It’s not online yet, but I had to post this: Wired’s done a 15th anniversary retrospective on past gadgets from its Fetish column, pulling out the most absurd, useless, and ridiculous through the hindsight of 2008. I have special interest in this article, as I wrote Fetish for 20% of its lifetime, and the column was the original inspiration, my media mogul boss Nick Denton told me, for Gizmodo.
The entire article is a pair of spreads with gadgets strewn all over the page, with a black background (to Fetish’s traditional white.) The head: Worst. Gadgets. Ever. And each entry has a caption with the date, price, and a quip of a line taking the piss out of each. I would have PAID Wired to write this, by the way, but I’m sure current Fetish editor Mark McClusky took the same joy I would have in deconstructing it. Reading the copy from back issues makes me cringe – the voice is so hokey! Which is why I prefer current writer, Joe Brown’s tone of voice. I don’t think he lets anyone edit him much, so it carries the tone of a real person talking about gear, not the over polished copy that eventually makes a writer sound like a bit of a sales person.
Unfortunately, only 5 items I wrote with editor Rob Capps made it to the list, pulled from 442 pages of back issues: The Airstream Skydeck from April 2005, a US$260k double decker recreational vehicle. It’s the biggest item in Fetish, ever, but not the most expensive.
The Optimus Maximus is here from October 2005, with the slightly incorrect caption of “Shipping Soon!”, but I guess the extended timeline for release does warrant that kind of critique, even if its out right now.
Also on the list were the Iz, some dumb music toy Rob made me write about, and these cool Nike contact lenses with sunglass tint built in for athletes. I still might want to try those. There’s also the Geneva Soundsystem iPod dock, which I admit, is garish.
All in all, I wish I had more items on this list. When talking to Rob, it was clear that we had one regret when it came to our work on Fetish: It’s not that we didn’t pick more timeless gear. It’s that we didn’t go insane enough in choosing truly crazy gadgets for the section. It’s a hard section to put together. You have to find stuff 3 months ahead of when its coming out, get a list of 20-30 things and the editor eventually gives the green light to 10 items. I’d write those, and 4 of them would get to the final list. If you could secure good prototypes for the photography. It was sometimes embarrassing how many leads would come from Gizmodo, which influenced my move here. Thinking about Fetish makes me proud to have contributed to it. If you’re interested in helping the magazine out and need an internship, they’re hiring.
In closing, I leave you with this old academic essay by Theresa Senft on modern fetish, which focuses on Wired’s column. And, if you get a chance, check out the Worst of Fetish piece in this month’s Wired.