Denise Neil

2009 has been vintage year for technology

Several moments in 2009, I sat back and thanked the technology gods that I was living in 2009. This year, more than any other, technology changed the way that I spend my free time and consume my entertainment.

My miraculous little gadgets — from my iPhone to my DVR to my computer — have made my leisure time so customizable that I'm amazed daily at how I can pretty much get anything I want without having to wait. And really, that's all I've ever wanted in life.

When I think of how under-served I was in 2008, I shudder. I was stumbling through life with my low-functioning RAZR cell phone, whose coolest trick was sending text messages. I had my DVR and my aging laptop, but their amazingness was limited — and wearing off quickly.

But this year, wow. Life is different.

Let's start with television.

My television consumption changed in 2009, simply because there were so many options for watching it.

I found myself not really paying attention to what was on and when and making almost no effort to find out — because I really didn't have to.

If my DVR didn't pick up a show I wanted, I could find it on within a couple of days. If Hulu didn't have it, there was a decent chance my Cox DVR's on-demand function would be offering it for free. In a worst-case scenario, I could just order the whole season of the show from Netflix. And in a catastrophic scenario, the Internet offers about, oh, 3,000 scene-by-scene recaps of said shows, complete with sarcastic commentary.

Movie watching also became easier this year. I could drive to Blockbuster and peruse the aisles, or I could just push a few buttons and get a recent hit movie delivered to my television instantly on demand. Netflix also offers an on-demand option that I'm considering checking out in 2010, and this also was the year I realized I could download entire movies from iTunes onto my iPhone, a trick that made long plane rides shorter and amazed my friends and family.

Technology improved my musical life in 2009, too. That's the year I became a regular user of Pandora, the Internet radio service that allows users to punch in the name of an artist they like and then listen to hours of music made by that artist or made by artists that a computer has digitally concluded are awesome in similar ways to that artist. (I'm currently enjoying the Vince Guiraldi Trio Christmas station.)

Pandora works on my iPhone, too, and with the acquisition of a teeny-tiny little Omnitech mini speaker that plugs into the headphone jack of my phone or computer, I now can listen to Pandora anywhere I am, anytime.

A longtime fan of radio (still a great place to discover new music), I also discovered in 2009 an application for my iPhone called iheartradio that allows me to listen live to radio stations all over the country.

Even keeping up with books became easier for me in 2009. The Amazon Kindle application for my iPhone allows me to download and read books on my phone. Classics are free. Newer books are cheaper than buying the actual book.

I also learned how to download audio books onto my iPhone, and on car trips over the past several months, I've been making my way through "A Confederacy of Dunces," and let me tell you, that Ignatius J. Reilly is one amusing travel companion.

I'm counting on 2010 to make my life even more instantaneously entertaining, though it's hard to imagine how much better it could get.

While I wait to find out, I'll just be over here untangling this mess of enabling chords, chargers and wires.