Technology Aids for RVers

I spent a career working with computers and other high tech gadgets but I am amazed at the technology available today at affordable prices.

Cell Phone - Who doesn't have a cell phone today? We can make campground reservations riding down the Interstate. It's pretty neat to be able to keep in touch with family and friends while sitting in a remote campground. Where do they hide those cell phone towers?

Notebook/Laptop Computer - Many of us have notebook computers, which can cost as little as $400 on sale. I use mine to keep track of household finances and fuel usage and costs. Planning my trip itinerary is much easier with an electronic spreadsheet and mapping software. I can't imagine how I would manage and store photos taken with my digital camera without a computer and the software that comes with it. And how do you get on the Internet without a computer? Well, you could go to the library.

GPS Navigation and Trip Planning - Since I already have a notebook computer, my cost to add a GPS receiver and navigation and trip planning software was only $99. I have used DeLorme products over the years and have been satisfied with their products. There are similar products by other manufactuers that have equally satisfied users. I am amazed at the accuracy of the GPS receiver and mapping software. For the most part, that little green arrow rides down the middle of the highway. The next turn, with distance, is displayed. With a suitable headset with microphone, you can talk to the darn thing and issue commands. It even obeys those commands - a truly hands-free situation.

Internet Access - In the beginning, there was dial-up. Some campgrounds would allow you to use their phone line. Some even had a room set aside with more than one phone line but those waiting in line glowered at those that exceeded their 15 minute allotment. Some truck stops provided limited access.

Later, I purchased a card that slipped into a slot in my notebook computer and included a cable that connected the card to my cell phone. Then I dialed out through my cell phone just like I did back home with my regular phone and connected to my Internet Service Provider and got on the Internet. It wasn't the 50Kbps connection I had at home - more like 14.4Kbps. I could send and receive email if there were no large attachments. I could even surf the web if I stayed away from websites with heavy graphics content. And I could do this anywhere I had a cell phone signal.

Wi-Fi Capability - And that brings me to Wi-Fi Internet access. Boy, how things have changed. Most notebook computers have Wi-Fi capability built in. Many places, such as libraries, are offering Wi-Fi access to the Internet, often at no charge. More and more RV parks are offering a free Wi-Fi connection without even leaving the comfort of your RV. You can take your notebook into Burger King and surf the Net while eating your Whopper. In many cases, you can sit outside in your vehicle. There is no waiting in line to get a computer terminal.

Broadband Wireless - Commonly referred to as an "air card", these devices allow you to carry your broadband Internet connection with you while on the road. In fact, you can browse the Internet while riding down the road. It is a modem that plugs into your computer's USB port and uses cell phone towers to provide the connection. I have obtained speeds as high as a DSL connection. As of May 2009, the monthly fee from the major cell phone providers was about $60 and the modem was often free with rebates.

Satellite Internet - This is an expensive option but, for some, it is the only way to go. Similar to satellite TV, you can have Internet access any time and any place (well, almost any place). George of Tioga and George has used his all over the western USA and most of Mexico.

Satellite TV - Satellite TV for the road can cost no more than cable TV except for a pole to mount the dish. The rest of the hardware is usually free. I use a $40 tripod to mount my dish. Others have made their own mounting poles for a lot less. Set up used to be easy but it requires a little more effort for those that have service that uses more than 3 satellites. It sure is nice to watch a little TV in the evening in the middle of Big Bend National Park.

Digital Camera - RVers travel to a lot of beautiful places so it's natural that we end up taking a lot of pictures with our cameras. And just to make sure that we get a good picture, we may take several shots of the same scene - lots of pictures.

Carol used to have a film camera and every time we arrived in a town, we searched for a Wal-Mart where she droped off her film and either waited for it or returned later and picked it up. She likes to work on her scrapbooks while camped, and needs the photos she has previously taken. Well, she put the film camera on the shelf and never looked back. Inexpensive digital cameras take great photos. We have both taken photos of the same subjects, she using her film camera and me using the digital camera. We agree that, in our case, the digital camera photos look better. With the appropriate software, you can make digital photos look even better.

You can click away without wasting film and, later, the photos can be downloaded and viewed on the computer screen, deleting those photos that didn't pass muster. Cheap printers (and not so cheap ink cartridges and photo paper) print great looking photos or the photos can be used directly as I have done for my website or in an email to family or friends.