They don’t make ’em to last any more. Well, in truth, capitalism never intended any product to last forever; making things that never need replacing is after all a lousy business strategy. While that may be understandable, one of the more insidious tricks of capitalism is to get consumers to indulge in self-imposed obsolescence. Products that still get the job done are shunned simply because something shinier is in the shop window. One of the great examples of this mass shopping psychosis is the murder of records by the CD. While the shiny discs unquestionably have the edge on the black Frisbees in terms of durability, the old LP record is still a viable music producer. It’s just not digital. Unfortunately, keeping your records turning is a task beyond almost all of us, the nimble fingers of DJs being a notable exception. Traditionally, this has meant tossing out years of record collecting and rebuilding your music library from scratch. TEAC offers an alternative with its admittedly rather stodgy-looking GF-650. Basically this is a CD burner that allows you to copy your records straight onto the upstart digital discs. It comes out this month with a price tag of ¥83,790. The songs must go on.
Teaching old tape new tricks: If vinyl is the poor cousin to CDs, then cassette tapes must be the doting grandparent consigned to a retirement home. South Korean outfit BTO is helping the venerable tape cross the information superhighway with its new PlusDeckEX. This latest permutation of the PlusDeck series again allows you to copy music back and forth between your PC and tape. But this one is an external USB version and includes another analog dinosaur, the AM/FM radio tuner. Details, in several languages, are available at www.plusdeck.co.kr/
Twisted fun: Yankodesign is giving the concept of having power at your fingertips a neat twist. The iRing is a ring that serves as a remote control for your iPod. It looks like an Apple accessory with its blue apple sign sitting in the middle of a white or black ring, each with gray edges. But with its Bluetooth ability it provides you with such basic controls as play, pause and volume up and down, all with a twist of the ring or push of a button. The battery lasts for two days at a time. More information is available at www.yankodesign.com/index.php/2007/09/04/iring-controls-your-ipod.
Airing it out: Striking a fresh chord is toy maker Megahouse with its first Air Guitar player coming out at the end of the month. The device sports three color combinations: silver and pink, blue and white, and red and gray, and includes such songs as Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way” and Deep Purple’s “Black Night.” For more details, see www.megahouse.co.jp/airmusician/index.html.
Hair raising: Losing your hair is torture enough, but the machinations that men go to, largely in vain, to regain it are best left to the masochists among us. Perhaps that was the inspiration for the KeUpper. At first glance it’s a pretty ordinary pair of headphones, but the array of protruding spikes is a giveaway that this is not for fun. Apparently the electrodes are meant to stimulate your hair back to life, supposedly being able to reduce your baldness in just tens of weeks. At a price in excess of ¥100,000, it is enough to make your hair stand on end. Details are available at www.rakuten.co.jp/bizaiya/627398/578329/.
Fresh approach: Something that avoids the omnipotent power of electricity is a portable, foldaway humidifier from the tech company Mikuni. It looks similar to one of those folding file boxes that open up like an accordion, or part of a giant flower. You simply moisten the folds inside its plastic casing and place it near you. The clever gadget comes in pink or white, and you can add to the experience with lavender and bergamot-scented fluids, sold separately. Further details are available at www.mikuni.co.jp/j/oasis/index.html.
Film lives on: Records and cassette tapes aren’t the only old-tech stalwarts that are lingering on into the digital age. Takara Tomy is using the venerable film for a new lineup of 35mm plastic cameras dubbed Tolne, a play on the phrase “toru ne,” as in “I’m going to take your picture, OK?” Each of the ¥3,990 photo takers comes with a set of filters that include “cross light” and “deform” to create low-tech special effects. More information is available at www.takaratomy.co.jp/ir/release/press/pdf/p070903.pdf, and the cameras are due to hit the shelves on Nov. 29.
Smile for the equation: Omron is sticking strictly to digital with its new “smile measurement software.” It employs 3D face mapping technology to measure your smile factor on a scale from zero percent to 100 percent. The program can be used with digital cameras, mobile phones and their ilk. It seems that our math teachers were right. In the end, anything can be reduced to numbers.