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An Interview with The Gadgeteer's Julie & Judie

The GadgeteersWell, this interview thing is becoming one of the most fun parts of my weblog lately. I'm always surprised by something said here and I hope you all enjoy these interviews.

This time I'm pleased to present an interview with Julie Strietelmeier and Judie Hughes of The Gadgeteer, one of the original user-created sites for Palm OS, Pocket PC and other tech gadgets.

In my opinion, one of the biggest benefits of their site are reviews that tell it like it is. No PR puff pieces here. If a piece of hardware or software has flaws, you can bet they will share the details honestly. On the other hand, if they really like an item, you know they're being straight with you. This is something to be greatly valued in our PR-driven world.

Okay, let's get on with the interview! To make things simpler, we'll colorize their answers in this way: Julie = Black, Judie = Blue Italics

Julie and Judie, thanks for being open to an interview. Julie, I've been a fan of the Gadgeteer a very long time but never knew how you got your start. What were the reasons behind starting The Gadgeteer all those years ago?

I was very involved in BBSes back in the day and ran a 5 line board called CrossRoads for several years. It was actually a guitar tablature oriented BBS. Once the internet became popular and websites began popping up, I created a guitar webpage on GeoCities (a free website hosting company). I grew bored with the site really quickly and decided to start something new. The Gadgeteer was born in 1997 out of my love of gizmos, toys and gadgets. It actually started with a review of the Avigo from Texas Instruments that I posted on the site. Once people began commenting on the review, I was hooked! That was almost 7yrs and over 800 reviews/articles ago.

I also know that Judie is a more recent addition to the Gadgeteer dynamic duo -- how did you two meet each other and what led you (Julie) to invite Judie on as a crew member?

Was there a time when Judie wasn’t part of The Gadgeteer? Doesn’t seem like it to me. ;o) Actually, she wrote me back in 2000 asking if she could write reviews for the site. I was used to receiving emails like hers and at the time, I didn't give it much thought. She followed up with the review, I posted it and we’ve been best friends and review maniacs ever since. Am I remembering this right Judie?

Yes, it was early 2000, I was writing software reviews for the now defunct I wasn't being given an opportunity to do anything but software reviews, but I wanted to write about hardware and accessories. When Stylus Q sent me a sample of their new product, I decided to ask if Julie would be interested in posting the review once it was written. I had been visiting The Gadgeteer for a little over a year by then, and I liked the site. I didn't ask for a "job," I just wrote Julie a letter telling her about myself, my qualifications and asked her to let me contribute. She did, and the rest is history; I have since written over 250 reviews.

Can you each share a little about how you first came across a so-called PDA and what your experiences were with them?

I'm sure I had tried several of the cheapo databank type address/appointment doo-dads, but was never really impressed. I was also heavily into the Franklin Planner scene way back then… However, like Judie and many others reading this, it was the original Palm Pilot 1000 that changed my life. I loved that device with its 128k of memory and monochrome screen. I kept everything on that little guy. From there, I think I've had almost every brand and OS of PDA at one time or another. It's a sickness I tell ya!

My first PDA (not counting any clamshell models) was the Casio Z-7000 in late 1993. I remember that it had a large monochrome screen with an integrated flip cover and that it came with three games (Pyramid was my favorite), Pocket Quicken, a world clock, address and date book - I was hooked! In 1996, I bought a Palm Pilot 1000, and the rest is history.

Where do you two see PDAs going in the next 5 years?

More memory, more memory, more memory... If they can put a 40gb hard drive in an iPod sized device, they’ll be putting one in a PDA before too long. Besides memory, I believe we’ll finally be seeing batteries that can run for days and days instead of only a few hours. I'm thinking that the biggest changes may come, when all kinds of content is constantly streamed to your device for a very small price. Think SPOT watch, but only better...

I predict that over the next five years people will rethink trying to cram ten devices into one. I don't need nor do I want a Swiss-Army device that operates as a phone, primary PDA, primary MP3 player, primary eBook reader, primary game console, etc. etc. Whether it is through Bluetooth or an as yet undiscovered technology, I think that instead we will see more and more smart items that can talk to each other and work well together, but that can stand separately as independent devices. For PDAs, this might mean one that is mostly screen with some hard buttons installed along the side of the case. Add to that intuitive handwriting recognition, a huge hard drive and a high capacity yet incredibly tiny battery. I would love to receive content on this PDA as Julie suggested, but I don't want to make voice calls from this device.

Tell me which handheld you each consider your "daily driver" and why you chose this particular model. How does it help you both in your daily routine?

Until very recently, I had been using the HP2215 iPAQ. I just upgraded to the Toshiba e805 Pocket PC, after seeing its gorgeous 480 x 640 display. Bigger screen equates to more info at one time, which is important to me. I use my PPC for typical PIM tasks... Although not as voracious as Judie, I'm a big eBook reader too. I also play tons of puzzle games, watch animations, surf websites via WiFi, and keep a journal.

I am using the Tapwave Zodiac2. It has 128MB RAM, two SD slots, and a screen that is perfect for reading eBooks. It is never far from reach because it holds everything I need throughout the day: passwords and account information, my daily schedule and contacts, spreadsheets and documents, eBooks, calculator, games, etc. etc. I would be lost without it!

How do you two find working on the same website from two different locations (Indiana and Texas) Is there some extra coordination needed to keep things going smoothly?

I talk more to Judie than I do anyone I know here locally. We probably send close to 50 or more emails back and forth a day. We're not just writing partners, we're best friends too... so we don't always talk about gadgets. ;o)

We have everything down to a science at this point, as far as how we manage the site and post reviews. Considering that there are just 2 of us, I think we do an excellent job. We post on average 2 reviews each a week. That's no easy task when you think about the fact that we each work other jobs too.

Julie and I spend so much of every day e-mailing or IM'ing each other, we are never out of contact. We take turns posting our own or guest's reviews, and we pick up each others slack when the other is tired, sick, or just not in the mood - which sometimes happens. I wouldn't say that our geographical distance requires extra coordination, because the web makes it so easy for distance not to matter. Probably the biggest "inconvenience" that we have to deal with involves the half of the year that Julie is on EST while we are on CST, since Indiana does not participate in daylight savings time. We feel like we get two hours less per day to "talk".

I understand you guys have been on several trips together. Can you share your fondest memories from one or more of your shared adventures?

On one of our Vegas trips, we went to a Blue Man Group show. We got to wrap ourselves in 'toilet paper' and listen to techno-music. How could that NOT be a fond memory? A person seated next us was pulled down on stage to become part of the show. Afterwards, we even posed for pictures with the members of the group. It was really a total blast, and I'd love to go to one of their shows again.

One of my favorite memories is the weekend that Julie and I were in San Jose. This was for the SHARP press event which preceded the release of the SL5000D. In between meetings, we took a day trip to San Francisco. On a whim, we went into a piercing studio near Haight street, and we both got large gauge ears piercings (Julie is a 4 and I am a 2). While truly painful, it was also a bonding experience.

When you're not running the Gadgeteer, what businesses are you both in and what sorts of things do you both do?

I've worked at Cummins Inc. for almost 17yrs as a software engineering technician. Basically that is a fancy title for someone that goofs around on a computer all day writing scripts and answering helpdesk tickets.

I am a fourth generation rancher, so when I am not working from home, I am generally at my family's ranch. I have been doing that for ten years.

Can you each share with me your top 5 albums?

Wow, it's really hard to pick just 5. My iPod has 3600 songs on it! Here are the ones I seem to come back to on a regular basis: U2 - Joshua Tree, Melissa Etheridge - Yes I Am, Dixie Chicks - Fly, Nickel Creek - Nickel Creek, The Red Hot Chili Peppers - Californication, Coldplay - A Rush of Blood to the Head. Ok, that was 6... ;o)

If we are talking all-time favorites, not necessarily what I am listening to right now, then I would have to say (in no particular order): U2 - War, ELO - Time, Radiohead - OK Computer, The Smiths - Strangeways Here We Come, XTC - Skylarking, Depeche Mode - Music for the Masses, The Cure -The Head on the Door, Gorillaz - Gorrillaz, Yello - You Gotta Say Yes to Another Excess and Fiona Apple - Tidal. These are the ten albums that have stood the test of time. I can listen to them over and over and over...and no, I can't narrow it down to just five.

Can you each share with me your top 5 books?

Ok, I'm going to sound like a total dork here, but my all time fave books are all classics: Tom Sawyer - Mark Twain, Huck Finn - Mark Twain, Swiss Family Robinson - Johann David Wyss, Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis, The Odyssey - Homer and I can't leave out the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling! These are all books that I could pick up right now and read for the 5th, 6th or 7th time, as I have some of them.

How about some of my top authors instead, the ones I automatically buy the minute their new books come out and I always know I am in for a good read (in no particular order): Jonathan & Faye Kellerman, Patricia Cornwell. James Patterson, Dan Brown, Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child, Michael Crichton, Nelson DeMille, Michael Connelly, Ridley Pearson, Dennis Lehane... oh man, this list could go on and on...

Can you each share with me your top 5 movies?

An Affair to Remember (old Cary Grant flick), The Sound of Music, The Great Escape, Young Frankenstein and Finding Nemo.

This is so embarrassing - I love musical movies: Grease, Xanadu, Something Wild, Moulin Rouge, but I have to throw Scarface into the mix - "Fly pelican, fly!"

Would you both tell me one funny story related to one of your PDAs...?

I hate to disappoint, but for the life of me, I can't think of a funny PDA story. Sorry!

Well, I am not sure how funny it was, but there was the time that we were working cattle and I had my Palm III in a Rhinoskin titanium case. I had the PDA laying on the table next to the cattle chute, and I would jot info in my spreadsheet program as each cow was worked. The inevitable happened: the PDA was knocked off the table and a 900+ pound cow stepped right on it. Needless to say, my heart stopped. All was well though - the PDA was safe and the case wasn't even dented. I am definitely an advocate for matching your case to your workplace.

Hey, thanks to Julie and Judie for their time and great answers! I hope this interview has brought a deeper picture of these two tech pioneers to fans of the Gadgeteer! -- Mike

Reader Comments (1)

Great Interview.Cheers
January 26, 2004 | Unregistered Commenterchinchorrero

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