It's not who you are, but where

Posted: Tuesday, December 09, 2003

During the holidays, most peoples' thoughts turn to yuletide logs, mistletoe and other props from a Disney movie. Not me. My mind turns to gadgets, the shinier the better. Even people who claim to hate gadgets love to get them for Christmas. And there's no better gadget to give than a location device.

I came of age during the 1960s, when the goal in life was to find yourself. Forty years later, the Digital Age has made that possible. Thanks to Global Positioning System technology I can just press a button and know where I am at all times. This is particularly helpful at large universities and shopping malls. And it's great for us old folks with bad eyesight and failing memories. I got lost in my house the other day and the GPS told me "you're in the bathroom." Very handy.

Techwit By Jason Ohler

If you've already found yourself, then you'll need to find your stuff. Most of the stuff our parents had was big stuff that was hard to lose, like washers and dryers. But most of the stuff we have these days is little stuff that ends up under the sofa, like TV remotes and cell phones. That's why someone invented the universal pager to help you find them. First, you attach little discs to all the things you want to keep track of that are easy to lose (TV remote, keys, teenage children). Then whenever you want to know where they are, you just press a button and follow the beeping sound. The problem is, of course, what happens when you lose your universal pager? What do you use to find that?

That's why someone invented a universal pager pager. You use this to locate your misplaced universal pager. But what happens when you lose this? And so on. Developers knew if the universal paging system was going to work there would have to be one place to keep the mother of all universal pagers that could locate all the other pagers. They knew that it would have to be somewhere that would never change or go away. So they gave it to the Federal Dept. of Education. Now, on top of making sure that no child gets left behind, they are going to keep track of our stuff, too.

So what do you do once you have found yourself, your stuff and the pager you need to find your stuff? You find someone else. For this we have The Locator, an actual device I saw advertised on the Internet last year. Think of it as a sign you carry telling people what you like to do. The difference is that it hides in your pocket and only certain people know it's there. Here's how it works.

First you have to program your Locator to tell it who you are by answering five multiple choice questions about personal preferences: food, religion, music, Mac or PC ... standard stuff. Then you stick it in your pocket and go to a Locator party and just walk around. If you get near someone who has the same answers, it starts to jiggle in your pocket. You maneuver until you get the strongest jiggle and then ask the person next to you, "3,6,7,2,4?" (These are your multiple choice answers.) If you have found your fellow jiggler, and if you hit if off, great. If not, then you press a button that tells your Locator "don't jiggle anymore when I come near this particular person." By the way, the Locator makes it clear why we shouldn't eliminate multiple choice testing in schools: It holds the key to the future of dating and therefore the survival of our species.

I know most gadgets are landfill waiting to happen. But the holidays are no time to be environmental. We have Earth Day for that. So, tell someone you love them: buy them a gadget. And don't forget to get them a universal pager to go with it.

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