Shopping & Style

East End Tech: Powering Down – Gadgets Unplugged

I don’t know how many columns I’ve written, but it’s probably close to 100. This morning I realized that almost all of them have been about electronics. You know, items and devices that require some form of power to operate.

It’s high time to dial it down a bit. Let’s go old–school for a change and focus on cool gadgets that don’t have LEDs, touch screens or other modern wizardry. (Guess what? It was pretty hard to find them. But here we go.)

The Classic: Lego
Lego rules. Clearly…have you seen the movie? The toy has been around for more than 50 years, and it’s just as cool today as a parent as it was when I was a kid. But Lego has changed. A lot.

It used to be all about your imagination, right? Lego didn’t come with instructions, just sets of brightly colored geometric plastic that you snapped together to build whatever tickled your fancy. Now? Lego is complicated, man. There are thousands of pieces in every set, plus 100-step instruction manuals that make Ikea directions look like ABCs. And the goal today is to build something incredibly precise, like a Star Wars intergalactic space ship or a medieval castle with horses and jousting gear.

The entire premise of this gadget has been turned upside down, probably because modern factories enable Lego to manufacture more complicated and precise pieces. That’s a technology feat in and of itself.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking it. It’s just different. Here’s what I worked out with my kids: Follow the instructions the first time out, then break it all down and use your instincts to create something new and unusual. The best of both worlds.

The Beautiful: Change It! Wall
Home design is an area with lots of simple gadgets, and the Change It! is one of them. Created by a Russian artist named Amirko, it’s basically a large grid of interconnected, rotating triangles. One side of each triangle is white, another is black, and another is a different rainbow color. You can switch and move and play around with the individual triangles to form all kinds of color schemes and patterns. So it’s a gadget that also looks cool.

The Outdoors: Snow Lizard Smart Phone Case 
OK, this one is right on the edge. It’s a heavy duty, protective phone case that’s made of rugged polycarbonate to protect your device in the toughest of camping conditions. The company even claims this case is waterproof up to six feet, but make sure it’s properly installed.

Technically speaking, the Snow Lizard is a power device, but it charges your phone through solar power, not electricity. So I’m giving it a pass because it’s pretty cool.

The Kitchen: Mortar + Pestle
Last but not least, the kitchen is another place where low-fi gadgets can really make a difference. Here, I go back to my paleo caveman roots: the mortar and pestle. Most folks identify them with guacamole, but I use mine to make everything from pesto to ground spices for tea and cocktails. Not worth the effort, you say? Here’s the thing: The friction created by the two stone items creates a different kind of grinding motion that can’t be duplicated by electric blenders or food processors. I might be wrong, but it seems to unlock different, more intense flavors as a result.

And it’s really fun for kids. Enjoy unplugging!

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