Will It Change Your Life?

By Anon

Originally published in EUG #56

There's an article on the website for the channel BBC News [No, nothing to do with any of the BBC machines themselves! - Ed] which, if we are to believe its prose, predicates a life-changing development (possibly in the computer industry) within the next two or years. It has been reproduced here for the benefit of EUG readers, although the original is being regularly updated with feedback from internet surfers stumbling across it at:

As you'll begin to appreciate as you read it, it may simply be someone's weird idea of a joke - yet its origin would seem to counter that kind of assumption. If it is more than rumour and speculation, then something intriguing is just hiding beyond the horizon in the U.S. If not, then the gossipers have even managed to invade your EUG...!

Will "It" Change Your Life?

"IT" is a top secret new invention, backed by some of the biggest names in the American business world. It is billed as being more important than the internet. But what is it?

The web - always an incubator for rumour and speculation - is abuzz with talk of it. So what is fuelling this furious debate? A secret invention which, its creator claims, will "sweep over the world and change lives".

Some are quick to shout "Hype!", but it inventor Dean Kamen is no latterday Heath Robinson or Rube Goldberg. The 49-year-old American was responsible for the $100m IBOT stair-climbing wheelchair, which was picked up by corporate giant Johnson & Johnson. President-elect George Bush is said to be among the bigwigs to have climbed the hill to Mr Kamen's hexagonal mansion.

It - or Ginger as his latest gadget is known - boasts some equally august backers. Top Silicon Valley venture capitalist John Doerr, who helped launch Netscape, is on board.

Jeff Bezos, boss at dot.com bookseller Amazon, and Apple Mac guru Steve Jobs, have both given it the thumbs-up - though are not letting on much more than that.

No lesser authority than the Harvard Business School Press has also reportedly stumped up $250,000 for a book about it, despite not being told exactly what it is.

So why the secrecy? Mr Kamen - a recent winner of the prestigious National Medal of Technology - says he's staying tight-lipped for fear some jealous corporation will steal or "block" his brainchild. But although he is vowing not to lift the lid on his invention until 2002, he has given the world some tantalising clues as to what the dickens it is.

It is said to be "so revolutionary, you'll have no problem selling it". Investors Credit Suisse First Boston reckon it could make Mr Kamen richer than Bill Gates.

Could it be low-tech? It doesn't have to be rocket science to make you rich. The humble, yet ubiquitous, Tetrapak milk carton made Hans and Gad Rausing into multi-billionaires.

Mr Kamen thinks it is a great idea, but he fears others will take a more alarmist view. "The question is, are people going to be allowed to use it? [The product is] likely to run afoul of existing regulations," he has said.

So could it be dangerous? Not much of a clue. After all, the United States is regularly lampooned for embracing laws which frown on public smoking, but encourage people to tote guns.

"It will be an alternative to products that are dirty, expensive, sometimes dangerous and often frustrating."

Could it be a robot dog? Real life mutts are all of the above. Even Japan's mighty Sony corporation - inventors of the CD - are pumping money into developing robot animals. Those already in the shops proved a Christmas money-spinner.

It "will profoundly affect our environment and the way people live worldwide".

Could it be food online? One internet wag has already suggested it is a way of delivering food direct to surfers. Though fanciful, such an invention would certainly change our lives and please those netheads who hate interacting with anyone in real time, even pizza delivery riders.

It is said to have had Amazon's Jeff Bezos "honking" with laughter. So it must be fun, right?

Could it be a games console? With pulses still raised by the recent launch of the Playstation 2 and the unveiling of Bill Gates' X-BOX, many net speculators are praying for another world-beating games machine.

It is predicted to change the way our cities are built and force the existing built environment to be "retro-fitted" to accomodate the product.

Could it be a 21st century C5? The smart money is on it being a new mode of transport, a theory strengthened by Mr Kamen's work on the IBOT and his penchant for commuting by helicopter.

Suggestions range from James Bond-style personal jetpacks to Star Trek transporters. It may even be a Blade Runneresque hover car. All are a far cry from Sir Clive Sinclair's hapless C5 electric cart of the 1980s.

Of course, it could always turn out to be nothing. Couldn't it? Send your email suggestions to use at newsonline.features@bbc.co.uk.

EUG #56