What defines something useful, and what defines something truly high tech? As for the last, I have gradually come to, regard electric devices as high technology. It might be that I have been working with computers since my early teenage years, but I think that it has to do with the fact that electronic gizmos are so commonplace nowadays. Everyone has them. And then, if a new laptop with slightly more memory and a fancier design-shell is released. So what? It still does not make it high tech. Not to speak of the potential usefulness.
This is not me trying to be a hipster (or whatever they call them people nowadays). I still like electronic things, and they can be absolutely cutting edge of course. I think what bothers me is elegance. There is a lot of very elegant engineering and research out there, in electronics, devices, and design, but not very much in consumer products any more.
While trying to figure out why, I realized that part of what bothers me is continuous consumption of power. I do not find it elegant. A device that only uses energy to change states, is more appealing to than something that require power to stay turned on. I think that is the essence of it. Maybe that is why I find e-ink displays to be some of the most potent and useful technologies on the consumer market today. Or maybe it is just because I am a book worm? Why knows?
Then we have devices that only require energy when assembled, but that is still very high technology. Like novel materials for instance. New bicycle design, new glasses, new running shoes, new swim suits. Very, very high tech, but still not requiring external power once it is produced (though it is outside the topic right now I do think we should include the full energy cost of the product. Some of the examples I gave are probably both expensive to produce and recycle in an energy/environmental framework).
In general, useful things are: good software that make my life easier, good long lasting equipment, recycled things, and high technology that improve on things in stead of just being new. Yes, I know, I just wrote software. Something that clearly can not run without a continuous stream of electricity on the computers of today. I don't know why I still find some software elegant and more than a tool. Maybe because I think of them as disembodied algorithms? Who knows?
On a related topic: I have been thinking of writing reviews (or rather short texts) on useful - but maybe less known - things for some time now, but never really gotten around to it. I mean, I do it for books, so why not other things? I guess the above writings started out as an introduction to that series of texts, and then just went wildly off topic. Just because one finds something useful does not mean it has to be elegant. Still the text shall not escape its purpose, and will hereby be the introduction to a short list on things I find good!