August 30, 2007

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Woody gadgets
The larch! The redwood! The mighty Scotch pine!
By John “jaQ” Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

Maybe you’re read too much about the supposed health hazards of plastic cutting boards. Maybe you’re a baseball purist. Maybe your first car was a station wagon with that inimitable, natural accent.

Wood grain.

Whatever your reason for loving wood, the gadget world has been largely uninteresting to you, what with its fascination with shiny metals and space-age polymers. Sure, there was some hi-fi equipment in the ’70s and ’80s that piqued your interest, but computers? MP3 players? Styleless. Ugly. Gauche.

You obviously haven’t been paying attention lately.

Now, before the rest of you scoff about wood’s flammability, let me remind you: plastic melts and metal conducts electricity. You might as well encase your toys in breakable ceramic or toxic asbestos.

Besides, how can you argue with the beauty of these?

Hacoa peripherals: Not being an expert in Asian scripts, I’m not quite sure where this company is based or how to actually buy one of their products, but they sure are lovely. Their Web site at www.hacoa.com, a strange mix of English and Japanese (I think) text, displays their keyboards, USB hubs, card readers and cell phones all decked out in finely finished wood grains. They apparently do all kinds of home design, and techie stuff is just one part of it.

LED digital wood clock: OK, a clock made of wood might not sound all that spectacular, but this thing just looks like a block of wood with an electrical cord. The LEDs shine through a thin layer of wood, and all controls are hidden on the back. $200 for an alarm clock? Sure!

Wood Contour mice: This company normally sells a complete set of a fancy wooden USB mouse, USB keyboard and monitor, but for a quick fix, you can order a “production surplus” mouse from their Web site, www.woodcontour.com. A wireless cherry or walnut mouse will set you back a mere $165. Mahogany monitors are also available for $595. If that seems like a lot, consider that an entire mahogany set, for example, costs $2,950. They boast that each of their products is made from a single piece of wood, rather than slapped together with veneer and paneling like those of their competitors.

Oooms USB flash drives: No finish or polish here, just honest-to-goodness USB memory sticks. No, really, sticks. They hollowed out little pieces of kindling and stuffed memory chips inside to make some portable storage that’s wicked easy to lose in the forest. Each one is unique, complete with little branches at random angles. They sell them at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum (part of the Smithsonian), a bunch of other fancy shops or online at www.oooms.nl.