February 2011 Paul McCollum
While not as nefarious as the tiny spy digital cameras, Hammacher Schlemmer’s Computer Display Telescope may take the crown for most dastardly abused invention ever. With a variable power turret eyepiece, HS’s compact USB telescope should be able to see all the way to Uranus or your neighbor’s. Rotating the eyepiece assembly allows you to ratchet up magnification up to an effective 15,000mm. That kind of power will let you zoom in on satellites close enough to find out if they are natural or artificial.
While the Internet was almost certainly born to ferry unsavory photos to every corner of the world, it seemed for a minute like it might be taking a turn for the tasteful. This way too affordable USB Telescope comes ready equipped to act as a web-cam out of the box… you know… for science. The camera sensor only outputs 640×480 video, which is fine for chat-roulette but not great for peeling back the veil of the Universe. Just when you thought it was safe to go online again. All the (mostly) legitimate businesses and (almost) wholesome online meeting places and now every kid in your neighborhood can broadcast a live news show from just over your hedges. Sure there is an off chance that someone MIGHT use this for actual astronomy but you better draw your curtains a little more religiously now. The USB Telescope is available on sale for $69 (yes, really) CDN from Hammacher Schlemmer’s online store.