Expert Eye

Gizmos and Gremlins

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If you’re anything like me, there are only so many sickly Christmas movies about hyperactive man-children or dead-eyed Tom Hanks clones you can stomach before the time comes to introduce a little bit of darkness to tamp down all that festive cheer.

For some, it might be time for a swift kick in the Nakatomis via sweaty vest classic, Die Hard. For others, the only remedy to the inevitable Richard Attenborough overdose is a bitter injection of Billy Bob Thornton’s sex and alcohol-addicted Bad Santa. For me, though, it has and always will be Gremlins.

A weird little movie about weird little creatures, Gremlins could be seen as a derisive satire on America’s insatiable consumer appetite and obsession with gadgets in the Yuppie-infested ‘80s. It could also stand as a wider commentary on mankind’s presumptuous attitude of entitlement, and our corresponding disregard for the laws and importance of the natural world. There again, it could just be a simple Yuletide story of one young man’s fight to save his family and best girl from a multitude of maniacal miniature miscreants.

Irrespective of its artistic intentions, what the movie does superbly is bring together those two unlikely seasonal bedfellows: Christmas and gadgets. One is all about keeping past traditions alive while the other offers us a glimpse of tomorrow like the Ghost of Christmas Future.

Unsurprisingly, according to a study carried out in 2011, the sale of gadgets and gizmos goes through the roof around December as panicking parents, clueless kids and uncertain uncles whizz up and down department store aisles like Gizmo in his race car, throwing anything vaguely ‘techie’ into their baskets and hoping for the best. Because everyone loves a gizmo at Christmas, right?

Well, not necessarily. The study revealed one in three British adults receives a Christmas tech gift that remains unused. The main reasons for people not putting their gadgets to work are either that they don’t know how to use them or they already have a better version of what they’ve just received. Other reasons include recipients not ever having the time to use their new devices or simply considering them to be utterly pointless.

As we shall see in the following list, receiving a gizmo for Christmas can be a mixed blessing. On the one hand, you might find yourself the proud owner of a gadget that changes your life and you put to use every single day. There again, you might wind up like Billy Peltzer, the hapless owner of a gizmo that you discover to be, at best, a lame duck or, at worst, a threat to your very life that no amount of bright light can frazzle away.

GIZMO 2THE GIZMOS

The gadgets that might initially raise a cautious eyebrow, but will ultimately become your best pal.

 

iOttie Magnetic Vent Mount

iottie

image from thegadetflow

While at first glance it might look like little more than a glorified fridge magnet, the iOttie Vent Mount is likely, given the ubiquitous nature of smartphones these days, to prove endlessly useful in your car. No more grubby sucker marks on your windscreen. No more illegal button mashing at the wheel. No more losing your phone in the dusty nether region under your seat. Just magnetic simplicity for hands-free chat or satnav-style assistance.

Jawbone UP3

Jawboneimage from jawbone.com

Want a piece of tech that’s got your back in terms of health and fitness? The Jawbone UP3 does everything but massage the lactic acid out of your aching post-gym limbs. Packed with state-of-the-art sensors, the Jawbone UP3 gives you a clear indication of your overall health and fitness, as well as logging your workouts, recording sleep data and looking pretty darned snazzy into the bargain.

FlexCharger

Flexchargerimage from flexcharger.de

The ultimate gadget’s gadget, the FlexCharger brings the sweet, sweet blessing that is simultaneous multi-charging for all your smart devices. Forget queuing up your gadgets by the plug socket, the FlexCharger provides five charging options, including Apple’s Lightning connectors and Micro-USB cables. Charging. Sorted.

 

COFFEEBOXX

Coffeeboxximage from oxx.com

How hard is good coffee to come by these days? Not all that hard…well, unless you’re up camping on a mountain, up against the elements on an inclement fishing trip or up to your neck in muck on a building site. A gizmo close to this particular coffee drinker’s heart, the COFFEEBOX is a damn near indestructible box of coffee-making wizardry. Crush-proof, dust-proof, rust-proof; it’s probably even Gremlin-proof.

Bluetooth Sleep Mask

Bluetooth Sleep Maskimage from thegadgetflow

They say one of the biggest sleeping issues afflicting we city and suburb dwellers is the amount of light pollution kicked out in urban settings. Humans rest best in pitch-black conditions and, while conventional sleep masks have been around forever to recreate the sleeping environment of our cave-bound ancestors, they don’t do much against the growl of passing cars, the raised voices of ‘them next door’ or the yipping of the neighbourhood fox. Boom! That’s where the Bluetooth Sleep Mask comes in. Whether it’s the sound of rainfall or Stephen Fry’s dulcet tones that get you off (to sleep), this gizmo is compatible with all your Bluetooth-friendly smart devices.

Stripe 1THE GREMLINS

Just because they’re not mean and green, doesn’t mean these horrifying gadgets won’t do their level best to do you in. My advice: if you discover any of these technological terrors lurking in your stocking, leave them well alone and definitely don’t feed them after midnight.

Portable Infrared Sauna

Saunaimage from firzone.co.uk

No matter what you said to your mother-in-law to earn yourself this monstrosity as a Christmas gift, trust me, it’ll be infinitely easier to swallow your pride and apologise than to attempt to extricate yourself from what is essentially a cannibal’s dream. Sold under the guise of a sweaty weight-loss aid and an affordable alternative to the usual wooden hot box, the Portable Infrared Sauna is not to be trusted. Especially not when you’re in the house by yourself. “Alan? Alan! Are you boiling a ham?”

Squirrel Boss

Squirrelimage from squirrelboss.com

Claiming, according to its wacky American inventor, to be a humane instrument for teaching squirrels that they can’t just go around grabbing everyone’s peanuts, the Squirrel Boss is, in fact, a thinly-veiled sadist’s dream. If any fluffy-tailed rodents have the audacity to assume the nut sack you’ve left dangling out in the garden is theirs for the taking, all you need to do is push a button on the accompanying remote and ZAP! Smoky squirrel. Just make sure you know where that remote is when it’s time to replace the nuts.

Mother

MOtherimage from sen.se

Sister to HAL 9000 and niece to Megatron, Mother isn’t a gizmo you’ll be wanting to turn your back on this holiday season. Apparently envisioned as a household aid for assiduously monitoring the behaviours of its human masters via a number of cutely-named ‘cookies’ that can be attached to everything from your fridge door to your child’s toothbrush, Mother is pretty much the Russian doll from Hell. If my steady diet of sci-fi movies teaches me anything, it’s that she’s only a freak power surge away from kicking off the robot apocalypse.

Spyder III Laser

Spyderimage from wickedlasers

Aside from the infuriating spelling of its name (it’s only use in the field of spying would be bisecting a spread-eagled Sean Connery from the Thunderballs up), the Spyder III Laser has almost no sensible uses. Basically a laser pointer on steroids, the Spyder III was touted as the nearest thing on the market to an actual lightsaber…before George Lucas’s legal team swept in and smacked those marketers down. Yes, it can burn holes in paper, plastic and human eyeballs, but chances are you’ll do yourself some sort of grievous injury before you even come close to discovering a practical application for this deadly gadget.

Shake Weight

Shake Weight

image from shakeweightextreme

While some of the demonic devices on this list promise death by roasting or frickin’ laser beam to the brain, only one will punt you into the afterlife via that most excruciating of methods: massive embarrassment. Boasting minimal exercise value and maximum smirk-inducing gestures, the Shake Weight might come in handy only if it’s your dubious responsibility to manually extract the seminal fluid from prize stallions. If you don’t believe me, check out the highly informative workout video on YouTube. It’s technically SFW; however, I’ll leave it to you to try and explain to your boss what the young lady is doing with her pumping phallic workout tool.

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