Buying gifts for people normally gets harder as they get older, but IT engineers are the exception. The number of USB powered trinkets I get beggars belief — I even have a hot beverage warmer with in-built clock, alarm and ambient temperature sensor. My marginally younger brother gave me a rudely shaped USB memory stick last Christmas, but with only one gigabyte of storage it's hardly worth using.
But at last Mrs Business Lifer has come up with something truly inspired, and it's called a Kindle. Normally I lug around a Tom Clancy novel, or perhaps a Clive Cussler. As a consequence I have to leave certain things at home, such as the 3kg pot of multivitamin supplements my wife sneaks in at the last minute, together with the Greek Villa holiday brochure and framed family photos. With this new e-book I can take every novel I'm ever likely to read and there's space for whatever else she believes a man needs, based on some article in that health magazine from Holland & Barrett or the ramblings of some tabloid agony aunt.
As the second quarter of 2011 is drawing to a close, I had to take the tiresome trip to head office in Canary Wharf, and for the first time I saw other people with such devices pepper-potted between Metro readers, sophisticated looking FT connoisseurs and disoriented tourists. The e-bookers were not bespectacled geeks, either — they looked fairly fashionable with hair products, jobs, and consequently even girlfriends. This gave me the courage to swap my Private Eye for the Kindle, and within a couple of stops along the Jubilee line I was totally relaxed. Too relaxed to notice my stop...
My life is spent designing computer-based devices to do all sorts of things that very few people think are terribly important. Hence my son has taken to pointing to any electronic device and loudly declaring in public that I made it. People tend to conclude he's a fantasist, or that I'm a complete fraud. Or both. He recently asked if I built the Kindle, which I denied (though I haven't split it open to examine the chip designs yet) and the despondent look I got would have made a nicer person cry.
In a nutshell, the Kindle makes travelling life infinitely more pleasurable while being socially acceptable for anyone, whether they are demanding a bouncy castle for their tenth birthday or considering a stair lift for their 59th-plus-one 'celebrations'.
Our entrepreneurial correspondent travels the world in search of business, soft beds and good breakfasts
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