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Elon Musk says he'll rename flamethrower

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that’s taken over our lives.

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Not a flamethrower after all?

Screenshot by Mike Sorrentino/CNET

It was the must-have gadget of, well, last week. Elon Musk’s Boring Company flamethrower, retailing at £500, sold out within days of its launch. All 20,000 were gone.

Everyone wanted one, it seemed.

Musk had made it appear so very exciting. Now he has to face a familiar problem: delivery. And it seems there is indeed a little problem here.

So much so that he insists he’s going to have to rename the product. No, he isn’t going to call it the Exciting Company flamethrower.

Now Playing: Watch this: Elon Musk’s flamethrower is a hot seller 1:37

Instead this, he says, is a customs issue. In a Friday tweet, Musk explained the problem. “Apparently,” he tweeted, “some customs agencies are saying they won’t allow a shipment of anything called a ‘Flamethrower.’ To solve this, we are renaming it ‘Not a Flamethrower.'”

Apparently, some customs agencies are saying they won’t allow shipment of anything called a “Flamethrower”.

To solve this, we are renaming it “Not a Flamethrower”.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 2, 2018

It’s an imaginative solution, for sure. I can foresee the world’s customs officers looking at a package labeled “Not a Flamethrower” and thinking: “Well, that’s a relief. Flamethrowers can be very dangerous.”

Musk might be aware of this. In another Friday tweet, he suggested an alternative name: “Temperature Enhancement Device.”

Or maybe “Temperature Enhancement Device”

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 3, 2018

Yes, that should take the heat out of the situation. Still, some might wonder whether “not a flamethrower” is actually a more accurate description of the gadget.

To remain legal in the US, the device shoots flames less than 10 feet. Military flamethrowers can send them anywhere from 30 to 100 feet. The more sanguine among us might therefore describe Musk’s version as a fancy blowtorch. A Boring Company spokesman told my CNET colleague Amanda Kooser: “The Boring Company flamethrower is safer than what you can buy right now off-the-shelf on Amazon to destroy weeds.

Much like a rollercoaster, this is designed to be thrilling without danger. Dangerous flamethrowers are already regulated and require a permit to own in California.” Nevertheless, one California lawmaker wants it banned.

Perhaps calling it “Not a Flamethrower” everywhere would assuage the lawmaker’s concerns. Oh, this is all amusing marketing for Musk. It keeps him in the spotlight, while taking a little focus away from Tesla, which is currently enjoying some production and delivery issues with its Model 3.

Perhaps Musk could start delivering some less-than-finished cars and label them “Not a Model 3”?

Just to keep the customers entertained for now.

Customs problem solved! pic.twitter.com/6D0Fbm8NFI

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 3, 2018

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Elon Musk sells 10,000 flamethrowers as lawmaker calls for ban

Elon Musk revealed on Monday that he’s so far sold £5 million worth of his Boring Company-branded flamethrowers in just a couple of days of sales. Whoever knew there were so many nuts to roast.

Great for roasting nuts https://t.co/MGmkSJhIyx — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 28, 2018

The CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and tunneling outfit The Boring Company said that half of the 20,00-unit consignment of £500 devices have so far been pre-ordered and will be shipping globally in the spring.

If it’s not banned. When people began questioning the flamethrower’s legality, Musk responded that the reach of its flame is shorter than the 10-foot limit stipulated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The billionaire entrepreneur added that it’s been designed to offer “max fun for least danger,” claiming he’d be “way more scared of a steak knife.”

But California Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) is having none of it, issuing a statement on Monday announcing his intention to introduce legislation to ban sales of the flamethrower in the state of California. “I honestly thought it was a joke when the article was read to me,” Santiago said. He added that while he was in awe of Musk’s “genius” for the work he’s doing on other projects, he should understand that “with great power comes responsibility.” And selling a flamethrower for fun really doesn’t seem that responsible.

Santiago also hit out at Musk for apparently moving away from The Boring Company’s core ambition of building a network of futuristic transportation tunnels, saying that the state and Los Angeles have “entrusted Mr. Musk to alleviate a real public policy problem here by executing a tunnel under the city to help alleviate traffic,” adding, “This deviation feels like a real slap in the face.”

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Musk, a man whose past actions demonstrate an effortless ability to grab the headlines, may be playing a blinder with the flamethrower, too. While the company continues to take thousands of orders, he surely knew it would create controversy and perhaps end with him being “forced” to withdraw it from the market and refund customers.

And by that time, a lot more folks will know about The Boring Company. For now, plenty of people are hitting the company’s website to order the flamethrower, which, incidentally, can also be bought together with a Boring Company fire extinguisher. A video posted on Instagram shows Musk running toward the camera while activating the fire-spitting device, which admittedly seems more blowtorch than flamethrower.

In a message underneath, he wrote: “Don’t do this. Also, I want to be clear that a flamethrower is a super terrible idea. Definitely don’t buy one.

Unless you like fun.” But for many people, including Santiago, the product is nothing to laugh about, and he’s now setting about trying ban it.

From caps to … flamethrowers?

So how did we get here? Well, to raise funds for his ambitious tunneling venture, Musk’s Boring Company recently sold a bunch of branded caps at £20 apiece.

When they sold out at the end of last year, the CEO promised he’d follow up with a flamethrower.

True to his word, the contraption, which looks rather like a modified Airsoft rifle, showed up on the company’s website on Saturday.

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Check Out Elon Musk’s $500 ‘Boring Company’ flamethrower

It looks as if Elon Musk has been on the roof again knocking back a few whiskeys. We certainly wouldn’t be surprised if those rooftop parties atop the Tesla Gigafactory are where he gets some of his outlandish ideas. So what’s he cooked up now?

We’ll tell you: A £500 Boring Company flamethrower that’s “guaranteed to liven up any party,” according to its description. Rather wisely, it’s being offered alongside a Boring Company fire extinguisher priced at £30. Looking a lot like a modified Airsoft rifle, interested buyers can pre-order the flamethrower now for international shipping in the spring.

Prior to receiving their very own Boring Company-branded fire spitter, “aspiring flamethrower aficionados will be sent a terms and conditions rhyme for review and acceptance,” the product notes explain, adding that the device “may not be used on Boring Company decorative lacquered hay bales or Boring Company dockside munitions warehouses.” Musk quipped that the flamethrower will be ideal for the “zombie apocalypse,” promising it’ll wipe out “hordes of the undead or your money back.”

When the zombie apocalypse happens, you’ll be glad you bought a flamethrower. Works against hordes of the undead or your money back!

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 28, 2018

Need some background to this whole lot of oddness? Well, Elon Musk, aside from being the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, is also the man behind The Boring Company, an early-stage project that wants to build vast networks of tunnels containing high-speed electric sleds for carrying cars across cities, with the aim of helping to ease traffic congestion at street level. To raise funds for the venture, which has already started some experimental digging beneath SpaceX’s base in Hawthorne, California, Musk recently sold a bunch of Boring Company-branded caps at £20 apiece.

In December 2017, Musk tweeted that when the hats sold out, “we will start selling The Boring Company flamethrower.” All 50,000 caps were snapped up a few weeks ago and, true to his word, the hot new device landed on the company’s website on Saturday, together with a video showing it in action. While the caps look to have been an easy sell for The Boring Company, it’s not so clear if there’s a market for its flamethrowers. We can only think of busy chefs who might want to toast a very large tray of bruleed Key lime tarts in a single flash, or die-hard Musk fans who’re keen on collecting every one of his proffered items.

Or that zombie apocalypse.

Updated on January 27, 2018: Added information about the price and shipping details for the flamethrower.

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