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iLust

An obsession with the latest technology can drive even the most reasonable folks to short-circuit

 By David King

When 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!”

And 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, lamebrain.”

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 finesse.

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.

“Jerk 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 songs.

“Apart, undone, dismantle, dissect, disassemble.”

Not to mention the finicky, early- generation Xbox 360 I had to have.

And the early-model iPod that does not support video and now sits in the back of my car somewhere like a discarded water bottle.

“Number 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.

“Hey, 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 too late.

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.

“Number 5 alive!”

dking@metroland.net


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