We're halfway through 2011. What do you need at an absolute minimum to navigate our technology-based world? Here's a quick run-down:
1) A computer
2) Internet access
3) A cell phone
4) An email address
That's it. Note how I didn't mention a television, a radio, an iPod, or even a smart phone. Everyone can get by with just the above four.
You don't need top of the line equipment, either. Today's bare-bone, basic computer is faster, with more storage and better graphics than the best model you could buy 5 years ago. Check craigslist or even stop at your favorite electronics store; you can get a really good computer for $200-500.
I think everyone should have a cell phone. At a minimum, use it for emergencies only (you don't even need a plan to call 911; just take a friend's old cell phone when he or she is ready to upgrade). If you don't plan on making a lot of phone calls, get a pre-paid plan.
Internet companies really like to make you pay through the nose for service at home, but if you are willing to travel, you can get Internet access for free. Most computers these days have Wi-Fi, and most coffee shops, libraries, etc. provide free Wi-Fi to their customers.
Finally, everyone in the USA should have an email address now. It's free, easy, and an absolute must for doing business. Many companies (like most airlines) will now charge you a fee to do business by phone or paper.
That's it. If you want to get more fancy and can afford it, go for it! But anyone who thinks that they're completely lost and can't move forward, technologically speaking, probably doesn't realize how easy it is!
Next week, we'll go over the age-old question - Mac, PC, or Linux?