I chose these from personal experience, but also from asking many friends from around the world who are involved in technology and study at the same time. Some gadgets come with a recommendation, whereas others don't; things like laptops and cell phones can't be selected for everybody, it'd be ridiculous for me to recommend something which may not apply suitably to you. In no particular order (because I couldn't choose), I present the following.
1. Alarm clock - "Clocky Rolling Alarm Clock" With alarm clocks, you get one chance only to hit the snooze button, and after that you're on your own. Clocky, developed by an MIT student, sits on your bedside table and waits to go off. When it does go off though, it spins and rolls off and starts running around your room until it's turned off, whilst emitting a loud alarm. This is something I really could have done with; many lectures missed through lack of motivation and enthusiasm to move out of my warm, comfortable, female inhabited cocoon of perpetual safety.
A laptop is essential. Not only do you get the wireless capabilities to allow you to sit around campus and work, but it's also a flexible device which can be taken with you, or taken home for the weekend in your bag. Most laptops nowadays have similar specifications to those of
laptops desktops; my own laptop included which is faster than my 6 month old desktop. The message I'm trying to get across is the ability to work anywhere, which is quintessential as part of student life.
3. Music player Some device for storing and playing music, an absolute must. There will be times you'll have to spend late nights or early mornings in the library, tapping away or scribbling down notes, and the silence in those dusty halls, waiting for the spooks to crawl from under the woodwork. Having music to calmly ease you through a long night of studying or research will not only calm you, but enhance concentration. Whether it be an iPod, a phone with an MP3 player on, or even a $30 cheap pen drive with a headphones slot; having a music player is necessary to survive college and university.
4. Pen drive - Corsair Flash Voyager (4GB-32GB) The portable storage industry is worth billions, yet each device can cost as little as $10 for a 1GB pen drive. I'd recommend investing in a few of these, because pen drives can be notorious for being pinched, especially if you leave your stuff in a public place whilst you go for a pee or to grab a coffee. Having a few of these and backing up to a main disk lets you keep your entire project in your pocket, whilst portable applications and games can be held there too, as well as your entire iPod library if you have enough space.
5. Cell phone I don't know of anybody who doesn't have a mobile phone nowadays; even Greg the Mormon (a guy we know here in Canterbury) has one, much to his parents' disapproval. Having a cell phone lets you keep in touch with everybody, whether it's for a research project or even for organising your social life. Granted, Facebook seems to have taken over the social side of things, with their revolutionary platform, but you still can't beat a good old fashioned phone. For those who want to keep in touch with parents (not me to be honest), a phone is vital for those who get homesick.
6. Wifi detector - Kensington Wifi Finder Plus A personal favourite of mine; this handy little device picks up wireless signal, 802.11a/b/g and Bluetooth networks, allowing you to know where you can connect to your campus network. No more will you have to hold your laptop high above your head, running round like a headless chicken, whilst shouting, "DAMMIT, WHERE'S THIS BLOODY SIGNAL?!"; you can casually walk and check. With 5 mini-LED's showing you signal strength, you can't go wrong with this. Tried and tested, a personal recommendation.
7. Book scanner - Wizzcom InfoScan IS1000 Having a book scanner can save you so much money in photocopying costs over the course of a year. Open up a book, start scanning the text, it'll get stored in the flash memory on the device, where you can plug it into your computer and read again. A brilliant invention for note taking, research, or even copyright infringement if necessary. Those who wish the library would stay open for a few more hours, you'll need one of these.
8. Dictaphone Most university lecturers podcast their lectures nowadays, but for the occasion that they don't, pop the dictaphone on your desk and allow yourself to listen back to the lectures at a later date. Having the actual lecture on hand is vital for some for exam revision, and with advanced features in most dictaphones now, it only records when it hears something to record, saving battery life and memory space.
9. Noise cancelling headphones The times you will want to study will automatically be the same time someone wants to throw a party, be loud, be drunk and therefore loud, play music, the list could go on. Having noise cancelling headphones allows you to immerse yourself into a shut off world of your own, to think and study, procrastinate and research, allowing the events of the world to slowly slip by as you concentrate on your studies. Had I not had noise cancelling headphones, I would have murdered my flatmates at the time... seriously.
10. Scientific calculator - Casio FX85ES Scientific Calculator Another personal recommendation, this is the calculator that got me through my maths exams this year. A fantastic calculator which is university regulated; meaning it's a perfect choice for learning from and using in exams. With all the features that you'd expect, a clear layout, easy to use, and explanations of things as you go.
I thought about gaming, but the Xbox is off the table with me. I didn't include it because Xbox Live requires a high-end broadband connection, and whilst most universities offer them, many don't allow Xbox Live to run through them as they take up huge amounts of bandwidth. Buy a Nintendo Wii or something; at least it promotes exercise , something most students ignore as they're necking down another pint.