Monday, February 13, 2006

Are you James Bond or MacGyver?

As anyone who knows me can attest, I have a real problem with gadgets. About 80% of my online reading is devoted to gadgets and technology in general. I have a serious amount of salivation built up for various laptops, PDAs, televisions, cell phones, etc. All of these things, I'm convinced, will totally change my life for the better. At least that's what I think until the inevitable post-buy disappointment sets in.

So the other day I was thinking, Why do I need the gadgets? Why do they all have to look sleek, like my iPod? The answer: James Bond. A lot of guys want to be James Bond, for varying reasons: be it the girls, the cars, the style, the stunts, or the gadgets. Cars are okay, and I'm a little too uncoordinated for stunts, and my style is entirely courtesy of the Gap, and, hey, I'm getting married in a few months, so there goes my chance with Pussy Galore. So all that's left is the gadgets. (I'll save my rants about cars for another post.)

But i
t's not just that Bond has the gadgets, it's that he always seems to have the right one at the right. That locked door getting in the way? Good thing Q hooked you up with that laser-beam watch. Need a good distraction? Oh, right... Q just happened to install that remote-control device for the Roadster.
This is what I think gadgets will do for me. Right Gadget, right time.

"Can I meet you next week? Let me just check on my handy Treo 650, which is synced to my Outlook at work."
"This party could do with some music."
"No problem - I've got my trusty iPod with an stereo-to-RCA cable."

That's the hope anyway. The reality is more like:

"Hey, when's Flag Day again?"
"Oh, I've got that online, let me just fire up the laptop."
"Isn't it in February?"
"Wait... booting up. Is there a wifi connection in here?"
"Yeah, I think it's February 7th."
"Password? What the..."

Of course, everyone wants to be James Bond, but as the above scenario makes pretty clear, it's pretty tough. Even if you have all the gadgets you'll ever want, there's the problem of carrying them all, and making sure they actually work the way you want them to when you want them to. And most of the time you're going to looking for uses for your shiny new gadgets when a more low-tech solution might really be the answer.

So what's the compromise? I know the compromise I make is to MacGyver it. This option also makes sense if you don't have MI6-type cash floating around to spend. See, MacGyver didn't need that much stuff, except his handy, off-the-shelf Swiss army knife. The rest he just improvised. Heck, even without the knife he could improvise.
This is why I like to keep spare electronics floating around. Cables, wires, old remotes or game controllers, all get stored in boxes in the closet for parts. These things always come in handy.

A good compromise between MacGyver and Bond was a few months back, when I wanted to have sound from my stereo system pump into the kitchen for doing boxes. Luckily, my receiver supported A and B speakers, which could be turned on and off separately. Very Bond. But to really be Bond, I'd have to spend some serious money on some wireless speakers. Of course, the lack of cash led me to MacGyver it. I found a great deal on a big pair of no-name speakers from Goodwill, which didn't have proper speaker wire inputs. A little work with some wire-strippers and small bit of speaker wire allowed me to attach proper speaker wire to the back of them, which I painstakingly ran along the side of the trim and under the baseboards into the living room. So now I've got music in the kitchen, and it cost me $5.

Beat that Bond.

If anyone else has some good Bond or MacGyver moments, let me know and I'll throw 'em up on the blog. Or just leave a comment.

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