Is It Wrong to Lust Over an Optimus Keyboard? Yes.
May 25, 2008 4:38 PM   Subscribe

The best thing about WIRED Magazine's 15th Anniversary celebration is it's not all self-congratulatory. Of course, any media entity involved in the rapidly-changing but well-archived internet is going to sometimes do silly things that we all can see - forever. In one area, at least, WIRED is owning up to its bad judgment with the Lamest (their word) Gear Ever Highlighted in their 'Fetish' Feature. 1993-1995. 1996-1998. 1999-2006. It's not that there are less lame items in recent years; they're just waiting for history to confirm what smart readers saw all along. My favorites - and why some of them may not be so lame:

* Mattel Power Glove You knew it was doomed to lameness - it's Mattel!
* Interactor Vest With the right thrash metal song, it could be used as a defibrillator, right?
* Clipper CS-1 Isolation cubicle? maybe. Plywood? no way.
* Home tattoo removal? This thing is going to become SO needed in a few years.
* Home car wash hi-pressure wand? When gas reaches $10/gallon, it'll be cheaper than driving to the coin-op car wash.
* Have you seen those 'sex chairs'? This looks like the solo version.
* The Infonium Universe Simulator, 'from the mind of Minolta', right before they carried him away in a straight jacket.
* A Car-Alarm for your Laptop. From the days when your laptop cost more than your car.
* GPS Reporter. Edison Carter wouldn't be caught dead wearing one of these.
* MetaFilter's Own Adam Savage's "case mod". How dare they? This will NEVER become lame.
* Panda Toaster! No, not toasting pandas. But if they'd done one with a picture of the Virgin Mary, they'd be zillionaires.
* The Hovery... they should've marketed this to people who really need their personal space.
* Mouse Bling. Nothing more to say.
* Gibbs Aquada... I said FLYING car, not FLOATING car, you git.
* Magic Theater. Kaleidoscope + projector + anime nightmare + Disney infringement = EPIC HUH?
You know what's really lame? How WIRED clipped some of these items out of their backgrounds. Don't they have Photoshop?
* And how come this is the only lame item branded Sharper Image? SI was all about lame tech! This is just proof they could've put a lot more 'Fetish' items on the list. Like maybe ALL of them?
posted by wendell (43 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Ok, what is that GPS reporter backpack possibly for?
posted by milestogo at 5:13 PM on May 25, 2008

I will predict that in 15 years, we will look back and laugh at the way they put one item on each page, and set the whole feature up with really lousy navigation.

In fact, I think I will laugh at it right now. Wired magazine, cutting edge of technology, indeed.
posted by Dave Faris at 5:18 PM on May 25, 2008 [7 favorites]

It's not that there are less lame items in recent years;

It's not that there [have been] [fewer] lame items in recent years;
posted by ChasFile at 5:19 PM on May 25, 2008

What, no article?
posted by Vindaloo at 5:19 PM on May 25, 2008

I don't get what's lame about the case mod. Or universe simulator. Or the GPS simulator, really, other than it's funny how big it is.

Oh wait, it's a meta thing. Wired is lame, so they've even screwed this story up.
posted by DU at 5:20 PM on May 25, 2008

Sitting in this would make you feel like a total douche, but if you hide your shame beneath this you'll only ever leave your dorkstation to go to the bathroom*.

* unless you have the PeeSucker XK, the personal hygene vacuum from CyberMondo, as featured in Wired 2.05 (MSRP $12,095, specify finish: Burning Chrome, Wintermute Wintergreen, or Information Wants To Be Fuchsia.)
posted by bunnytricks at 5:22 PM on May 25, 2008

Ahem. Hide your shame beneath this, even.
posted by bunnytricks at 5:23 PM on May 25, 2008

I saw one of those power gloves at the video game history exhibit in town on the weekend. I want one - but I suppose I grew up too close to Tron....
posted by pompomtom at 5:24 PM on May 25, 2008

I love the Power Glove... it's so bad!
posted by SansPoint at 5:39 PM on May 25, 2008 [2 favorites]

Dang, I need me a pair of these.
posted by tkolar at 5:40 PM on May 25, 2008

I just clicked the first group so far, and it's all really lame. Except for the submarine. I mean, really, it's a niche market for that kind of thing anyway, so it's not like some mass-produced garbage. And it's a fucking submarine.
posted by zardoz at 5:43 PM on May 25, 2008

Now if they'd just owe up to this bad judgment....
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:50 PM on May 25, 2008

Mea culpa, ChasFile, I'm cringing myself at the way I wrote that sentence. PLEASE don't turn me in to the Grammar Nazis, PLEASE.
posted by wendell at 5:51 PM on May 25, 2008

None of these are as bad as the CueCat.
posted by porn in the woods at 5:53 PM on May 25, 2008 [4 favorites]

I have two PowerGloves and one Interactor Vest. They rule. Suck it Wired!
posted by meehawl at 6:05 PM on May 25, 2008

Oh, and no PowerGlove cybernaut would be caught dead without the PowerGlove Serial Interface, which also feature an essential input connector for the Sega 3D Glasses kit.
posted by meehawl at 6:16 PM on May 25, 2008

I'm sure what 'computer' this is plugged into some glorified address book, but how is this head set lame? I'm wondering why my computer doesn't have one right now. Oh... I'm lame? I see. ;)
posted by adamt at 6:21 PM on May 25, 2008

I agree, the submarine is fully awesome. And the navigation is lame. What do I do when I come upon an ad? Other than get annoyed. How do I actually see the image?
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:24 PM on May 25, 2008

So close, yet so far.
posted by tachikaze at 6:28 PM on May 25, 2008

> Wired magazine, cutting edge of technology, indeed.

It always struck me as a bit odd somehow to read about the internet in a paper magazine.
posted by jfuller at 6:30 PM on May 25, 2008

Aqua Teen Hunger Force comes to life! All that's missing is the e-Ano with e-Toms addon.
posted by DecemberBoy at 6:45 PM on May 25, 2008

Is this the part where I mention how much I miss Mondo 2000 and that I'll always resent Wired and Conde Nast for driving them out of business? Looks like it.

The future isn't ever what it used to be.

*straps on wearable GPS enabled teledildonics rig with a bulky head mounted display, power glove, chorded keyboard, integrated liquid cooling jacket and a very unflattering black lycra catsuit embedded with fiber optic sensors, drinks weird looking greenish-blue smart drink, begins sweating*

Ok. I'm ready. Who wants to make out? Serial IrDA only!
posted by loquacious at 6:47 PM on May 25, 2008 [5 favorites]

> None of these are as bad as the CueCat.

Quoted for truth!

I humbly admit to being smitten with Wired in the late '90s. And then Wired got on the PointCast bandwagon. The one-two punch of CueCat and PointCast knocked some sense into me. By the time the founder of my startup was featured in the magazine I had canceled my subscription.

It's good to see Wired has a sense of humor about their own checkered past.
posted by sdodd at 6:59 PM on May 25, 2008

I almost made an FPP about this; instead I'll leave it here for the folks interested in Wired and tech journalism: Wired's parent company has acquired Ars Technica. According to the blog that broke the story, "The acquisition price will not be disclosed, but our sources say it is in the $25 million range, which is what Condé Nast paid for in 2006."
posted by sdodd at 7:04 PM on May 25, 2008

It always struck me as a bit odd somehow to read about the internet in a paper magazine.

Well, the web didn't exist when wired started. I remember, in fact, reading in an early issue of Wired about how gopher was the new hotness. If you go back to their earliest net surf features, all the 'links' are to telnet, ftp and gopher servers.
posted by empath at 7:53 PM on May 25, 2008

porn in the woods writes "None of these are as bad as the CueCat."

Oh, man, are you kidding? Maybe the CueCat as designed was lame, but it's a very hackable gadget.
posted by krinklyfig at 8:19 PM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Damn, SansPoint beat me to it.

Youtube link for completeness
posted by pwicks at 8:40 PM on May 25, 2008

How dare they? This will NEVER become lame.

DAMN YOU Wendell! I was already crying with laughtter by the time I reached this line, and this tossed me over into "CALL THE EMTS" terrain. Ah, "this will Wendell" takes on a a whole new meaning!
posted by mwhybark at 9:04 PM on May 25, 2008

Isn't the "universe simulator" just the guts of a planetarium? Is there something about it that makes it a particularly lame planetarium? Or is it that planetaria are lame inherently?
posted by mr_roboto at 10:33 PM on May 25, 2008

the web didn't exist when wired started.

It sure didn't. Gotta love this, from NetSurf in the January 1994 Wired:

"The past year or two has witnessed an explosion of new information sources on the Net. NBA basketball schedules, astronomical databases, and electronic bookstores are just a few of the many online services freely available. Previously, a substantial array of tools was necessary to gather this information; telnet, archie, ftp, WAIS, gopher, and finger are common examples. Unfortunately, these tools have unique interfaces and require their own specialized software and knowledge to use. Now, however, one system ties these diverse sources together into a coherent whole, making it easier for novice surfers to steer clear of the breakers. This system, the World Wide Web (WWW or W3), has become quite popular among the information crowd and is causing quite a few waves of its own.

The Web, as it is known, started at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics. Originally developed to tie together many different CERN databases, the Web is a distributed system that presents the user with documents full of hypermedia links to other documents or information system..."
posted by digaman at 11:02 PM on May 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

In other news, Roku Netflix Set Top Box Is Just Shy of Totally Amazing. I'm extremely prone to sympathy for a big media entity taking the piss out of itself, but in all honesty I'm not sure exactly what differentiates these fetish items from the other consumer items that Wired routinely tries to amalgamate into its cargo cult every month.

/obligatory Wired hatred
posted by whir at 12:07 AM on May 26, 2008

I have two PowerGloves and one Interactor Vest.

Ah, yet another bold explorer into the realms of teledildonics, I see. But when will my Interactor Underpants finally arrive? I've been waiting since 1993 and they're still not here!

Damn you to hell, Jaron Lanier!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:42 AM on May 26, 2008

For a while in the 90s there was a separate British edition of Wired. I can't remember what it had in its Fetish section except that it was probably either dollars to pounds equivalent in pricing or made by people who get rapidly burned out of "The Dragon's Den". Its former editor recalls:

"...I had a one-to-one with John Battelle, the editor of Wired US. Battelle is a pumped-iron, testosterone-bristled Hemingway of a geek.... He asked me how Wired UK was going to run. It was at this point that I, if it was I, made the "decision", if it was a decision, that I think fucked Wired UK from the start.

I said, 'Well, obviously, we'll create some of our own content, take the best of your articles, and wrap them into one magazine'".

posted by rongorongo at 4:17 AM on May 26, 2008

I wonder what that 90-techie-wunderkind, Jaron Lanier, is up to now.
posted by Dave Faris at 5:26 AM on May 26, 2008

Wired's fetish feature always makes me feel like I don't make enough money to read their magazine.
posted by drezdn at 7:18 AM on May 26, 2008

I wonder what that 90-techie-wunderkind, Jaron Lanier, is up to now.

Dunno, but if his career has stalled, I do think American Inventor is crying out for the man who can produce a working pair of Interactor Underpants. That George Foreman would be all over him like a nasty rash.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 7:36 AM on May 26, 2008

I'm not clear what they have against RSA SecurID tokens, given that they were hugely successful and (with a few cosmetic changes) are still very much in use...
posted by standbythree at 9:27 AM on May 26, 2008

Jaron is busy complaining about wikipedia.
posted by louie at 2:03 PM on May 26, 2008

Only one Mefite that I know of has a Palau stamp.

And I am disappointed to find that it's not cortex, jonmc or quonsar.
posted by wendell at 7:38 PM on May 26, 2008


I agree - Palauan philately has no credibility, given those stunning omissions.
posted by lukemeister at 8:09 PM on May 26, 2008

The founder of Wired seems to be a real twat. I got to the paragraph where he claimed that Moveon and DailyKos had ruined the potential of online politics by throwing mud and stopped reading. Every issue finds me regretting the subscription.
posted by joseppi7 at 7:12 AM on May 27, 2008

My relationship with WIRED is WEIRD.

At the time of its debut in '94, I owned an alternative weekly in SC. Which I was just then selling. Having been raised with computers, I was attuned to the whole thing, and when WIRED finally showed up, WOW! I had to move to SF and work there! It was so exciting!

So, as I had a trusty CompuServe account—to get my syndicated features from AlterNet!—I contacted and dialogued with Kevin Kelly. And over the course of a lengthy dialogue, I got an invite to come out and work for the magazine. I was electrified!

When I arrived, I got put off. We spoke on the phone but took a week or so to get an interview. When I arrived at the now-famous epicenter building of San Francisco's then (now?) notorious Multi-Media Gulch on 3rd Street, I was blown away and underwhelmed at the same time: Inside, way up on the the third floor, it was silent! Everyone was diligently working away on their computers. There was an electricity, but it was all internal. Coming from a working newsroom, this really threw me.

When Kevin and I met, Louis Rossetto just to his right, it was clear we had no connection. I got to come and go for awhile, but there was no active chemistry. However....

...below on the first floor was both bOING bOING and MIGHT. As I was hanging around WIRED doing nothing, I started hanging out at MIGHT with Marny, Dave Moodie, and Dave Eggers. Dave Eggers and I hit it off (partially because I was seeing then-SF Bay Guardian Music Editor Sia!), but not like friends. More like strangers in the night. For instance, he thought the whole Andre The Giant Has A Posse thing I was then putting up all over SF, Oakland, and Berkeley was "dumb." Then he got hired for Esquire and moved to NYC and went big. Sia, too. And Andre The Giant became OBEY and also went huge.

And then, because of the WIRED and MIGHT connections, I spent time at C/Net....when it was a television station, and even got time in at the offices of Morph's Outpost On The Digital Frontier where I met good friend Jon Santos (recently featured on Boing Boing). All huge!

That's only the half of it. Those connections launched me to become senior director of a Bay Area hip-hop magazine, where I met and wound up writing the business plan for a hip-hop t-shirt company called Ecko Unlimited in '97.

At this point, roughly half the people I worked closely with for the past 15 years are either famous, rich, or both.

And I owe it all to WIRED.
posted by humannaire at 7:32 PM on May 27, 2008

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