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Reality Check

[whitespace] Hey, microwave your danged checkbook

By Mad Dog

LIFE IS GETTING simpler all the time, thanks to machines, inventions, and gadgets. We all love them. Well, all except maybe Ted Kaczynski, who would have, had the mailman been able to locate that remote cabin in Montana when he had the new Sharper Image catalog to deliver, causing Ted to fall in love with a titanium-graphite paper clip holder with variable-speed automatic ejection.

This would have led him to see the technological light and throw his manifesto into his RoboBlender 4000, changing the course of history forever.

Machines exist to make things happen quicker and more efficiently. Inventions let us automatically do things we could never do before. And gadgets, well, they serve no real purpose other than to make money for the company putting them out while using up precious drawer space and disappearing that one time in our life when we could actually use them.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to creating new inventions. First, there's the kitchen-gadget school, which says you need a separate utensil to perform each task, no matter how small, mundane, or easily it can be done using an existing tool. That's why yuppie kitchens have drawers and walls filled with things like lemon peelers, hard-boiled-egg piercers, nut choppers, potato-chip bag openers, and corn-on-the-cob butter holders, all chores that can very easily be done with a good old knife.

Then there's the other school of thought: Consolidate everything we own into one unit. NCR Corp., a company that started out making cash registers and now prefers to just hear them ring, recently showed a prototype appliance in London called the Microwave Bank. Calling this an appliance is like calling Sybil a personality.

The Microwave Bank is a combination microwave oven, ATM, television, and computer. It looks just like a regulation microwave oven except for the 10-inch liquid-crystal screen built into the front door that shows reruns of Ally McBeal instead of what you have cooking inside, which is probably the reheated McDonald's special of the month, the Ally McVeal.

It will pay bills, keep track of your shopping list, search the Web for recipes, and ruin any piece of meat you put in it. This result of 20th-century corporate drug-sniffing is either voice activated ("Find porn") or can be used with a touch screen that shows a virtual keyboard ("Fidn pron"). This means that at the touch of a finger you can check the TV listings, locate a cooking show that suits your mood, and then follow along, making the same dish they are. Well, as long as they're preparing a Weight Watchers frozen dinner.

The Microwave Bank (advertising slogan: "Tune in, turn on, turn it over") makes more sense than you might think. After all, most homes these days already have a TV in the kitchen, and counter space is quickly going the way of a nutritious home-cooked meal. Then there's our free time, which is more precious than double frequent-flier miles the day before going on vacation.

Think about it. If we can combine our daily TV watching, cooking, and sex-chat-room time using this appliance, I figure we'd have 30 minutes of extra time each day in which to ponder the important things in life, like whether anyone cares what the hemlines will be like this spring. That works out to an extra three and a half hours a week, 7.6 days a year, and a whopping one and a half years during an average lifetime. When word about this gets out you can expect NCR to petition the Food and Drug Administration to allow them to put stickers on the boxes screaming: "Live Longer with Microwave Bank!"

This is only the beginning. If this catches on we can expect to see other companies climbing on this multi-appliance bandwagon. Look for Chop! Chop!, a combination food processor, chainsaw, and electric shaver. The new A-Ford-Able will be a car/ATM/ back-massager that makes paying your auto mechanic a less painful experience. And it's a safe bet G.E. will come out with Mr. Coughing, the combination coffee maker, vaporizer, and home security system that takes care of all kinds of drips.

It doesn't get any better than this.

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From the October 29-November 4, 1998 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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