Thursday Top 10: Silliest USB gadgets

Gadgets, Top tens

Although please note, silliness does NOT mean undesirable in this case. Far from it. Forget boring mice, headsets and USB drives. Sometimes you want to plug something ridiculous into your PC or Mac’s USB port. And gadget manufacturers have been eager to please, releasing a host of USB-powered objects that will make you the envy of your work colleagues. That is envy, when they point at you and laugh, before sidling out to lunch without you. Really it is.

Most of these gizmos come through Tech Digest’s doors, offering sweet relief from the more serious aspects of consumer technology. By which I mean, sometimes we’d rather ditch the brand new DVD recorder or connected hi-fi in favour of a USB microscope, missile-launcher, or small orange Skype monster. It’s only natural.

1. The one that eases your back-pain

It’s hard work sitting at a desk slaving over a hot spreadsheet. And while some enlightened companies do bring in a weekly masseuse for aching employees (i.e. the boss and his cronies), most just expect you to get on with it. This USB massager came with a 180cm cable, with a softening massage speed of 1800rpm. However fast that is.

2. The one that fires foamy rockets

Did Saddam Hussein have a desktop PC? If so, this gizmo might have been the weapon of mass destruction that George Bush was looking for. It plugs into your computer, and then fires foam missiles at all and sundry. Guaranteed to get you sacked for being an irritating mentalist quicker than almost any other gadget.

3. The one that lets you eye up bacteria

Once upon a time, every kid wanted a microscope for Christmas. Parents thought they were keen on science, when the real aim was to gather enough house-bacteria samples to call the authorities in. Or at least Kim’n’Aggie. Anyway, nowadays The Kids are more interested in MySpace, but now they can have both thanks to this microscope, which lets you view squashed bugs and other items at 200x magnification on your screen, then paste the images into an email.

4. The one that reminds you why you’re not keen on seafood

Everyone knows that octopuses (octopii? I didn’t pay attention in my marine biology classes) can squeeze through holes the size of coins. But did you know they can also fit into your USB port? As long as they’re small, made of plastic, and have a USB cable attached, of course. That’s evolution. This Shaking Octopus isn’t really an octopus, of course, it’s a head massager. Would go well with the first gadget on this list, albeit at the risk of making you so relaxed you’d fall asleep at your desk.

5. The ones that dance about being monstrous while you chat on Skype

Skype’s useful, sure, but a bit dull. You try chatting someone up in a bar by telling them how you’re saving tens of pounds in phone bills through the wonders of VoIP. No chance. However, they’ll fall at your feet when you tell them this involves talking to a small blue monster called Boss. Honest. He’s one of a set of beasties called Verballs, which jig about and ‘talk’ when you make Skype calls. Oh, and their voices move in time to what the other person’s saying.

6. The one for people who got over-excited about England’s World Cup prospects

Oh, it seems to long ago now, when collective hysteria took over the nation to the extent that we believed that Swedish fella would take us to the World Cup final. Or at least teach the England team to take penalties. Those were innocent days, complete with oodles of St George cross-branded tat playing on people’s patriotic fervour. Which is a rather long-winded preamble to this unremarkable 64MB USB drive, complete with ‘We Believe’ logo.

7. The one that makes the air smell fresh and sweet like a daisy

At least, I think that’s what air ionisers do. If you can’t stand the thought of being surrounded by – wait for it – any old ions, this USB air ioniser might be just the gadget for you. Plug it into a free port, and it ensures the air is saturated with ions, and there’s even a power adapter for the cigarette lighter socket in your car. Because no matter how much soot your exhaust is belching into the atmosphere, it’s important to have nice air inside it.

8. The one that attracts moths to your campsite while you sing along to pop tunes

So hang on. You’re in a remote part of the UK, you’re camping, and you need a reliable light source, and some form of musical entertainment to keep your spirits up. So why would you choose to take a USB camping light / FM radio along, which requires a laptop, instead of a plain old-fashioned torch and radio? Hmm? That is silly. Still, if the idea appeals, this may be the USB gadget for you.

9. The one that provides sardonic moggy video-conferencing

This gadget isn’t silly. It’s actually quite cool. It’s a webcam, with a resolution of 640×480 pixels at 15 frames-per-second, 24-bit colour, adjustable focus, auto exposure / white balance and a whopping 1.8m cable. But forget the statty stuff – it’s shaped like Garfield! And you can use him for instant messaging or Skype, whichever is your preference. Top stuff.

10. The one that isn’t silly at all, but does let you turn your vinyl LPs into MP3s

Digitising your CD collection is a bit boring, but ultimately painless. Turning your vinyl into MP3s, on the other hand, is a nightmare, unless you fancy listening to every single record in your collection one by one. Still, this USB turntable from ION lets you do the job, complete with Audacity software to make it as easy as possible.

Stuart Dredge
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