Technology for the Obscenely Wealthy
Scenario 1: A black limousine runs over your left foot. From the capacious back seat, out pops a guy who looks familiar from those Microsoft “I’m a PC” commercials (he’s the one who wears glasses). “Let’s not bother with insurance companies,” the guy, Bill, says, and he hands you a check good for a few million bucks, drawn from his “incidental expenses account.”
Scenario 2: Turns out that the gawky kid who kept forgetting his lunch money in third grade was Sergey Brin. Sergey fondly remembers you sharing your Twinkies, and he sends you a few thousand Google shares, preferred, for Kwanzaa.
The details may vary, but you've undoubtedly had this fantasy: You’re suddenly rich! But what do you do with all that money? Use it to help humanity? Of course not! Like any self-respecting geek, you’ll want to redirect a sizable chunk of your windfall into tech toys.
But let’s assume that the experience of suddenly becoming obscenely wealthy hasn’t caused you to lose all function above the neck. You don’t want to throw ridiculous amounts of money at diamond-encrusted cell phones or gold-plated MP3 players. No, you want to throw ridiculous amounts of money at products that offer really cool (though not necessarily essential) technology and design. Get out your credit cards because here we go.
Kaleidescape Home Entertainment System
Price tag: More than $10,000 (depending on configuration)
Everyone knows what a hassle DVDs can be. The disc you want to watch in the bedroom is always to be found (or not) under a couch cushion in the living room. And forget trying to get the kids to put DVDs back in their cases--especially now that they’re fabulously wealthy and think the governess should do it.
With the Kaleidescape, you can say goodbye to all of those problems. That's because this system lets you store all of your DVDs on Kaleidescape servers in your home and then play the movies back in any room you like through one of the company’s proprietary players. Now, some people might point out that you could do something similar for about $100 with a copy of DVD Shrink and a used Xbox. They might even say that for the money you’re spending on the Kaleidescape, you could hire a toady to organize your DVDs and put them into the player for you whenever and wherever you want. You know what those people are? Poor. So ignore them.
Hardcore Reactor Extreme Desktop PC
Price tag: $10,866 (fully loaded)
You know what your mom told you about not using the blow dryer in the bathtub? Well, she was right: You really shouldn’t do that. But Hardcore has found a way to violate the whole no-electrical-devices-in-liquid law without causing immediate death to anything other than a lesser person’s wallet.
The guts of the Hardcore Reactor Extreme are immersed in liquid coolant. Hardcore says that the coolant--which is circulated through the system at 2.5 gallons per minute--absorbs heat ten times more efficiently than air does. That means two things: For ten grand you'll get a system that's as fast as anything we’ve ever tested. And after you finish an evening of awesome gaming, your personal pastry chef can fry up some tasty, homemade donuts in the Reactor Extreme’s coolant.
Motorola Aura Cell Phone
Price tag: $2000
Extravagant cell phones slathered in diamonds and rubies are one of the surefire technological tools for separating fools from their money. Exhibit A is Le Million from GoldVish Communications: $1.45 million and ugly, ugly, ugly!
The $2000 you spend on a Motorola Aura may seem like chump change in comparison, but with the Aura, you actually get something useful for your dough. For one thing, there’s the 16-million-color, 300-dpi circular display. And Motorola seems to have lavished attention on the mechanism for opening and closing the Aura: “Custom-engineered rotating mechanism has 130 precision ball bearings that drive the assisted-opening blade--like opening the door on a high-end luxury car.” The rotation mechanism has a Swiss-made main bearing and carbide-coated gears, too. Oh yes, and once you’ve lovingly rotated the Aura open, you can use it to place and receive wireless phone calls!
Price tag: $109,000 (base price)
Normally cars give you a simple choice: You can be politically correct but plodding, as with the Toyota Prius. Or you can go very, very fast and burn through so much fossil fuel that Sarah Palin will start drilling on the North Slope just for you.
Tesla’s sports car represents a third way. It’s 100 percent electric, goes from 0 to 60 in less than 4 seconds and can travel nearly 250 miles on a single charge. (Or so the Tesla Motors people say on the company's home page. But beware: The page is peppered with so many asterisks that it looks like a snow storm.)
Of course, a skeptic might wonder where all of that electricity--during peak acceleration, enough to power 2000 incandescent light bulbs--is coming from and how clean it is to produce. But at the speeds a Tesla can travel, you won’t have time for such concerns.
Moller M400 Skycar
Price tag: ?
The point of having vast coffers o’ cash, as any filthy-rich person will tell you, is to pay your way out of the mundane hassles that afflict the hoi polloi: traffic jams, military service, child rearing, flossing. Regrettably, aeronautics expert Paul Moller can’t help with flossing, but traffic jams he’s got covered.
Since 1962, Moller, a professor at the University of California, Davis, has been experimenting with fixed-wing planes that can take off and land vertically--the perfect profile for the fabled flying car. The latest incarnation, the M400 Skycar, can carry four passengers as fast as 375 mph while cruising along at 13,200 feet. As the Moller site says: “No traffic, no red lights, no speeding tickets.” Also, one hopes, no midair collisions, no terrifying plummets to a fiery death.
The site calls the M400 “personally affordable,” but it doesn’t quote a price. We all know what that means: If you have to ask, you can't afford it. But you don't have to ask, do you?
Voodoo Envy 133 Laptop
Price tag: $3599
For self-respecting millionaires who want to waste obscene sums on a notebook PC, it can be a frustrating world. Sure, you can spend $350,000 for the Ego Diamond edition, seemingly a clone of the old iBook toilet-seat notebook gussied up with white gold and platinum plates that are inset with diamonds in the shape of a tulip. Of course, those diamonds also spell a word, and the word is “Sucker!”
If you want to spend big bucks and get something more than floral bling out of the deal, the situation is tougher. The new Lenovo ThinkPad W700 retails for just shy of six grand, and it packs an impressive array of features: a 17-inch screen, 4GB of RAM, a Blu-ray drive, and even a built-in Wacom pen tablet. But this laptop hardly screams elegance. In fact, it looks like an ordinary ThinkPad that’s been force-fed Laptop Growth Hormone and then had every conceivable component jammed into its cruelly distended matte-black skin.
The Envy 133, from HP's Voodoo division, has the disadvantage of setting you back a paltry 3600 bucks, fully loaded. But it is a beautifully designed machine with lots of high-end components, including a 64GB solid-state drive. And you can blow $600--the price of two of those déclassé netbooks--on nothing more substantive than a Morrocan Blue paint job. Now that’s pointless extravagance!
Panasonic Pro 103-Inch Plasma TV
Price tag: $69,995
One drawback of suddenly being richer than everyone you know is that you may become, well, an arrogant jerk. What better way to cut yourself down to size than with a really big TV?
With Panasonic’s 103-inch plasma-screen set, not only will movie stars be more attractive than you are, they’ll be bigger and perhaps even higher-def than you, too. Imagine a tight closeup of Daniel Craig in full James Bond glower spread across 7.5 feet by 4 feet of pixels. That’ll put you in your place.
And if you’re ego can survive even that reality check, wait until next year when Panasonic releases its long-anticipated 150-inch plasma.
Trip to Space on Virgin Galactic
Price tag: $200,000
Being fabulously affluent isn’t all chocolate truffles and champagne fountains. There are days when all those stocks, bearer bonds, and hedge funds in the Caymans just weigh you down, and you long to get away from it all. That’s when it's time to fly Virgin Galactic and take a load off.
The Richard Branson venture promises to transport the well-heeled on a three-and-a-half-hour round trip that’s literally out of this world. Virgin's specially designed aircraft will whisk you into suborbital space, where you'll experience weightlessness for a few minutes. Then, on the homeward voyage to Earth, according to Branson, “the spacecraft turns into a giant shuttlecock”--an image that may alarm anyone who’s watched a game of badminton and noticed how often the shuttlecock spins out of control and crashes into the ground.
Surely, those fears are groundless. But just in case, Virgin Galactic will make sure that your check clears before you take off.
Cryonic Suspended Animation
Price tag: $160,000
“You can’t take it with you.” As a rich guy, you’ll hear that often from your children, your elderly parents, and other leeches and moochers trying to suck your fortune dry.
It may be true that you can’t take your money with you, but what if you never completely leave? That’s the idea behind cryonics. As the Cryonics Society of America describes the procedure, “at the time of deanimation” your body is cooled down and filled with a kind of antifreeze. Then you’re put in an insulated capsule and kept frozen with liquid nitrogen.
Once doctors figure out how to cure whatever killed you (and how to bring flesh popsicles back to life), they thaw you out. Then you can start suing whoever squandered your fortune during the intervening 1000 years or so.
Haven’t amassed a small personal fortune yet? Try these gift guides for common folks: