V-Moda's Val Kolton on the Atari 2600, upgrade woes and deep sea expeditions

Every week, a new and interesting human being tackles our decidedly geeky take on the Proustian Q&A. This is the Engadget Questionnaire.

In the latest installment of our weekly bout of answers, the owner and CVO of V-Moda Val Kolton reminisces about rotary dials, programming on the TI-99 and tethering for free burritos. All of the responses await your perusal on the reverse side of the jump.

VModa's Van Kolton Q&A

What gadget do you depend on most?
My V-MODA Crossfade M-100s! I am always wearing them, even to use for phone calls with my phone or Skype on my computer. This way I can listen to music or have a conference call anywhere in the world. Even while I run!

Which do you look back upon most fondly?
My US Robotics 14.4k Courier HST modem. I was a hacker and BBS junky back in the day when I was a kid. Before there was the internet, you had to call computers point to point. The 14.4k modem finally allowed me to download games in a reasonable timeframe compared to 2,400-, 1,200- or 300-baud modem.

I also still love Atari 2600 games, my first Tandy 1000 SX and, of course, the original Nintendo. But it's the only gadget I can think of that you had to blow on to work for you, that is not cool.

Which company does the most to push the industry?
It changes every few years; it is almost like a horse race. I used to be a professional programmer so I love to follow how the software development changes - it eventually leads to apps and games, which then changes users' lives.

Lately, right now it is actually Microsoft, Samsung and V-MODA, in fact. Windows 8 got a lot of so-so reviews, but when you use it for a while it becomes second nature and it just looks "beautiful" as they say. Samsung is killing it with an array of devices that pushes the envelope on screen technology and "Android software that works." V-MODA invented the fashion headphone industry and was the first to do custom headphones on a larger scale that do not cost much more than a celebrity-endorsed brand. This way people can "endorse themselves."

What is your operating system of choice?
MS-DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.11. I always wondered, did Microsoft purposely make one half the other?

"My first program was writing "HELLO WORLD." When I was 7. That's why our first V-MODA product said "hello world" when you opened the package!"

What are your favorite gadget names?
Crossfade and Vibe by V-MODA are spectacular names. I think they tell a story in a word, Crossfade changes the song and Vibe is your feeling of music.

What are your least favorite?
The Sony MDR-EX71SL/WK Fontopia Headphones. I really want to meet the guy who named that model with a slash!

Which app do you depend on most?
Outlook and Zinio. I am addicted to reading magazines from around the world. Especially business magazines like Harvard Business Review and Vogue Italia.

What traits do you most deplore in a smartphone?
The fact that in the USA you can't use them for phone calls, especially in LA! I think it is a conspiracy to get us addicted to pay for text messages and data long-term. In China, for instance, my same phone works like a charm. It's like I am on a landline. Makes you think...

Which do you most admire?
Companies and technology that do things to improve people's lives and aren't all about profit. My company V-MODA measures our success on quality earnings, not quarterly.

What is your idea of the perfect device?
Anything that feels like solid metal. I HATE plastic.

What is your earliest gadget memory?
When I was 7, for Christmas I got a TI-99 and my dad taught me how to program. I'll never forget the unreliable cassette tape drives and early speech synthesis. My first program was writing "HELLO WORLD." When I was 7. That's why our first V-MODA product said "hello world" when you opened the package!

What technological advancement do you most admire?
Forget space travel, I want to go deep in the ocean and sightsee! There are probably a lot more interesting things to view up close underwater than in space. I guess Virgin has Galactic; V-MODA can do Deep Sea.

Which do you most despise?
Bad software that halts your computer or crashes your apps; have you ever tried to upgrade a Sony VAIO notebook?

What fault are you most tolerant of in a gadget?
No faults are tolerable. I despise faults; I am a perfectionist.

"I download new magazines and relax with the ambient purple lighting."

Which are you most intolerant of?
Boot-up times.

When has your smartphone been of the most help?
Before other people had smartphones, Chipotle used to have a trivia question to win a burrito. I used my Compaq iPaq with a modem tether to get the answers and eat for free.

If you could change one thing about your phone what would it be?
A "dumb switch" and rotary dial. I miss the days of memorizing all my friend's phone numbers!

What does being connected mean to you?
Fast internet, like the internet at the Engadget office. I love to Skype with my employees worldwide and when I can see and hear them clearly, it is very productive. I also love WiFi on Virgin America flights; I download new magazines and relax with the ambient purple lighting. It isn't the same vibe in other airlines, like AA.

When are you least likely to reply to an email?
24/7 - I get way too many emails to even respond to a fraction of them. When you consider all the "email" sources now, it is frightening. You have Facebook inbox, Twitter direct, SMS, Skype and Home/Work email to name a few. I think I am going to start telling people to use carrier pigeons to contact me.

When did you last disconnect?
In Rome for two days last year. It was a short time, but it was the best time of my life as I got to enjoy food, culture, architecture and vino. I felt like a Caesarian for 48 hours! I think V-MODA may have to invent a dumbphone that only turns smart for one hour a day.