As the weather turns crisp and the leaves move along the spectrum from shades of vivacious green to sunburst orange, a young man’s fancy turns not to love, but to years past. In long gone days, fall meant a return to the rigors and closely-scheduled time of the school year, when the fun and games of summer were remembered only in that annual one-page essay.
So it’s no surprise that this week’s Gadgetbox is tinted by the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia, as I take a look at gadgets that bring out the kid in me: a way to live out my cinematic dreams, virtually explore the reaches of the stratosphere, and follow in James Bond’s footsteps.
Why is that the coolest toys seem to be marketed at kids who won’t be able to really appreciate them until they’re adults my age? Seriously. If I’d wanted a home studio complete with green screen when I was a kid, I would have had to rip a green sheet off my bed, steal a JVC camcorder, and break into a multi-thousand dollar production studio like every one else on the block.
But now, for just $130, you can buy
a complete green screen kit that’ll let you start filming movies of yourself on the moon, or underwater, or in…Delaware. Think of the hours of fun I could have with this, and how it would enhance my currently pathetic YouTube page. Sure, it’s just a 640×480 video camera, and it probably comes with some sort of arcane software that doesn’t even run on the Mac, but I ask you: would that have stopped Spielberg ?
The upshot: kids all over the world are getting the kinds of opportunities I’d only dreamed of as a tot. So really, it’s not my fault that I never achieved anything—okay, grandma?
SCI FI Tech ]
Come fly the Google skies
When I was a kid, my parents used to take me along to dinner parties at their friends’ house. While the grown-ups had important conversations about the politics , one of the other kids and I would scamper into the house’s den to fire up our host’s copy of Microsoft Flight Simulator. Of course, we probably spent more time seeing what would happen if we crashed into buildings than legitimately simulating flying , but that’s hardly the point.
I had my own copy of Flight Simular on the Mac for a while, but I eventually moved onto games that had, well, more impressive explosions. Still, when I heard the other day that there was
a secret flight simulator built into the latest version of Google Earth, I couldn’t resist going for a scenic flight over San Francisco.
Alright, I may have experimented to see if you could crash into buildings. The answer, by the way, is no—however, if said building is, say, very close to the ground , it doesn’t really matter. At least I confirmed that I made a wise choice for all of us when I opted not to go to flight school.
To bring up the flight simulator, just hit command-option-a (or control-a if you’re on a PC). You’ll be able to choose one of two crafts and your starting location. If you don’t feel like the challenge of trying to figure out which key does what precisely—and where’s your sense of adventure?—you can find
the full control list here.
Moviemaking and crashing flight simulators can only take up so much time in the life of a wee lad. What time I had that wasn’t occupied with those concerns was filled primarily with other fascinations. Like spies . Spying was about knowing things that others didn’t know; they were people of mystery and intrigue.
And they had the coolest gadgets.
I don’t know if a portable voice recorder would be among the most useful gizmos in an espionage agent’s arsenal, but at least it’s one which I can still convince myself, as a journalist, will come in useful.
This model from Narae Inter is probably the smallest I’ve seen yet: it’s about the size of a credit card, only 6.5mm thick, and weighs in at just 39 grams. And somehow it packs in a full gigabyte of storage space, a USB connector, and full recording and playback controls. Perfect for trapping that elusive quarry or interviewing a company exec—surprisingly similar tasks, when you get right down to it.
Okay, it might not be a watch that shoots lasers or cigarette lighter/flash bomb, but let’s face it: even with no price and availability, the voice recorder’s still going to be easier to pick up.
Shiny Shiny ]
You can only live in the past for so long, of course. Now it’s back to the present and its pressing concerns of grown-up issues…like technology and gadgets. See you next week.