Lillian from Milwaukee WI writes:

I have been reading your news letters for a few years now, and have printed out many of them.  So many, that my folder is about 2 inches thick.  Anyway, I am pretty savy with my desktop computer.  I’ve learned many things, and done many things.   My cell phone is very ancient.  It’s from Virgin Mobile.  I only have it for emergencies and it’s only $22.00 for 3 months. I only make calls and sometimes get calls.  But mostly, I keep it turned off. All of that being said, I have some questions about all of the new tech things.  I don’t know the difference between an I-pad, or I-phone, or a tablet, or a smart phone, etc. etc.  And not only that, They seem to be always changing.  So…could you possible explain all of the differences, in them.  And what exactly is wi fi, and blue tooth?  there are so many new gadgets since I first took computer courses.  And I don’t know how to text.  I am 70 yrs old, and don’t find it necessary to text someone.  If I want to say something to them, I’ll just call, or e-mail.  So why is it necessary to have a laptop, or a tablet, or a I-pad, or a touch screen phone?  All of that seems to cost a lot of money that I don’t have. I fear that talking directly to someone is going to be a lost art soon.  
Thank you very much for your reply.  Hope you can explain things to me. 


Lillian, it’s interesting that you wrote to me just now, because I thinking of doing a series of articles along this same line, explaining the basics of more recent tech devices to beginners.

Let’s start with why do you need it. You don’t really need any of it. You don’t need your old cell phone, heck I lived for years without a home phone back when I was in college, and that was long before mobile phones. 


I read an article that famed “Little House” author Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote back around 1919, lamenting the popularity of the telephone, as it had killed the practice of making nice long visits to people or writing long letters. People simply made a quick phone call to take care of business.

Necessary, maybe not. Convenient? Heck, yes.  You ask a lot of questions in one, Lillian. Let’s start with WiFi. Most of the devices you talk about depend on a wireless connection of some kind.


The would either be WiFi generated by your home or from a public source or a 3G or 4G data signal from your phone company.  WiFi is a wireless Internet connection. As with wired Internet connections, that connection comes from your Internet Service Provider, which could be your cable or satellite company or a DSL line from your phone company. That connection is delivered to your house via a modem. When you attach a router to a modem (it can be a separate device or you may have a modem and router in one) you broadcast a data signal in your home.

You can connect to the signal wirelessly from a desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone or other wireless device. If you have a tablet, that means you should be able to pick it up anywhere in the house and connect to the Internet.  You would secure your WiFi with a password to prevent strangers from using your service. But you can give that password to friends and family and allow them to use it when they are visiting.

Many restaurants, libraries and other places offer public WiFi to customers. There can be some security issues with public WiFi. We address that in this article.

You may also connect mobile devices to the Internet with a data plan from a mobile carrier. Just as you currently pay for your cell phone connection, you would pay for bandwidth that would allow you connect to the Internet pretty much anywhere you can get a cell signal.

As for Bluetooth connections, we ran an article on that just last week.

In our next article, we’ll look at what devices like a mobile phone or tablet can do to make your life easier.

~ Cynthia