It’s fitting that veteran tech journalist Dean Takahashi, who grew up a self-described “arcade rat,” weaned on classics like Pong and Galaga, has become one of the country’s most prominent writers about the video game industry. He opened his “nice, big REI bag” for Tyler Orsburn to prove a bit of hard-earned journalistic wisdom: “You gotta have backups.”
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“After more than 20 years in this business, you learn to prepare for the worst,” Takahashi says. For him, that means carrying multiples: He uses two laptops (1), a Toshiba and a Macbook Air. “In February, I was juggling two at a time,” he says, “and one fell off my lap and the screen broke.” He always has two phones, an Android and an iPhone. “One’s Verizon, the other is att,” he explains, “so I’m never without cellphone coverage.” (2) There are two sets of headphones (3); extra batteries (4); and a bunch of chargers (5), including one that plugs into a car’s cigarette lighter.
Takahashi is a self-contained multimedia reporter. He shoots his own photos, so there’s a digital camera (6) (plus extra lens, of course, and tripod) (7), and his own video (8); and while he does carry a notebook (9) (“for backup”), he relies on a digital recorder for his “notes.” (10).
Sometimes, though, the system failure is human. He carries a supply of Bheestie bags (11), which remove water from personal electronic devices. “If you drop your iPhone in the toilet, you have a chance to save it with these little bags. I used one after I left a modem outside in the rain.”
He is so prepared, those around him can afford to not be. His MiFi mobile hotspot (12) provides Internet access for up to five laptops at once. “Covering conferences, there are so many journalists on the WiFi that it invariably goes down. Usually, I just let members of my team connect, but if someone’s really desperate, I’ll do them a favor.”
No game-writer’s backpack would be complete without…games. He carries a PlayStation (13) and a copy of Unit 13 (14), an action game that lets him match wits against global terrorists.
His Boy Scout tendencies extend beyond the tech tools of his trade: a bunch of business cards (15); a flashlight (16). “I have to drive so often—like 55 miles one way from my house to San Francisco—that if my car breaks down it’s good to have a flashlight.” Also, a bag of change (17). “When I get to San Francisco, I have to park at a bunch of meters.”
And if all these precautions fail, he has 2 bottles of Motrin (18) .
The most unexpected item? A Strive step-counter (19). “So far today, 2,936. I hit my peak at 17,000—something like seven miles—during the Consumer Electronics Show.”Tyler Orsburn is a reporter for Richmond Confidential and studies multimedia reporting at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism