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Firing Order - Gadgets, gadgets, and more gadgets in the off-road world.

Posted in Features on April 3, 2016
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Quitting time! I swiveled my chair and squinted through the window of my office on the 11th floor. I could just make out the slightest hint of the I-405 freeway and a stagnant line of automobiles not going anywhere fast. Resigning myself to yet another 4-hour commute home, I loaded my backpack and headed for the elevator. In my pocket was something brand new.

It was February 2007, and I was one of the few early individuals to have an iPhone. At the time I was moonlighting as a partner in a software technology company, and although I wasn’t a gadgety guy, one of the other partners definitely was. The first day they became available, he moved heaven and earth to get us all iPhones.

I stepped inside the crowded elevator and instinctively swiped my phone alive to check the time. No sooner had 5:03 p.m. registered in my brain had some spit-polished lawyer-looking dude in a sport coat exclaimed, “Hey, an iPhone!” He said it with such glee and fervor, just like Steve Martin in The Jerk: “The new phone books are here!” And before either one of us realized it, he had snatched it right out of my hand and was pawing and swiping and navigating through my device. Now, I’m not what you’d call a physically imposing dude, but I have been told—more than once, if I’m honest—I sometimes give a look that’s downright scary in its intensity and surmised promise. It’s an involuntary thing, and if I had to guess, its trigger mechanism is extreme dumbassery. Sport Coat must have wound up on the receiving end of it because as he slowly realized his faux pas and meekly handed my phone back, he looked like he was about to wet his pants.

I laughed about it with friends afterward, but at the time, I was blown away how a simple gadget caused this professional to completely and (probably) uncharacteristically lose his composure. It’s something that’s stuck with me to this day. Maybe it’s because I see the same thing in so many newer off-roaders.

The next time you’re on the trail, take note yourself of how up-trinketed some of these vehicles have become. Little widgety brackets and pods and mounts strung all along the interior, rising up from the dash and dangling down from the rollcage. They hold phones and navs and tuners and sat radios and cameras and all sort of other crazy things that wink and blink and make toast and iron your shirt. Are these guys really in need of all that computing power or is it just technology for technology’s sake? Is it so they can out-strut their buddies at Starbucks and post on 4x4compensationpackage.com about their shiny gadget that nobody else has? I dunno.

To paraphrase the movie Airplane, complexity can be pretty complex some times. Personally, I’m not a fan of electronics of any kind when it comes to off-roading. That goes for GPS and CBs and even music. If you need ’em, turn ’em on and find where you are or call for help but then turn ’em back off and enjoy the outdoors. I don’t get folks who wheel all day with their heads buried in a navigation screen or incessantly jaw into their CB. I prefer my builds analog and almost devoid of superfluity. Heck, most of my rigs still have incandescent headlights and carburetors. But despite how opinionated this editorial may seem, I honestly want to know what trinket would make you go all Sport Coat if you saw it in somebody’s 4x4 and why? And if you make an argument strong enough, I’ll print your letter in a future issue and send you some Four Wheeler license plates and stickers for your 4x4—if you can find room for them in amongst all your electronic trinkets!

-Christian Hazel

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