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Fred's Views


Technological Marvels

This morning I read about the newest, ingenious gadget that technology has brought out of Japan. More about that, in a minute. Then I decided to go out and feed the birds. I should have done it yesterday, but I goofed off. So what do these seemingly unrelated events have to do with each other? Read on and I will reveal all!

I remember as a child on the farm, watching my dad struggle vainly to open a bag of feed for the cows or whatever animal he was raising at that particular time. The bag was sewn closed. To open it, all he had to do was pull the correct string. There were only two choices, I think. But he never picked the right one. He would have to cut off a bit of the sewn-together string and try again. How, I wondered, could such a simple closure method be so difficult to master? Despite the fact that he probably opened at least two bags a week, he never got the hang of it.

These days, there aren't too many items that come in a bag that is sewn shut: potatoes and sugar are sometimes packaged that way as well as large bags of bird seed. (See where I'm going?) Well, I had to open a new bag of bird seed this morning. It was sewn closed. There were (apparently) two strings to choose from - and two ends to start from. How hard could it be? Very, as it turns out. This is not the first time I've tried to open such bags. I do so probably at least once a month. But familiarity in this case does breed contempt - and by "contempt" I do mean loathing and anger - lots of it. I pulled. The sewing bunched up. I cut off a piece and tried again. Then another piece, and another, and another. well, you get the idea. I don't think it would be nearly as frustrating if I simply had to cut the stitching apart all the way through. But no, at some point, it all starts to come apart just like it's supposed to. Only I can never get it to do it right off. This is an example of old technology that has served its true purpose for years and shows no sign of being phased out. Some technology just can't be improved upon. I doubt that anyone will ever invent a more frustrating method for opening a package.

Speaking of frustration (see, I told you I'd tie them together), ask any pet owner how frustrating it can get when you know your pet wants something, but you don't know what. And can you imagine how frustrating it must be for the pet who is trying to explain its needs to its dumb owner? Well the frustration may soon be over - at least for dog owners. A Japanese company is about to market (in the U.S. at least) a dog translation device. Its called, wait for it, "bowlingual". It will sell for about $120 and may be available in such outlets as The Sharper Image and PetFair.

The device is already available in Japan. It consists of a microphone that attaches to the dog's collar to pick up the dog's "speech" and a hand-held device that connects to a database. (I don't recall where the database is supposedly stored.) By comparing the dog's speech to patterns stored in the database, the dog's grunts, howls and barks will be translated into such meaningful language as "Get off your duff and feed me", "If you don't let me out right now, you'll be sorry" or "Stop rubbing my tummy and let me sleep, idiot". (I made those phrases up, but they are representative.)

Yes, for a mere $120, you will now be able to understand every evil and demeaning growl your dog has ever uttered at you. Unfortunately, there's no word yet about a device that will translate your words into barks and growls your pooch will understand. So, for a while at least, you'll have to live with the fact that your dog just doesn't understand that "Sit" does not mean it's time to water the carpet.

Copyright © 2003 by Fred Oldfield. All rights reserved.


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