User Input

User Input: Technological Excess

Looks precisely nothing like this.

Looks precisely nothing like this.

I have a number of items, languishing in boxes from hell to breakfast, that I periodically wonder why I ever bought them. One such item is a self-heating coffee mug. In the interest of full disclosure, this is not the first or only example I have of such a thing. This particular example is designed with a “docking base” (that’s what they call it) that sits inside your cupholder. When you drop — excuse me, “dock” — the mug onto the base, it powers up, activating a tiny heating element inside the mug, which theoretically keeps your coffee warm. In reality, it does no such thing, and the cable just gets in the way, and hangs inconveniently out of the cupholder, preventing you from using it for any non-powered coffee cups. Basically, it’s a worthless piece of garbage, but it sure seemed cool when I bought it.

I also, it’s worth pointing out, have another powered cup that it supposed to keep drinks cool. This one does precisely nothing. Seriously, nothing at all. You plug it in, the light comes on, and nothing happens.

What high-tech gadget do you own that has no business being high-tech at all?

  • nanoop

    A thermos keeps cold refreshments cool in summer, and hot beverages warm in winter. How does that thing know what season we're in?

    I have a phone with a pretty advanced OS and a mediocre UI. The battery life time is ridiculous (less than a week!), the camera is crap (but the image can be online within three um, touches?), the touch input doesn't work in wintertime or in drizzle/rain (picking up calls at -10 with my nose…); all this is bearable. But: ALL of my candy bar mobiles had MUCH better microphones (and/or software behind it?), especially in windy conditions. I'm actually considering to buy a 30$ Nokia candy bar, just for field trips and the like.

  • I have a Starrett box cutter.

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    Not overly high tech, but I paid a lot extra for that sticker on there. I think a Wiss box cutter was easily a dollar cheaper. They now offer a more gadgety box cutter called the S011 "Hidden Edge", successor to my S01, but I like the classic Starrett tools, you know?

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  • I_Borgward

    A Solio, basically a small storage battery with three fold-out solar cells. You charge it up, then you connect it to your phone to transfer those righteous solar electrons. I got it as a bonus with a cellular contract. Swell idea, but not quite ready for prime time, at least circa 2008. It takes forever to charge up in the sun, doesn't hold many amp hours, is superfluous in a car and too bulky and cumbersome to carry while traveling. If your phone's battery was dead and you were without power, yet somehow in full sun for a day or so, it -might- be better than nothing, but otherwise, it is largely useless.

    • I've got a phone charger with a built in battery to hold an extra charge for use when you're off the grid. It's equally ineffective – doesn't put out enough juice for the phone to know it should be charging. Instead, the phone gets confused, thinking you've attempted to establish a non-functioning data connection.

  • My very nice miter saw came with a laser guide in the arbor. Completely useless as it's about 1.5mm off and not adjustable.

    • B72

      Can you bend it or something? Perhaps run it through a kids periscope?

      • The Professor

        On the ones that attach to the arbor, the laser is mounted in a big steel washer-like housing on a circuit board that is epoxied in place and the laser shines out through a teeny little hole drilled into the steel. The housing replaces the flat washer on the bolt side of the blade, and consequently spins with the blade. In fact the spin of the blade is what activates it. Anyhoo, even if you could get at the laser LED, and if the LED could be repositioned on the circuit board, it still has to shine trough the same teeny little hole drilled in the steel housing. Filling and re-drilling the teeny little hole would be a somewhat tricky operation, with dubious results being likely.
        It's a lot easier just to ignore the thing, mark a line on your board and line it up with the blade.

    • The Professor

      I know what you mean. I bought an aftermarket laser sight for one of my sliding miter saws….quite a few years ago, and it turned out to be useless too. It's now in the junk box.
      My current drill press came with 2 (two!) laser sights that cross where the drill point will make contact and is somewhat useful, up to a point (argh).

      • Using two laser sights is an excellent idea. Your last line, on the other hand…

        • The Professor

          Sorry, I'm out of practice.

          • You've been missed.