I will admit, with guilt, to sometimes wishing my perfectly functional gadgets would die, just so I can buy newer and shinier replacements. This year, in part, I got what I wanted...

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I will admit, with guilt, to sometimes wishing my perfectly functional gadgets would die, just so I can buy newer and shinier replacements.

This year, in part, I got what I wanted. My notebook computer developed a debilitating injury and my primary computer monitor died, giving me a green light to upgrade.

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Other hardware refused to let go, but I got gadget lust and replaced them anyway. My seemingly indestructible 10-year-old Hewlett-Packard monochrome laser printer moved off my desk to make way for a new HP color laser, and my more than 2-year-old Canon digital camera is getting dusty because of a new pocket-size Canon model.

That’s how I managed to spend $5,098.68 in 2004 on personal technology products for myself, my wife, Debbie, and my 4-year-old daughter, Sara.

I’ve got a great job, an ongoing “try before you buy” program where I review new products on loan, return them and can then buy the ones I like.

I’m happy with what I’ve acquired, especially because my work helps me appreciate how digital technology makes it possible to deliver more and more features at lower and lower prices.

For example, I bought a Compaq Presario 2598US notebook computer in March for $1,099 after mail-in rebate, lowered a few weeks later to $999 when I went back to the store to take advantage of a price reduction.

The notebook has a big 15-inch color LCD screen, fast 2.66-gigahertz Pentium 4 processor, 512 megabytes of RAM, 60-gigabyte hard drive, DVD/CD-RW drive and built-in WiFi wireless networking.

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This replaced a Compaq Presario 1800XL notebook I’d bought four years earlier for $2,479. The older notebook also had a 15-inch screen, but the other specs now seem antiquated: 500-megahertz Pentium III processor, 64 megabytes of RAM, 6 GB hard drive, DVD-ROM drive that doesn’t burn CDs, and no built-in Wi-Fi.

My new notebook, in other words, is several orders of magnitude more powerful at less than half the price.

Similarly, I paid $1,000 in 1994 for a monochrome Hewlett-Packard LaserJet 5MP printer that, while durable, is slow by modern standards. I bought an HP LaserJet 2550n color printer in July for $699 that prints black-and-white pages much faster and delivers sharp full-color pages when needed.

Among my other purchases this year: I became a pea in the iPod, spending $299 in February for a 15 GB model; the same amount will now get you a 20 GB model. I then discovered you can’t buy an iPod without immediately wanting accessories; I got an inexpensive car charger and then shelled out $149 for Altec Lansing inMotion portable speakers. I’ve now got my entire music collection, about 200 albums, on the iPod, and listen to many hours of audio books through a subscription to the Audible service.

I also couldn’t resist the new Canon PowerShot SD300, purchased in early December from a reputable online vendor for $349, a 4 megapixel camera with a 3x optical zoom lens that’s the size of a small cellphone and weighs only 5 ounces. Picture quality is excellent, although somewhat short of the much larger 4 megapixel Canon PowerShot G2 that I bought for $719 in May 2002.

But the SD300 is so easily pocketed that I carry it almost everywhere, and I’ve already gotten dozens of wonderful shots I’d have otherwise missed because I wouldn’t have been toting the larger G2.

On the software front, I took my own advice in November and added the outstanding — and free — Firefox 1.0 browser to all my computers. I still use Microsoft’s aging Internet Explorer occasionally for sites that require IE, but otherwise I’m hooked on the many advanced features in Firefox.

My wife, Debbie, had an aging laptop and Palm personal digital assistant, so I switched her to a new Averatec 3250 notebook purchased for $849 in November and a Palm Tungsten E purchased in October for $183. Debbie dropped the Tungsten E on a hardwood floor in December, damaging the unit beyond repair, so I had to buy another one at $199.

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I also got Debbie an 80 gigabyte Maxtor One Touch USB external hard drive in December for $149, so she could make regular backups of her Averatec’s hard drive; I’d purchased a similar Maxtor drive for myself for the same reason last year.

My biggest shopping triumph of the year came on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving when shoppers get up early to grab “doorbuster” special deals. I usually avoid the madness, but couldn’t resist a Kawasaki PVS1080 portable DVD player with 8.4-inch display at Target for $167 — at least $100 less than usual for portable players with such big screens.

I arrived at Target at 8:45 a.m. and managed to get the last box. I told myself the player would let Sara watch movies on long car trips, although so far it’s mostly been used by Mommy and Daddy to view Netflix movies while snuggling in bed late at night.

Finally, I made the shift to voice over the Internet, or VoIP, phone service in September. I replaced my SBC home-office phone line with service from AT&T CallVantage. My monthly bill for unlimited nationwide long-distance calling dropped in half, to $31.28 with tax. Call quality has been outstanding, and I’m delighted with the “Locate Me” feature that I’ve programmed to simultaneously ring my cellphone and newsroom phone whenever someone calls my home office. I now receive important work calls wherever I am, without having to give out more than one number.