Christmas hits, and lumps of coal?

Now that the Christmas presents have been unwrapped, Amy Tiemann asks which gadgets were hits, and which were lumps of coal.

The buying is done, the presents have been unwrapped, the after-sales have yet to begin. I've dragged myself out of my Christmas-dinner-induced food coma long enough to ask which Christmas gadgets were hits, and which were disappointing lumps of coal?

Flytech Dragonfly

Good thing this is a family blog because most of our gadgets were toys. Our 8-year old loved the WowWee Flytech Radio Control Dragonfly. She was able to overlook the fact that this toy was marketed to boys. After all, who wouldn't love a dragonfly? I spent the day wondering whether we'd make our way up the learning curve to work the controller before the dragonfly self-destructed during normal use. Yes, the dragonfly has to be ultralight, but with a styrofoam body and plastic fasteners (key elements that repeatedly popped off on "landing") we'll be lucky if the dragonfly lasts until New Year's Day. I was truly unimpressed by the remote control's engineering, particularly the connection between the remote's power cord and the dragonfly's body. The microscopic connection was hard to see and difficult to engage. Within a couple of hours I had to straighten out the connector pins. The good news is that dragonfly does fly, and one one spectacular run I actually got it stuck on our house's roof. My bad--thankfully we were able to back it out of the gutter via remote. My daughter is thrilled with the toy. I found it disappointing but maybe that's because at $40 a pop I am wondering how many minutes of fun we'll get out of this purchase.

Gobble the Monster Bank

Our strangest purchase was Gobble the Monster Bank. Our daughter saw this in a catalog of "creative educational products" so when she put it on her wish list, I bought it. With online shopping, you don't always know exactly what you're getting. The bank is a dead ringer for Mike Wazowski from Monsters, Inc., but this talking bank rudely demands money in a rough voice and lets out an all-too-realistic burp. The only redeeming quality, if you can call it that, is that it sings "Money, Money, Money" by Abba (I was given this for one of my gifts). When Michael saw Gobble in action, he gave me a look of "What the heck is that thing and where did it come from?" and I was embarrassed to say I'd bought it.

Not ready for my family's OLPC close-up?

Most importantly, we unwrapped three One Laptop Per Child XO laptops, getting one for each of us on the theory that they are made to be played with among a network of friends. We've already had a truly great moment, as our daughter was heard to scream "I can program a computer!" when she experimented with the Pippy activity. But it's been a surreal experience for me to consider the implications of being online. There are many conversations we need to have about browsing, chatting, and exchanging photos. As I looked into the webcam it felt like I was looking into an enchanted mirror, where the world was looking back.

Michael will continue to report on our progress. I'll continue to blog about my skepticism about kids going online at a young age, and whether I am able to overcome it. One thing we agree on: before we had a child we asked ourselves "When can she have a computer game?" and Michael's answer was always, "When she can program it!" Now we are on our way.

What were your biggest hits and misses after unwrapping your presents? Which toys and gadgets lived up to the hype, and which were merely marketing triumphs that didn't deliver as promised?

 

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