September 22, 2010, 1:06 PM — by Daniel P. Dern - For those of us whose work involves some combination of communicating with other people, creating or working with documents, and getting or providing information, the computer is, inarguably, the biggest aid to productivity since the electric coffee machine.
Here are some products -- most of which I have used of many years now -- that further contribute, some computer-related, some not, plus a few I have yet to put to the test.
1) Telephone headset.
I first saw -- or noticed -- these at the reception desk of the Comdex office, probably two decades ago. I've been using one ever since -- I've gone through at least two Plantronics' ones, in particular.
Inexpensive headsets start around $30. Good ones -- better sound, better fit -- are in the $100-$300 range. The canonical source is the Hello Direct catalog/web site.
You may prefer a wired headset for sound quality, but if convenience is most important to you, opt for a cordless/Bluetooth combination. The Plantronics Calisto Pro, for example, will let you roam a fair distance (a hundred or more feet, depending on what's in the way) from the phone base.
These phones and headsets should work with POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) landlines, VoIP landlines, and PC and notebook phone/voice apps, and any Bluetooth headsets should also work with notebooks and mobile devices.
2) Big display, multiple displays.
Let's face it, screen turf equals convenience equals productivity. A good display will last for years, and be useful as a second screen or on another system when you replace it with an every bigger, better one.
One big display is simple, good -- and eminently affordable. 28-inch 1920x1200 WUXGA (1080p) displays are available for $300 to $400... less, if you're a savvy bargain-finder.
Even if you get a big display, a second (or even third) display can still be useful. Not just because of all the turf-demanders wanting a piece of always-visible real estate, like an IM window, Twitter, email, weather, your stocks and horse racing picks, nannycam on your kids, or whatever, but also because some applications like PowerPoint Viewer or web meeting sessions like to grab an entire display.