The old carnival freak show is dead and gone (or has at least moved to reality television and daytime talk shows). But in our hearts, we still long to gawk at the strange and the bizarre.
That's why iPhone culture is so entertaining. The hype around Apple's first cell phone -- sometimes generating enthusiasm bordering on insanity -- has produced some of the wackiest, nuttiest and, yes, freakiest news stories ever witnessed in the history of technology.
So prepare to be amazed, ladies and gentlemen! Step right up and take a front-row seat for Steve Jobs' unintended sideshow attractions.
The Lobster-Thumb Boy
The North Denver News published a story August 8 that reported that 28-year-old Thomas Martel, of Bonnie Brae, had his thumbs "surgically narrowed with a revolutionary new surgical technique known as 'whittling'" in order to save time while typing on his iPhone. The story was fake, of course, but hundreds of bloggers believed it and reported it as true. Weird!
World's Fattest Phone Bill
It turns out that AT&T itemizes every instance of iPhone Internet access. That means every text message, every Web connection -- everything -- even though those instances generally don't cost extra. As a result, Pittsburgh graphic designer and blogger Justine Ezarik received her first iPhone bill in a box -- 300 pages worth. Page after page listed items called "Data Transfer," each costing "$0.00." Naturally, Ezarik posted a video of the "unboxing" on her blog.
Although Ezarik's bill was the world's fattest, the total came to just $275. Another iPhone customer and blogger, Adam Aronson, received the world's largest bill so far: $5,086.66. He blogged about it and in the post said the high cost came from roaming charges incurred when he took his iPhone to England. He didn't make any calls; he just used the Internet. Amazing!
The Elastic iPhone
Everyone wants an iPhone these days -- even Gumby! One overzealous enthusiast built a life-size replica of an iPhone out of clay, including icons, ports, buttons, cradle -- even the box! Freaky!
The Missing Link
Quick! When you think of what sort of person owns an iPhone, what comes to mind? Gadget freaks? High school and college kids? Celebrity types? How about unemployed Republicans? Presidential adviser Karl Rove, who recently announced his resignation, was spotted in Minneapolis pecking away at his iPhone. The sighting explains why Rove retired: to spend more quality time with his iPhone, obviously! Bizarre!
World's Fastest iPhone
No, I'm not talking about compute performance or data access. I'm talking about revolutions per minute. Blender vendor Blendtec posted an inspired series of online publicity stunt videos titled "Will It Blend?" in which it grinds up all kinds of random objects to show how strong its blenders are. Guess what it blended. Here comes the video. Stupendous!
Freaky iPhone Does Magic
A magician named Marco Tempest centers his act around the iPhone. He's written or commissioned applications that run video and play sounds to coincide with his illusions. For example, he makes it appear that his iPhone is brewing coffee, which he then "drinks." When he shakes his iPhone, the icons get jumbled, and you can see Mac OS X for a second. His iPhone even dispenses money! Wow!
Least Valuable iPhone Ever
A man recently attended a Weird Al Yankovic performance and managed to get an autograph. He asked the comic to sign the back of his iPhone, thereby reducing its resale value instantly. Tragic!
The iPhone of Doom
First-person shooter game enthusiasts are foaming at the mouth about news that one of the original significant games in the genre, Doom from ID Software, will soon work on the iPhone. A clever developer who goes by the name "Stepwhite" has ported Doom to the iPhone. He hasn't got the controllers working yet, but demo games play from native "WAD" files. (If he gets this thing fully working on the iPhone, heck, I might even buy one.) Awesome!
The Amazing Hall of Mirrors iPhone
The iPhone's great screen, built in microphone and camera provide all the tools you need for videoconferencing. Trouble is, the screen points one way, and the camera points the other. But the same clever lads who are getting close to building a fully functional videoconferencing software application for the iPhone have also built a contraption that uses mirrors to direct the image of your face to the camera in back. Spectacular!
Fabulous Phony iPhones
A Japanese man built an exact replica of the Apple iPhone -- almost indistinguishable from the real thing -- except for one minor problem: It doesn't work. It just sits there, looking exactly like the iPhone.
Who can top that? China, of course! There are several cell phones reportedly being manufactured in China that clearly violate Apple's intellectual property, but none has gotten more press than the Made-in-China Meizu MiniOne. The phone not only looks like an iPhone from both a software and hardware perspective, but improves upon it -- on paper, at least. The MiniOne has a whopping 3-megapixel autofocusing camera (compared with iPhone's puny 2-megapixel camera). And it's smaller and lighter than the iPhone. Intriguing!
The Strange Case of the Dangerous iPhone
The iPhone is all fun and games until somebody gets hurt. Which somebody did. Atlanta resident Travis Gohr says the big gash on his back, which he generously posted pictures of on Flickr (a post dramatically titled, "How my iPhone almost killed me"), is the first-ever documented iPhone injury. It happened when Gohr was using a treadmill and his iPhone slipped off, hit the treadmill surface and was launched backward. Gohr's injury resulted from him following the phone's "trajectory" with his head, losing his balance and falling on the moving treadmill. Scary!