Man has loved gadgets since he first chiseled down a flint to stab a wildebeest to death. And boy-toy technology is still the salt and pepper of our lives, seasoning our existences with bleeps and buttons. But why does it endure? In the hunt for answers, we visited Spymaster, London’s legendary gadget store that caters to both “professionals” and people with too much cash.
The shop is a cross between a futuristic toy boutique and The Batcave, with a bewildering cornucopia of “surveillance, counter-surveillance and personal protection equipment”. A few male customers mill about, stalking the glass cabinets, looking for a way to play Bond in their downtime.
“Our visitors are predominantly men,” says company director Jeremy Marks. “They usually look around while their partners wait outside. It’s the exact opposite to what you see in women’s clothes stores with husbands dozing off on sofas.”
That’s not to say they don’t welcome the odd female customer. “We had this little old lady come in once who wanted a bulletproof vest for gardening. She lived near a train line and whenever the train went past, stones were thrown up that hit her. The vest made gardening possible.”
Spymaster’s biggest seller among men right now looks like a pen, but is also a voice recorder. “It’s popular among journalists to record meetings discreetly, or people who want to record abuse or get evidence if they’re being blackmailed.” Yours for £250.
So, Jeremy, why are men obsessed with technology? “We like knowing what things do, how many nuts and bolts make them up. It’s about knowing how things happen.”
There’s definitely that mystery around the shop’s most popular high-end products, which include thermal imaging devices and bug detectors. Spymaster can also bulletproof your car. Or sell you a 21-foot submarine for $10m (£6.8m).
Clearly not everyone needs these things, but on leaving the store we knew we’d be back. There’s nowhere we’d rather be when the killer wildebeests take revenge on us all. Here we’d be safe, ready for anything, surrounded by the means to survive against the odds.
Maybe that’s it. Maybe that’s the allure of new tech – the comfort of knowing you’re not being left behind. The ability to take control of things that at one time seemed impossible. The power of being ahead of everyone else.
Words: Matt Blake
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