The Bastard Range of Wearable Computers

Gathering Nuts in May

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Episode 11 BOFH 2002: Episode 11

"Tell me about this wearable computing stuff?" The Boss asks, loafing around our office for a change instead of his own.

"Crap," The PFY comments disparagingly. "It's usually so low-end it requires a stepladder to get to 'useable' and hugely proprietory to keep you hooked into the original vendor."

"He's right," I'm forced to admit. "Everything I've seen has 'whizzy' features that revolve around some prerequisite handheld device, OR they're whizzy because the interface is something strange or unusual which has been relabelled 'intuitive'."

"You mean like the the 'shoe' buttons?" The PFY adds.

"Shoe Buttons?" The Boss echoes.

"Yeah, your left foot is the left mouse button, and your right foot is your right mouse button," The PFY responds. "Tap on the toes of the left foot to use the left button, right foot to use the right button."

"Well that sounds fairly resonable," The Boss burbles.

"Unless you're on a crowded tube at rush hour..."

"Well obviously you'd hav..."

"..or playing football..."

"I hardly think you'd b..."

"...or having your shoes shined."

"Yes, well..

"But apart from being unusable in most occasions where a portable computer might be handy, it's a great interface!"

"Yes. NO! No, I was thinking more something like this." The Boss burbles dragging a magazine article out of his pocket and unfolding it. From my viewport, it looks suspiciously like an article from one of the less reputable computing rags on the future of computing.

"Ah yes, completely proprietary, and mostly useless..." The PFY comments, scanning the furry-toothed editor's comments.

"But it's ideal for portable use! You can take notes when you're in transit!"

"You mean like a pen and paper."

"It also reminds you of your meetings!"

"Like your secretary?"

"That's not the point!"

"Well it IS rather expensive," I mumble, pointing at the bottom line. "Three thousand quid for the base system, excluding docking modules. Hell, WE could slap together one for less than that. AND it would be made from generic parts so would interface better to your current system too!"

"Could you?!" The Boss gasps, suppressing his unmanly girlish enthusiasm. "I only ask because I'm going to a technology directions meeting for the company in a couple of days, and it'd be nice to give them something to think about."

(I.e. a quick game of who's got the whizziest system)

"Well, it would only be a prototype.." The PFY responds.

"That's OK, it's just to give them an idea," he chips hurriedly.

"Well, we'd need to do some use case analysis with you, which might take some time to complete, given your busy sche.."


"Ok, well what do you want it for?"

"General note taking, portable office thingeys, um, oh, email, and maybe document stuff."

"Right - and Operating system?"

"Windows, uh, XP?"

"Ok, User interface?"


"How you would enter data?"

"Sleeve keyboard, I think he mentioned," The Boss responds, pointing at the article.


"Sub, uh miniature, eyepiece," he reads.

"Right, Non Maskable input protection?"


"A button in an out of the way place to make sure you don't accidentally hit CTRL-ALT-DELETE and reset your system."


"Well, you put the power and reset buttons at a physical position you're not likely to touch often. Like Simon would put his reset button next to his wallet if he were using his machine at the pub."

It's all fun and games till someone gets accidentally falls down a stairwell...

"Oh. Well I don't know - What do you suggest?"

"Reset switch in your groin area and power switch on your backside is fairly standard."

"Yeah. Sure," The Boss replies cynically.

"True Story," The PFY responds. "Groin because you tend to protect that rather well anyway, and backside because when you sit down at your desk, you don't need the portability any more."

"Wellll, I suppose you have a point..."

Three days later..

"It's a little.. Chunky," The Boss blurts.

"That's mainly the batteries, but we worked out a cool way to put them in your shoes, then used an ultra micro motherboard which straps onto your back - complete with ROM strap lock mechanism for security - along with rubberised touchpad keys and pressure pad material for the power and reset buttons. Strap it on and have a go!"

. . ten minutes later..

"It's working!" The Boss gasps, gazing into his sunglasses. "Gosh, it boots fast!!"

"It would do, as it has a solid state disk and clock chipped processor," The PFY burbles proudly. "Now try the office suite - I've synchronised your email, but if you want we could slap a bluetooth card in it and you'd be synchronised permanently when you're in the office."

"This is fantastic!" The Boss cries delightedly. "It's brilliant, I can - wait a minute, the screen colour's gone all wonky. And... my back's getting hot."

"Yes, like I said, it's a test rig. The heatsink's up against your body initially, but we can probably flip it around and let it cool through your clothes. The onboard graphics card probably doesn't like the heat either."

"It's getting bloody hot!!!" The Boss gasps. "And I can't get it off!"

"Yes, well, that's the ROM strap lock. Just reset the unit, select Low-Speed Operation so it runs cooler, then select Strap Lock reset and type in the password."

"Ok, and what's the password?"

"I've got it written down here somewhere..." The PFY mumbles, searching amongst the mass of paper which is his desktop.


"Well reset it, and change the speed setting!"

"I can't find the reset button!!!"

"The groin!" The PFY cries

"I know, I can't find it!!!"

"You're probably not pressing hard enough!!!"

An hour later I grudgingly hand over the 100 quid I owe The PFY for losing the bet as to whether he could get The Boss to TELL him to kick him in the nuts.

Still, it could have been worse, I could have paid per reset. While The Boss was still conscious...

A bored admin is a very dangerous person... ®

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