The latest evidence is in that change does not necessarily mean progress.
The Pop Radio is a combination radio and lollipop, powered by two AAA batteries (the radio, not the lollipop). When the user bites on the lollipop, FM radio vibrates directly into the inner ear via the teeth and the skull. Sucking--the normal way of disposing of a lollipop--doesn't work; the tongue, it turns out, is not such a good transmitter of sound.
The contraption was the hit of the recent National Confectioners Association's All Candy Expo in Chicago. It is made by Illinois' Tiger Electronics, which last year produced the Furby, which some people thought also made you hear voices in your head.
With the introduction of the Pop Radio ($9.99 to $12.99), it is now official: This Time They've Gone Too Far.
Since the dawn of humankind, our desires have outraced our needs. In the 20th century, however, as technology rockets exponentially, our achievements outstrip our needs and desires. In the 1960s, the laser was called "an answer in search of a problem." Forty years later, it scans boxes of Kleenex in the checkout line and plays Vanilla Ice CDs.
Indeed, a prevailing theory about the Industrial Revolution states that it took place in England because--although the French were at least the scientific equals of the Brits--the Gauls used their knowledge to create intricate mechanical thingamajiggies to amuse their royalty, while the English were using the steam engine to mine the coal that built the empire.
America may now be rivaling the Sun King's France for technical foppery. No one needs the Pop Radio. No one will ever need the Pop Radio. It should be marketed in the Sharper Image catalogue, alongside the battery-powered tie rack.
In an age that celebrates and even demands multi-tasking, the Pop Radio is actually regressive technology cloaked in faux innovation. One of radio's many virtues is that it can be listened to while doing any number of other activities--dusting, driving, eating and so on. Useful technological advancements enable consumers to listen to the radio while jogging, swimming or skydiving.
But not the Pop Radio--you can't do anything while using it except slobber. It must be held by at least one hand--it's so heavy that, if left to dangle out of the mouth, it droops like a wet, leaden cigar. That is, until it falls off the lollipop or the enclosed plastic "bite stick," which replaces the spent lollipop. Either way, it's a tres attractive look. The Pop Radio is as convenient as listening to a 1930s wooden console radio strapped to your back--all you can do is think about the radio on your back.
Then there's the issue of the Pop Radio's sound quality. Not so good. To hear the music, the lollipop has to stay in contact with tooth enamel. You get better sound using molars than incisors. An interesting echo chamber effect is obtained by holding the lollipop against the back of the front teeth and closing them. Bystanders can hear a tinny noise coming from your head, but any attempt to reposition the lollipop and open your mouth to broadcast the music results only in further drooling and looks of horror from the aforementioned bystanders.
At any rate, wherever it's chomped, the Pop Radio makes your teeth buzz and, after using it to listen to U2's bass-heavy "With or Without You," I got a mild headache. Then again, Bono often gives me a headache.
Finally, there's the pure invasiveness of the thing--do you really want Rush Limbaugh inside your head? Or your mouth, for that matter?
The Pop Radio leads the inventive and under-occupied mind to conjure up numerous other hybrid gadgets, all of which are technologically feasible and utterly unnecessary.
Consider the possibility of a toilet-mounted Internet port (The precedent: phones in fancy hotel restrooms, which exist only for wisenheimers to dial up friends and cackle, "Guess where I'm calling from!"). How about a chair that presses the seat of your pants to ensure wrinkle-free sitting? Or a combination ATM card and makeup mirror? How about a toothbrush that doubles as a calculator? Or a carving knife that's also a blood-pressure monitor--squeeze the handle to find out if you're hypertensive!
But the Pop Radio's ultimate technological silliness is that it enables you to hear something by sticking it in your mouth. Which means that we'll be a truly advanced civilization when we invent a device that lets you eat something by sticking it in your ear.
CAPTION: Bite this lollipop and a radio inside vibratesin the ear.
CAPTION: A mouthful of radio: Did "pop music" really have to mean this?