several of our members are into astrophotography, so we always let them know our blinding headlights will soon be washing over them. On the way, we paid a visit to Brien, who was observing with his 12” scope. There, in his open hatchback, lay a tablet, also with a star chart application open.

Amy mentions that she had been playing with an app that night for the first time on her Kindle, and Brien takes a few minutes and demonstrates all the cool stuff he can do with the Sky Safari program. When he says, “Heck, I don’t even bring my star charts with me anymore when I’m observing,” I was sold. It’s been two weeks now, and my refurbished Galaxy Tab 7” is sitting next to me on my desk loaded with Sky Safari. Can’t wait to get out and use it!

I guess I just needed a really good excuse to upgrade to the 21st century.


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