Thought Leadership

6 of the best: personal items

By Colin Walls

From time to time, I write about 6 favorite things in a particular category. I find it interesting to ponder what is important to me. We almost all have too much stuff and a consideration of what we own that is useful, or that gives us pleasure, provides an opportunity to cut back. On this occasion, I am looking at my top 6 “personal items” – artifacts that contribute to the efficiency and comfort of running my life on a frequent, maybe daily, basis …

The categorization of “personal items” is slightly vague, but I guess that I am talking about things that I would be very unlikely to loan to someone else. Anyone who knows me may be surprised to find that they are not all electronic gadgets.


I was never a “sandals” kind of guy, having not had a very hippy-ish background. But I was persuaded by my wife to get some about 7 years ago. She said that they would be good for vacations and the like. She also advised me to get some good ones, as they would be comfortable and would last. She was correct on all scores. I still have the same pair.

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They seem to be on their way out – the top straps are very worn – but they have done well, as they have been very heavily used. From Day 1, I found them very comfortable and have often walked many miles wearing them. I actually wear them every morning, when I go swimming. It is very convenient, when changing, not to mess around with socks etc. and we rarely have very cold weather here, so they are fine for the short trips to and from the car. I will be sad when this pair dies, but I actually have a new, almost identical pair, waiting their turn …


Evernote Snapshot 20151111 104955I have no idea why this word, of German origin, is so commonly used in the UK. Younger people tend to take the American lead and call them backpacks, which, to me, sounds like a less “serious” kind of bag. Whatever it is called, I bought this bag almost exactly 4 yours ago to replace another which was getting very tatty. I decided to go for quality – my bag is a North Face “Recon” – as I expected to make heavy use of it. That was a good decision, as, after all those years of very heavy use, it is showing no signs of wear and tear – it could pass for new. I use the bag in lieu of a briefcase for work things and I can even carry enough stuff to support a trip of one or two nights away. This model has quite a few compartments – but not too many. My usage has evolved, so, nowadays, everything has its place and I have to do very little searching around. I have also found the green color useful. It is not embarrassingly garish, but it is different from most other similar bags. This makes it easy to identify and having it by my side [or on my back] gives me a feeling of security


I was an early adopter of the iPad, as I wrote about quite a while back. Prior to owning it, I was not a big Apple fan, but I just knew that I wanted one and could not have told you why. 5 years on and I am on my 3rd device – I had iPad 1, then iPad 3 and now have Air 2. I use it every day, so the real cost of ownership it tiny. I use it mostly for consuming information, but often travel with it as my only device for creating content. It fits a clear niche between my iPhone and a “real” computer.


Some years ago, I used to carry a bag full of devices: PalmPilot [for calendar and general organization], cellphone [talking and text], Blackberry [email] and a compact camera. And I had a GPS [sat nav] in my car. My first smartphone was a Treo [natural move from PalmPilot] and this replaced 3 devices. My next phone was an early Android device, which was appalling [it eventually took over a minute to start an app!]. Then I got an iPhone 4S, which made life better. My current iPhone [I have a regular 6] replaces everything and just works with no fuss. For me it is a good compromise in terms of size – very portable and compact, but with a very good screen. If I need more, I turn to my iPad.


Despite the really excellent camera on my iPhone, which does a great job when I want a quick snap when I am out and about, I still need a “real” camera for more serious photography. I have always favored Sony digital cameras, as they seemed to be very innovative early on and just “got it”. My current camera is an A7.

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This is a “mirrorless DSLR” with a 24mpx full frame sensor. It is a joy to use and turns in fantastic image quality. I have always felt that conventional DSLRs do not make much sense to the user, as they contain a load of redundant moving parts, which are just an excuse for a big price ticket. I wrote about this topic here. My camera is too big to carry everywhere, but its light weight, and my choice to carry minimal accessories, means I can carry it all day without strain.


I have always been a keen reader and lover of books. Some years ago, I embraced e-books and have never looked back. I used an older Kindle for a long time, then, back in the summer, I stupidly broke it. I decided to replace it with the expensive top of the line model, Kindle Voyage. Having now used the device in a wide variety of circumstances, I have to say that I cannot imagine a better e-reading experience. The high resolution screen and adaptive lighting makes it easy to read anywhere. My investment became doubly expensive, as my wife concluded that she needed to upgrade to a Voyage too …

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at