obsession with the latest technology can drive even the most
reasonable folks to short-circuit
new technology hits the market, my internal-reason circuits
go on the fritz, my economic sense takes a nosedive, and I
quickly find myself uncontrollably lusting after whatever
new piece of overhyped gadgetry the electronics industry wants
to sell me. As Johnny 5 from the ’80s film classic Short
Circuit would say to some hot piece of tech, “Nice software!”
yet, I wasn’t waiting on line at an electronics store early
on June 29. I wasn’t worrying about whether there would be
enough in stock, or wondering if the guy in front of me might
give up his spot to avert a disastrous (and very public) bladder
explosion. Instead, I was looking at my credit-card bill and
thanking my lucky stars that I had not been bitten by the
iPhone bug. No, somehow I had avoided this latest electronic
craze, convinced myself that, well, maybe this time this was
just one more expensive gadget I did not need.
That morning I wanted to think I had finally broken myself
of an ugly habit I developed early in life when my best friend’s
family got a Nintendo and a copy of Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!
(Watching Short Circuit on repeat as a child did not
help either. “Need input! Innnnput!”) I was just conditioned
to desire every newfangled thing.
But, truth be told, I had not permanently deprogrammed myself.
No, I had in fact only recently satiated another one of my
electronic desires: I had just bought a Nintendo Wii.
The Wii is not an easy prize to secure. Check out an online
electronics retailer and you will see a large “Temporarily
Out-of-Stock” icon where the Buy button should be. Or you
might have the option of buying the system as a “Super Adventure
Bundle.” That is the system that normally retails for a reasonable
$250, bundled with enough accessories to bring the price tag
to more than $600. In other words, it’s a flaming Wii rip-off.
There are also a number of independent retailers and eBay
sellers willing to supply you with a Wii if you pay three
times the normal retail price. Heck, even Coke and a slew
of Internet-based companies offer Wii and the iPhone as a
prize if you buy their health-sabotaging product like a gazillion
times and send in your proofs of purchase or give them things
like your Social Security number.
Quoth Number 5, “Stupid, foolish, gullible, doltish, dumbbell,
You don’t buy the Wii like you would buy a bottle of shampoo,
a pack of gum, or even an iPod. Buying a Wii takes skill and
I learned through a study of message boards that the proper
routine of a successful Wii hunter includes the following
steps: early-morning waits in front of Best Buy, late night
visits to Wal-Mart, repeated calls to specialty stores, cozying
up to friends who work in the electronics-retail business,
and the willingness to drive for miles.
of the world, turkey, idiot, pain in the ass.”
That sounded like work to me. I figured if I have the will
power to establish that sort of regimented search, I must
also have the willpower to stop playing video games altogether.
I resigned myself (as painful as it may sound) to being Wii-free.
I thought about the last time I had to have a new piece of
tech: the flashy Chocolate cell phone from Verizon that was
advertised as an MP3 player/phone, the phone that I have had
to replace five times because of various matters involving
its chintzy construction and fragile nature.
Before the Chocolate disintegrated for the first time, I had
already lost interest in it when I realized I would have to
buy a $50 memory stick if I wanted to store more than nine
undone, dismantle, dissect, disassemble.”
Not to mention the finicky, early- generation Xbox 360 I had
And the early-model iPod that does not support video and now
sits in the back of my car somewhere like a discarded water
5 furious, livid, perturbed!”
And that was it. I was free of my lust for Wii—or so I thought.
Then one day, while on a long, grueling phone call, I flicked
my mouse button over to Ama zon.com and noticed that the “Out
of stock” button over the Wii was gone, and the lust was back.
laser-lips, your momma was a snowblower!”
With a flick of my wrist, I was a proud owner of a brand-
new Wii. It felt cheap, unrewarding, as though somehow I had
gamed the system. When the Wii ar rived at my doorstep, I
wondered to myself, “Why did I want this thing anyway? I don’t
even have time to play video games.” I heard the Johnny 5
in me shouting for a reprieve: “No disassemble!” But it was
So on June 29, when the iPhone was rocking many a world, I
was feeling tech regret, wondering how used and hollow an
iPhone purchase would make me feel. I pledged to give the
tech kick a break and make do with my half-functioning cell
phone and outdated iPod. I told myself, “You can get on line
next time for the second generation of iPhone. You know, when
they really work out the kinks.”
The Number 5 inside of me was overjoyed.