Celebrities and their gadgets: What pushes their buttons?

Talking bike helmet, anyone? Or how about a Swiss-made boiled egg opener? Here, five tech-heads (and one gadget-phobe) choose the pieces of technology that make their lives that little bit easier. Words by Simon Usborne. Photograph by Jean goldsmith
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The Independent Tech

Kate Mosse, 46

is the bestselling author of 'Labyrinth', which sold almost a million copies last year. Her new novel, 'Sepulchre' (Orion, £18.99) is out now. She lives in Chichester with her husband, Greg, and two teenage children

I'm not a gadgety person at all. I do have a mobile phone that can play music, but I've lost the headphones so I can't listen to that. All these devices are too fiddly and the idea that you need to be in touch all the time is true, I'm sure, if you have a proper job, but if you're a writer you don't need things like BlackBerries.

One thing I do need and which has transformed my writing life is my tiny laptop. Before I got it I used my desktop computer and I could only write in the study. Then, laptops were heavy and seemed to run out of battery really quickly. But now I can carry my computer in a normal bag and it has a five-hour battery life – so I can write all over the place: in the kitchen, in my bed when the heating broke, or even in the garden. It means I don't have to have four straight hours on the clock to achieve anything. And it really speeds up the process – before I would cart pen and paper around and always make notes which I'd have to copy on to my screen later.

I only use it to write my books – I won't even use it to do journalism and certainly don't connect to the internet, which is fantastic because I don't have any of those moments when it's going badly and I think, "Oh, I'll just check my emails."

My other favourite gadget isn't hi-tech at all. I live with my husband and two teenage children and we recently got a dog for the first time. I'd never known the excitement of extendible leads. Hamish is a puppy who tries to chase cars and things so when we're in the woods we can attach the lead and he can be miles away but we know he won't run away.

Philips X65, £306, www.pcworld.co.uk. Flexi Classic 3 dog lead, £13.95, from www.pet-co.co.uk

Richard Archer, 30

is a songwriter and the frontman of the indie-rock band Hard-Fi, whose debut 2005 album 'Stars of CCTV' was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize. Their latest album, 'Once Upon a Time in the West', was released in September

My most useful gadget is definitely my iPod – it's perfect for killing time or changing your mood when you're on tour – but everyone's got one of those.

I'm pretty sure, though, that not many people have an Edirol R-1. It's basically a posh Dictaphone that you can use to record sound files, which you can then upload on to your computer. It's changed the way I work. Before I got it I would have to use tape recorders to get down ideas when I was out and about. The quality wasn't good enough to then use them, but the R-1 records at 24 bits (CDs are only 16), so it's more than I need.

I bought it in Japan about two years ago and I've used it loads since, though it's moved up to an R-09 now. I used mine to record the B-side " Polish Love Song". Before, if I wanted to do that I would have had to have carried a laptop with a soundcard and mic and get it all hooked up, hoping the battery wouldn't go flat. By the time you'd done that, you would have forgotten your idea or lost your mojo.

Edirol R-09, £299, www.ediroleurope.com

Suzi Perry, 37

is the presenter of Channel 5's 'The Gadget Show', which is in its seventh series and is shown on Tuesdays at 8pm. A committed biker, Perry also fronts the BBC's coverage of the MotoGP motorbike races



The first gadget I think I was aware of was the 8-track player my dad had in his car. It sounds old fashioned now but then it was cutting-edge.

I've always liked gadgets but in the past 10 years I've had to stay ahead of what's going on for work, so my house is stuffed with the latest technology. It's turned me into a bit of a geek, but I think that's quite cool these days. My iPod is the gadget I take everywhere with me. As well as music, it's invaluable for storing pictures – I keep them on a 20gig iPod which is one of five I have at home.

But my coolest gadget has to be my Bluetooth bike helmet. I've been a biker for about 12 years and for half of the year I present Moto GP on the BBC. If I got a call on the road before, I'd have to shove my phone under my helmet, which was dangerous and made it almost impossible to hear. Now, my helmet connects wirelessly with my phone and all I have to do is tap a button on the side of my head to answer calls. The helmet's got speakers and a microphone built-in, and the sound is excellent.

It's been invaluable to me – being in communication is so important in this industry. My phone is a Nokia N95. We did a big test with the N95 and the new Apple iPhone on the show, and I was bitterly disappointed with the iPhone. It looks beautiful and will set the benchmark for design, but I couldn't believe the camera was so rubbish and that it had no video or 3G compatibility. I'm definitely not going to rush out and buy one for at least a year.

Dainese Bluetooth helmet, from around £220, www.dainese.me.uk

Hari Kunzru, 37

is a former travel and music writer who was named one of 20 'Best of Young British Novelists' in 2003. His books include 'The Impressionist', 'Noise' and 'My Revolutions', out now (Hamish Hamilton, £16.99)



I'm a bit of a techie and appreciate a nicely made gadget. The PC I write on is probably my most useful gadget, although Windows has to be one of the worst things about modern life.

My favourite bit of kit, though, is my Buddha Machine. It looks like a transistor radio but when you switch it on it plays one of nine loops of electronic droney, meditative music. I use it in the background when I'm working as a way to get free of the world by listening to just noise. There's no traffic or kids playing in the garden – just me and the limits of my own world.

It's also a cute little toy and is dead cheap – I think I paid about a tenner for it. A couple of times I've taken it away with me and plugged it into hotel stereos and created this world of relaxation. I don't play it all the time – I'd get bored of nine tracks. I play a lot of different music when I'm working but sometimes it imposes itself too much.

I also love my little DVD player because it plays just about any kind of disc you put into it – you could stick a bagel in it and it would play something. It's important for me because I don't limit my viewing to things released commercially on UK-region DVDs. There are loads of great films you can get from the US or India and when you start crossing boundaries you need a multiregional player. I can play discs I've burnt on my computer or there's a USB port so I can link my laptop to it. But the best thing about it? It cost me less than 50 quid.

Buddha Machine, £14.99, www.boomkat.com. Umax Kazuki DVD-7400X, around £40, www.daddybig.co.uk

Sir James Dyson, 60

is the brains behind the Dyson stable of bagless vacuum cleaners, washing machines and the Airblade hand-dryer. He lives in Wiltshire with his wife

I never drool over things like mobile phones or BlackBerries, but I do get very excited when I see something that is unusual or can change the way something is done.

A couple of weeks ago I went to a lecture at a university in Tokyo and afterwards they gave me a Sony Rolly, which had been designed by former students. I couldn't believe it. It's an MP3 player with built-in speakers that twirls and spins and flashes its lights to music. It's completely bizarre and no marketing department would ever write a brief for it, but everybody who sees it instantly falls in love with it. It's very engaging and has enormous charm for what is essentially a plastic egg. It's clearly the brainchild of a few very bright engineers and having been developing a robot vacuum cleaner for the past few years, I appreciate how clever it is.

My other new toy is a movie camera about the size of a large sausage which you can clip on to a helmet or your bike and go skiing or rock climbing. All you have to do is poke your head in the direction of the people you want to film and you capture them. There's something slightly nerdy about the process of holding a video camera, but with this you can forget it's even there and record what's going on, whether you're following your kids skiing or jumping off a bridge.

Sony Rolly, prototype only. Oregon Scientific ATC2000, £100 at www.oregonscientific.co.uk

Adam Hart-Davis, 64

is a scientist, author and former 'Tomorrow's World' presenter. Last summer he fronted the BBC series 'The Cosmos: A Beginner's Guide'. He lives in Bristol with his wife, Susan Blackmore

I wrote my first book on an upright Imperial typewriter, which was wonderful and typed lovely straight lines. Then, in the early 1980s, my kids persuaded me to get a BBC Micro computer, which had this huge memory of 64Kb, so I could fit a long essay or a chapter of a book on to it. It was magic – I'd never realised computers could be used in that way.

I got my first iPAQ about five years ago. I have a Bluetooth folding keyboard that goes with it and used it to write most of my last book, The Cosmos: A Beginner's Guide, which I shared with Paul Bader. We had to churn out 80,000 words between us in just over a month and during that time I travelled to Switzerland, California, Chile, the Canary Islands and Amsterdam, so I had an enormous amount of dead time in planes and airports.

I wrote about 3,000 words just on a flight from London to San Francisco. Paul had his laptop but when the person in front pushed the back of his seat down he couldn't bend the top back far enough, whereas I was fine with my little iPAQ. I felt very smug.

Apart from my iPAQ I'm probably about 10 years behind the rest of the world when it comes to gadgets. The only other one I rely on is my little " egg thingy", as I call it. You place it over a boiled egg and release a little weight to crack the top off. I got it from a slightly mad Welsh physicist I met in China, who claimed you could only get them in Zurich. My wife and I use it with our boiled eggs every Saturday morning. *

HP iPAQ HX2790, £299, www.currys.co.uk. 'Egg thingy', origin unknown

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