The global engineer

If there's a simple task to perform, the chances are there's a gadget out there designed to perform it. E&T unpacks a few of them, throws away the instructions and ends up with 'gadget rage'.

If there's anything you need to be done, there's always something, somewhere to do it for you. Whether it's a Rowenta Ultrasteam handheld steamer to remove the wrinkles from your Hugo Boss business suit or Yodoboshi's Bottle Cap Tripod to allow you to securely fix your digital camera to the top of a beer or soda bottle, someone has invented a gadget that will do it.

Inventors and manufacturers realise that the further you are away from home technology, the handier a gadget becomes.

A gadget is by definition small and therefore reasonably portable, without compromising on performance. It should do the job at least as well if not better than the far larger piece of permanent kit you've left behind. The logic behind the Rowenta Ultrasteam is that you won't always have access to a suit press while on the move, but still want to look smart. And the Yodoboshi Bottle Cap Tripod means you don't have to take all your camera kit away with you.

Some gadgets are undeniably useful. The Balanzza Digital Luggage Scale - as small as my hand - calculates the weight of any piece of baggage in seconds, simply by hooking on to the handle. And it's so light it won't add any weight to your luggage allowance. I've also found the fist-sized Lindy All-in-One Universal Mains Plug and USB Adaptor one of the most useful items to pack between my flight socks, as it can be used with any piece of kit, anywhere. It's so flexible I can recharge my MP3 player and digital camera, as well as my toothbrush.

But what about a Laptop USB Fragrance Burner, in case you don't like the scent of the potpourri in your B&B? Or an OrbitsoundT3? This portable stereo speaker, no bigger than a mobile phone, plugs into your iPod and hangs around your neck, creating a 'personal stereo aura' around your head as you walk along.

It's actually rather a pleasant experience. I could get used to being a one-woman mobile disco. That's the trouble with gadgets - they become addictive. Once you've had your very own personal stereo aura, it's almost impossible to imagine ambling along a street without one. After just a couple of years, gadgets aren't gadgets anymore. They become pieces of kit which we simply couldn't live without, such as our mobile phones and iPods. We get accustomed to the services such small inventions offer us, however inessential they once were.

A gadget for gadgetry's sake

There are of course drawbacks to relying upon these devices. They are supposed to make our lives simpler and easier, but often gadgets overcomplicate straightforward tasks, giving us more options than we want. Buttons that allow users to pick languages, for example, were recently voted as unnecessary and confusing.

In fact, the more gadgets we have, the more frustrated we become. Too often we have to battle with indecipherable instructions badly translated from Korean, or buttons that refuse to bleep or buzz when they should. This leads to a condition known as 'gadget rage', of which I'm a chronic sufferer.

It's comforting to know that I am not the only one so afflicted. A recent British survey by Geek Squad (www.geeksquad.co.uk) showed technology-fuelled frustration is more common than road rage. One in ten respondents said they'd felt so frustrated when a gadget failed them that they'd turned to drink. There are more practical cures. At the recent Gadget and Gizmo Show in Sydney, Australia, a special 'gadget rage' area was set aside where sufferers could openly confess that they hadn't been able to find the solution in the manual. They could then be examined by a team of experts and offered advice on how to get better.

Gadget rage can, apparently, develop into an even more serious condition known as 'gadget revenge'. This usually involves destroying the gadget that gave you 'gadget rage', often, if you look on YouTube, with a baseball bat. The Geek Squad survey revealed that 73 per cent of people have physically harmed a gadget.

Love them or loathe them, we now consider gadgets indispensable and carry them with us wherever we go. Luggage has been designed specifically for such gadget overload as the Proporta Gadget Bag. It's constructed of a series of snug padded pockets, to protect each device not only from our Gadget Revenge, but from knocking and scratching each other. The pockets are detachable, so you can easily access one gadget at a time without having to disturb its neighbours.

It's marketed as a 'man bag'; many gadgets seem to be aimed at blokes. Women don't buy quite as many devices as men, but the gadget gender gap is closing fast. As a result, women are having a greater influence on gadget design. Just a few years ago, this would have meant creating a pink or pastel version of the same black or silvery item manufactured for the men. But now feminisation is far more subtle. Ease of use is important to female gadget fans, not because they find manuals more difficult to read, but they simply don't have the time to do so. They just want to get on and use their gadget as soon as possible.

So I blame my chronic gadget rage on the manufacturers who haven't properly consulted their female consumers. If we were allowed to design the devices ourselves, perhaps we'd not only be more efficient, but calmer too.

Now, please do excuse me, as I need to sink back into my personal stereo aura.

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