When Modern Technology Looks Like a Rock

Our first annual summer controversy is brewing in Southampton Village: the First Presbyterian Church on Main Street has petitioned to install a cellular tower along its facade. Preservationists, environmentalists, NIMBYs, 99-Percenters, Night Fishermen, and Luddites are all on the record as opposing it. That’s pretty much the entire town except for the guys at Crescendo Audio.

While reading the story, I came across descriptions and renderings of the church’s plan; they propose using camouflage materials that would blend right in with the building’s historic look and feel.

This intrigued me. I did some Googling and discovered a new generation of cellular towers that look like full-size trees. It’s true—some genius architect has designed fake trees that are  made of metal and wires and all the necessary parts to handle mobile calls. There are pine trees, palm trees… No hydrangeas though.

Anyway, this got me thinking about faux technology—actual items you can use in your life that don’t look like technology at all. Here are a few goodies:

Item 1: Rock Speakers

The East End is ground zero for extravagant swimming pools, and I’ve come across my fair share of rock speakers over the years. I’ve grooved to volcanic lava rocks spewing 200 amps of power in Amagansett, and I’ve felt the thumping bass of Italian faux marble sub woofers in Hampton Bays.

If done properly, rock speakers are great faux technology. They enable you to bring music to your pool deck, tennis court or backyard. And they look pretty cool too.

The issue is wiring. Despite advances in Wi-Fi technology, most affordable rock speakers must be hard-wired. This means you must dig a path to bury the wires all the way from your house to the speakers—and cross your fingers that animals and lawnmowers don’t damage the wiring. I’ve had rock speakers for three years and believe me, it’s a constant issue.

Item 2: Halo Headphones

Anyone with an iPod can attest to the difficulties that ear buds present. On the one hand, standard ear buds sound crappy and constantly get tangled in your pocket. They can also cause hearing loss.

The alternative is to wear headphones. Beats By Dre is a hugely popular product that I’ve written about before. But the headsets are massive and clunky—not the most appropriate thing to wear to a business meeting.

Enter Halo Headphones. It’s a simple concept: a bandana with embedded earphones. Halo promises to deliver great sound while you work out, and the buds never come out because they are secured to your skull via the headband.

Priced around $65, Halo Headphones are a great piece of faux technology, but the problem is the headband. Put it this way: there’s a reason why headbands haven’t been in style since the days of Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe.

Item 3: The NavJacket

This is faux technology to the max. Manufactured by O’Neill, the NavJacket is a Gore-Tex winter sports parka with an embedded GPS unit that connects to your phone. The idea is that if you’re off in the wilderness, maybe climbing Everest or doing some backcountry skiing in British Columbia, you’ll always know where you are. More importantly, if you get lost or buried in an avalanche, people will always know where you are.

There’s more. The NavJacket also has special goggles that display trail maps and other stats (altitude, barometric pressure, etc.) right on the lens.

At $1,600, the NavJacket is definitely not for everyone. But if you’re a survivalist who wants to look super cool, then it’s worth checking out.

Bonus Nostalgia Item: The Darth Vader Speaker Phone

I actually owned one of these, back in the 1980s. It’s a plastic statue of Darth Vader, about 12 inches tall, with a tiny speaker embedded inside the mouth. I recall hours of fun and long conversations with friends who called as the Evil Lord.

While these phones are no longer in production, a random search on eBay found plenty of models for about $35. If you have a Star Wars fanatic among your friends and family, I highly suggest picking one up as a gift.

Use the Force.

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