MEN AND GADGETS: A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN
The generally accepted definition of a gadget is: a device or appliance that has a useful specific practical function that is often also thought of as a novelty. But why do we men love them so much? SWAG investigates.
Almost all men love owning, handling or fiddling with gadgets, but the reason for this attraction is lost in the mists of time. Perhaps it’s something to do with the mysterious ‘Y’ chromosome, absent in women, which delivers an obsession with hard, metallic or mechanical objects.
Basic evolutionary theory suggests that an attraction for, or keen ability to use, new tools would have conveyed a survival advantage in the days when the latest gadget could be picked up off the ground at your local next door forest as you were facing down a charging bear.
Later, the guy with the best bow and arrow hunted quicker, and faster, and stood more chance of ending up with a full stomach leaving plenty to spare for any females in the neighbourhood. His genes would have passed on to the next generation, and so on.
Whatever the reason, it’s definitely the case that the love of shiny gadgets is perceived as a very masculine thing and IT specialists or computer gamers are often ‘expected’ to be men. Any woman who loves tinkering with things is, rightly or wrongly, often considered to have been landed with not enough ‘X’ and a bit too much of that ‘Y’.
It could be the latest gas grilling BBQ (there’s that famous joke about the wife doing all the actual work and the man showing off as he simply places the meat on the grill, then off again), a cutting edge set of golf clubs, the latest modern (or classic) shiny Italian supercar or the tiniest of hand-held communication and storage devices: if it’s out, then he’s got to have it… and first.
And if he isn’t part of the jet set, there’s always do-it-yourself. I remember hours of fun spent tinkering on my dad’s old reel-to-reel tape recorder while he was out, like thousands of seventies’ fathers, attending evening classes on basic electronics. The stack of yellowing magazines from the era, boasting such articles as ‘Build your own television remote control’, or ‘Construct a music synthesizer’ still has pride of place next to his computer to this day. Meanwhile his shiny, grey typewriter and the aforementioned sound machine marked the beginnings of my own career.
That was a golden era for home gadget construction. Fans of the electronic music band Orchestral Manouvres in the Dark will even tell you that massive disco hits such as Enola Gay were produced by the duo working on machines they had built at home from a kit.
Women of the Desperate Housewives generation may snipe that men obsess over gadgets because they are easier and less complicated to interact with than the opposite sex. But men would beg to differ and I shall attempt to explain the attraction these things have for men of every age, colour or creed in four easy steps.
The ‘Wow’ Factor
Let’s face it: a shiny new techno-toy is cool. From the latest HD TV screen to slender, stylish mobile phones, a beautifully designed machine is sure to catch a man’s attention.
Many gadgets are designed to maximize the coolness appeal: electronic card shufflers for the poker lover; computer speakers that look like contemporary sculpture; sleek mp3 players and mobile phones that look good at the gym or on a sun-kissed cafeteria table...
There was a brief period in the late nineties when placing your mobile on the table with your car keys was considered unethical or inappropriate in polite company. The pull of the ‘wow’ factor soon put paid to that taboo. Cutting-edge technology is nowadays often seen as a status symbol. Gadgets cost money, and they send a signal that the owner has it to spare. They also give the impression that the owner is educated, trendy, and plugged-in, and, therefore, more useful in society and desirable.
The Child in Every Man
...or, as the newly resurgent Kate Bush would call him: The Man with the Child in his Eyes. Gizmos they can show off with make guys feel like kids again. It's that feeling every boy feels in the pit of his stomach as he wakes up to that poster of a sleek supercar on his bedroom wall, or the thrill he feels when unwrapping a shiny, new toy to play with and share with his friends at Christmastime.
Electronic music legend Gary Numan, composer of the anthem Cars, says in his autobiography that the earliest toy he can remember was little more than a wooden panel in which his father had drilled holes and stuck dials and knobs in.
“That panel could be anything: a plane’s cockpit, a spaceship, a racing car… I would spend hours with it living in another world.” Little boys love kid-sized tools, remote control cars, video games and playing with high-tech toys and with many men, this never changes. Just go to the model aircraft club area at Ta’ Qali every weekend if you need physical proof.
Believe it or not, gadgets are practical; they let you do things you couldn’t do otherwise. A cutting-edge laptop can let you do everything from recording your own music to building your own e-commerce business. An app-packed smartphone lets you check your e-mails, keep up to date with Facebook, Skype and Twitter, play your favourite music, show you how to get places and even download a movie (in many cases, for the more gadget-savvy man, for free, though, of course, this is morally questionable) in addition to the phone’s traditional role.
A well-made power tool lets you build anything from furniture to a motorcycle from the ground up - and save you money in these increasingly expensive times. Guys love gadgets because they don’t just make life easier; they make impossible achievements commonplace. Many people I know haven’t read a proper book in years: they download them onto their mobile or reading device and read them from there whenever they are in a situation where they have to wait in line somewhere. Now that’s handy, as well as space and weight-saving on any commute.
Technology doesn’t just improve lives; it also makes things more fun. Entertainment technology has come far in the past decades – crystal clear pictures leaping out from HD screens with surround sound that can transport you from the end of Guardians of the Galaxy space to the tops of skyscrapers in Spider Man’s city as he leaps from building to building; video games with astonishingly real-looking graphics and much more. And there is a choice of gadgets that allow fans to watch their favourite sport live wherever they are in the world.
Gadgets are better than women
There are plenty of reasons men love their gadgets – seemingly more than their women. Gadgets follow the instructions word by word. Gadgets can be turned on in seconds. Gadgets hardly ever ask questions. They don’t stop working if you don’t get them new accessories every month. With time, gadgets become smaller… and smarter. And within 10 minutes you will know exactly how a gadget behaves in whatever situation, just by reading the instruction manual. Although this last point is contentious since no man I know reads instruction manuals. However a few do seek the wisdom of Youtube when faced with an operational dilemma.
Women are muscling in
However, it has to be said, nowadays it’s not just men who love their gadgets. Women have taken many gizmos to their bosom and pimped them out to match their own, female whims and desires. I know a lot of women who have set up their own business using little more than a laptop, a tablet and top of the range mobile, doing one (or many - women can multitask) of those very lucrative jobs online that you can do from anywhere in the world.
Although many gadget showroom salespeople still seem to quote the female half of a shopping couple as the one who asks: “How does it fit with the rest of the furniture?” today’s women have also been seduced by the sleek, graceful lines of technology, from the thinnest TV screens to stylish (and sometimes garish) gaming, music and sound systems. In fact, many of these are being designed to appeal specifically to women. My friendly neighbourhood salesman adds that what’s popular with the wives and girlfriends is that everything, if possible, gets hidden and there are no visible wires and electricity cords peeking out from behind any device. They’re fans of having things installed in a wall or in a ceiling, where the typical guy wants to go for a bigger-is-better theme.
“Women tend to be a bit less ostentatious than men… there’s no need for a massive 60-inch TV dwarfing everything else in the sitting room: a 43-inch one can do just as well. But a 43-inch screen is quite an impressive gadget, and I’ve sold quite a few huge TVs to couples who compromise, and even to women doing up their own place.”
On the strength of that, I’d say that it’s only a matter of time before another bastion of male domination is breached completely and we see gadgets and gizmos advertised being held by six-packed men in tiny thongs...
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