Fry’s Guys

When you want to get a geek his Christmas toys, there's only one place to go.

Tech geeks are a notoriously contentious lot, but there’s one thing on which they all agree: Fry’s Electronics, the tech superstore that’s been a California staple since 1985 and opened its first Seattle-area shop just a couple months ago, rules. And since geeks can be extremely difficult to shop forgenerally, they and only they know which make and model they really need of whatever gadgets they’re tinkering with in the denwe decided to go straight to the source. Enter real live geeks Andrew McCarty, Seattle Weekly‘s information systems director, and Microsoft employee Brian MacDonald. On a rainy evening, we followed them around Fry’s as they showed us what they want from Santa.

Fry’s Renton store (800 Garden Ave. N., 425-525-0200) is indeed a geek’s paradise. In fact, considering the warehouse-sized shop’s extensive anime porn selection, as well as the biggest candy display I’ve ever seen anywhere, it’s clear that Fry’s knows their target market a little too well. The first thing Andy and Brian find there is the ever-helpful Bow-Lingual: The Dog Translator ($99.99). “Bark translation, medical checklist, body language reference, training tips, home alone function,” the package says. Neither Andy nor Brian has a dog, alas. Nor do they live in the Klondike circa 1898, which means they don’t have any use for the Garrett Gold Panning Kit ($24.95), either. But who knows? You might.

The first truly useful things Andy and Brian point out are the Can Safes ($12.99-$17.99), mini-storage containers decorated as cans of RC Cola, Barbasol Shaving Cream, or Raidgood for stashing your, um, stash. Then there’s the Clipulator ($9.99), a clipboard with a calculator inserted into its clip and a pen, seemingly designed as a stocking stuffer for your cousin the statistician. Not so much the Antec External LED Light Mini-Tubes ($14.99), to which Andy gave a big thumbs-up. Brian explains to your perplexed correspondent, “They’re like glow sticks for your monitor.” Andy just enthuses, “I love this kind of shit.”

He also loves the SN41G2 NFORCE BB Shuttle ($299), a hard-core geek toy in extremis. “You build your computer off this case,” Andy explains. “If you want to emulate what Apple did with the Cube, this is what you get.” He also shows me a silver cloth carrying case for the apparatus. “This is what you bring to LAN parties,” he says, before he and Brian settle on a proper analogy for the less technologically inclined: LAN parties are something akin to a Player’s Ball (the annual pimp conference held in Las Vegas every January) for hard-core geeks. Brian, meanwhile, eyes the Rio Nitrous 1.5 GB Drive ($249.99).

All of us like music, so we take our time strolling down the MP3 player aisle. Actually, that’s wrong: We all collectively drool over the 40 GB iPod ($499). “How much could you fit on that thing?” Brian asks, and after some brief calculations, including allowances for variables, we conclude that it could hold more or less every note of music ever recorded. (Note: In the awe-inspired heat of the moment, we may have been slightly exaggerating.) Nearly as intriguing, especially to Brian, who’s a musician (and, as DJ Lance Lockarm, an occasional mash-up bootleg-maker see our profile of him in the July 9 Seattle Weekly), is the CD Duplicator EZ Dupe ($499.99), which copies three CDsand, just as crucially, DVDsat a time.

From less-is-more to more-is-best, we come upon the 23-inch Apple Cinema Display ($1,999). “If I was gonna buy a [computer] monitor, this is it,” says Andy wistfully. Brian, making fun of the screen saver, asks, “With the leopard spots?” The 23-inch screen is displayed with a subwoofer that appears to be a cross between a crystal ball, a bong, a popcorn air popper, and a Salad Shooter, as well as a pair of Sound Sticks, clear plastic batons that look like supersized, invisible bread sticks with foil inserts where the sound comes out (sold separately for $199). Andy is similarly enthusiastic about the Toshiba P25-S609 ($2,799.99), the most tricked out laptop in the store.

Speaking of screens, we come upon the Samsung 10-inch Portable DVD Player ($759.96), which boasts an LCD wide screen (well, relatively speaking) and is the biggest and most expensive of the warehouse’s micro-mini DVD players. But since this is a fantasy shopping spree, Andy will take the Viewsonic 50-inch Plasma TV ($5,799.99). “I’m hanging that bitch on my wall,” Andy declares. “I need a raise!”

But nothing succeeds like excess, and nothingnothingyou will encounter this holiday season is more excessive than the LG Internet Refrigerator ($5,979.95). That’s right, an Internet refrigerator. It also features a TV and a digital camera, because apparently the Internet isn’t enough on its own. For the first time all evening, the party was speechless. Finally, Andy said, “This is obscene.” Then he begins tinkering with it. “Look at this, manyou can get the weather on here! Dude, this is a wack OS.” Brian, in complete disbelief, just asked, “Is there an Internet rice cooker, too?” Maybe next year.