Not just for geeks: hot gadgets and the Yalies who love them

I am not a so-called “gadget guru.” I barely know how to use my cell phone — it took me two months to learn how to check voicemail. For me, it’s all about the fashion. Even though I always find myself doggedly promoting Macs over PC’s, all I really know is that my Powerbook is the prettiest computer ever. And I’ll admit that I was tempted by the much more expensive clam-shell Motorola over my ubiquitous Nokia 3360. It’s shinier, what else can I say?

So when scene asked me to figure out how much of this subculture is function and how much is fashion, I was intrigued. After all, I can’t go two feet these days without knocking into someone and their no-skip iPod — it may be functional, but that’s not the reason I want one. Do all the gadgeteers think like me, or do they actually have valid reasons for spending $400 on a glorified mp3 player?

Here, I present a few case studies in gadget-ology.



Beginner:

Kaitlyn Trigger ’06 has all the basics: the cell phone, the iBook, the iPod, but all with a twist. Her phone, for example, has a bright purple cover — metallic lavender, she specified — and she is clearly disdainful of my basic gray.

“I wanted my phone to be set off from the crowd of dreary gray or navy blue Nokia 3360′s,” Trigger said.

Ouch.

Trigger also uses the earpiece accessory for the phone and frequently text messages, though she asserts that she only does it 25 times a month.

Like most other gadget-hounds, Trigger could practically be an Apple spokeswoman.

“It looks great, has good memory, and the new Mac operating system is damn cool,” Trigger said. She also extolled the virtues of the iPod’s flexibility.

“You get sick of hearing ‘Sex Bomb’ right after ‘At Last,’ it gets annoying,” Trigger said.

But don’t think that you can reach this level easily. Even if you do buy the iPod and all the rest, Trigger still is ahead.

“I did have my iPod way before everyone else got theirs for Christmas,” she said.



Intermediate:

When Jonathan Sherman-Presser ’06 was three years old, he got a big red fire truck with a ladder that went up and down controlled by a lever.

“I think that was the beginning,” Sherman-Presser said.

Now, Sherman-Presser is the proud owner of a cell phone, Apple powerbook G4, and a palm pilot, as well as a recent subscriber to Wired magazine and long-time subscriber to Car magazine. (Hey, a car’s just a big gadget.)

Although he likes the computer and the cell phone, the palm pilot has not lived up to his expectations. Sherman-Presser said he bought it two years ago — he was too impatient to wait and receive it as a gift.

“I used it for the first two months, but it’s not really particularly practical,” Sherman-Presser said.

His pride and joy, though, is his stereo. If he could get any new gadget, Sherman-Presser said, he would get electrostatic speakers, in which the music vibrates over the entire area instead of just out of cones. But as these are “very large and expensive,” he resigned himself to not acquiring them any time soon.



Advanced:

Hang Cheng ’04 has built three computers. He built them. That’s right. He’s a computer science major, but still.

Besides these three computers — which are all here, making his roommate very happy — Cheng owns a cell phone, palm pilot, and an mp3 player. While he agrees with Sherman-Presser that the palm isn’t very useful, he did find a purpose for it freshman year when he was able to take notes with it in class. So that’s what those people with keyboards are doing.

If anything, Cheng said he would like a new cell phone with a color screen, but mostly for the utility.

“Fashion isn’t much of a consideration for me — that’s not the drive for me to get things,” Cheng said.



Unbelievable:

Max Engel ’06 just imported a Game Boy Advance SP from Hong Kong. He said it won’t be released in the U.S. until March 22, and when it finally is, it will only come in silver and blue, not the black he was able to order. That’s dedication.

He explains his order as “appealing to the sense of instant gratification and cool factor,” and, also, he wanted it for traveling over spring break.

Engel showed similar devotion the day the XBox came out, leaving school early to get it as soon as possible. He also owns a Game Cube. And an Apple powerbook G4. And an iPod. And a digital camera.

Not to mention two cell phones. One phone is a combination cell phone/palm pilot. The other is a smaller Motorola. He switches the SIM card between the two, so he can have the smaller one when its size is more convenient.

He also has a full turntable rig for DJ’ing — music seems to be important to gadget hounds. But what he really wants is a Segway scooter, which he calls “the piece d’resistance for any gadget guru’s collection — its wow factor is very high.”

A subscriber to both Wired magazine and the online video game magazine IGN, Engel keeps up to date on the latest trends.

“I’ve always enjoyed being on the cusp of cutting-edge technology,” Engel said.

And now, with this guide, you too can aspire to levels of gadgetry you previously didn’t think possible.

Comments