The Twelve Days of Gadgets | Innovation | Smithsonian
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The Twelve Days of Gadgets

In their day, maids a-milking and pipers piping might have made for one fine gift. But it is the 21st century. A replacement list is in order.

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I like “The Twelve Days of Christmas” as much as the next guy. Well, actually, that’s not true. I think I’d be perfectly fine if I never heard it again. Believe me, I’ve tried to make it part of my Christmas canon. I’m okay with the first few verses,  but then it goes all 18th century on me, with the milking maids and the leaping lords, and then I’d rather be listening to dogs barking “Jingle Bells.”

So in the spirit of innovation, I figured I’d roll out a new gift list for the “Twelve Days of Christmas”, assuming your true love lives wants to give you something a little more useful than 11 pipers piping.

Day 1: Yes, you’d be the only person on your block with a partridge in a pear tree, yet, in the end, after all your friends have taken pictures with their cell phones, it would just sit there.  If  your true love wants to really rock your world, he or she would give you a Pocket Boom, a sweet little device that can turn any surface—a window, a cardboard box, a piece of fruit—into a speaker.

Day 2: Think about it, which would you trust more with your mental health, a turtle dove or a light bulb that can help you get you through those tough times when your Circadian rhythms are out of whack?  Sounds like a no-brainer. The latter is an LED bio-bulb and it’s being designed by a Florida inventor to allow you to control the production of melatonin, your body’s sleep hormone.

The Zeo sleep manager

Day 3: While we’re on the subject of sleep, I don’t think three French hens, even if they can speak another language, are smart enough to explain to you how you slept last night.  But a Zeo Sleep Manager can. It tracks how much time you spend each night in REM sleep, deep sleep and light sleep.

Day 4: A confession: For much of my life I thought that on the fourth day the true love showed up with four calling birds.  Not that long ago I found out that it’s four colly birds, meaning four black birds. A sleek gift, for sure, but what’s with all the birds. By my count, that’s 10 birds in four days. What are you going to do with 10 birds?  Better they should give you something useful, like batteries.  Does that sound lame? Okay, not just any batteries, but ones that can charge 10 times faster than ordinary batteries and last 10 times longer.

Day 5: Five golden rings would be none too shabby.  Except, once again the song is actually talking about birds, in this case, ring-necked pheasants.  Enough with the birds.  Personally, I’d rather have something practical, you know, like a gizmo that keeps potato chips really fresh. Now there’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Day 6: I’ve never thought of eggs as a good gift, even if you toss in the geese laying them.  It might simplify your breakfast choices, but wouldn’t you rather have a perfect cup of coffee. Now that’s possible with a device called a coffee refractometer and an app that goes by the name ExtractMojo.

 

Day 7: Seven swans a-swimming can be a charming—for about 10 seconds.  After that, it’s boring stuff.  It would be different if they did synchronized swimming, but that’s apparently too much to ask.  If it’s beauty you’re after, a more contemporary choice would be a “sonic skin cleansing system.” Because your face deserves a system.

Day 8: Sure, it would be great to have eight maids, but not if all they do is milk. No floors, no laundry and, no doubt, no windows.  You’re better off with a good old Roomba. And now there’s a device called Brainlink that lets you upgrade your robot vacuum with sensors so it stops running into walls.

Day 9: Ten drummers drumming…what kind of gift is that? Have you sat through one drum solo?  Imagine 10. (You know if one does a solo, everyone will want one.) And if you’re into drum solos, your true love should show your ears some love by getting you some cool headphones that keep the sound under 88 decibels. That’s well above conversation levels (60 decibels), but sanely below the sound of jet engines (120 decibels).

Day 10: You get 10 ladies dancing and you’ve got a nice little party going. That’s when you’d realize that what you really need is an EDDIE, Microsoft’s automated party photographer.

Day 11: As much as 11 pipers piping sounds like a lot of fun, I’d rather have a good plumber. At my age, I prefer to focus on what can go wrong.  And so often, when things go wrong in our house, a plumber gets involved. My 21-year-old son doesn’t appreciate this level of wisdom, except in one regard.  He knows the bad things that can happen to an iPhone. So here I’d recommend replacing the pipers with a LifeProof, the iPhone case that’s waterproof, dirt-proof, snow-proof and shock-proof.

Day 12: Finally we come to the lords a-leaping. Undoubtedly, they had their day, but face it, lords have fallen out of fashion, let alone leaping lords. If, however, you appreciate the athletic commitment a roomful of leapers represents, perhaps I can interest you in a shoe that keeps your feet feeling fresh. It does this because the sweetener xylitol has been added to the soles. Xylitol is a sugar that creates a cooling sensation when it comes into contact with moisture.

That’s right, shoes that makes sweaty feet feel minty.  Take that, Five Golden Rings.

Video Bonus: For old time’s sake, here’s version of “12 Days of Christmas” that sounds way better than the one you hear in the elevator, compliments of the acapella group, Straight No Chaser.

Have a gizmo holiday!

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