The Technofile Web site has moved.

Technofile is now located at
Please update your links, bookmarks and Favorites.  

A little limelight

technofile  by al fasoldt

Columns and commentaries in a life-long dance with technology

Simple gray rule

A little limelight on a modern design theme

By Al Fasoldt

Copyright © 1994, The Syracuse Newspapers

A decade ago, one of the big newspaper chains decided to redesign its street-corner display boxes—those metal things that hold an upright stack of papers, with the front page visible through a window.

I saw a few of the preliminary designs. They all looked normal. But the one the corporation finally adopted was unlike any newspaper box I'd ever seen. It had a large, round-cornered window that looked just like a TV screen. And the box itself was the precise size and shape of the most popular 19-inch TV set of that time.

A coincidence? Hardly. A lot of research went into that design. And it paid off as the newspaper's circulation climbed.

Any old box would probably sell newspapers, but the idea of a box that looked like one of the most familiar objects in contemporary history was a brilliant one. And the message hidden in that concept was simple, too: Here was something friendly and familiar, something you could spend time with without any mental effort. (The paper delivered in that box—USA Today—fits that description, too. But that's another story.)

In technological terms, that was a long time ago. These days something else is hot—the computer screen. So, to make sure a new product has a chance, you give it the look and shape of a computer monitor.

If you think I am kidding, you should check out something called the Limelight from Austin Innovations. It's nothing more than a night light. But it's a night light with a difference—shaped exactly like a computer monitor's faceplate and colored in the shade of beige that monitors come in.

Plug the Limelight in, and it glows just like a computer screen. It's not sort of like a computer screen; it's exactly like a miniature PC, stuck on your wall. The light that comes out of the Limelight isn't like the flicker of a fluorescent lamp or the warm beaming of a regular bulb. It's a phosphorescent glow.

It's the same glow you see when you sit in front of a computer.

These little night lights would be real eye-catchers in a computer store, and they'd be perfect for PC nerds who just can't go to sleep unless they are bathed in that familiar glow. But they're also amazingly effective as night lights.

They're actually bright enough to read by, if you hold something a few inches away. And they don't even use enough power to register on a typical electric meter. Their rating is three hundredths of a watt. That means you could plug in 1,000 Limelights—glowing all the way to PC nirvana—and still not use up the juice of a single 40-watt bulb.

Of course, that would cost you about as much as seven or eight real PCs, since each Limelight sells for $10 to $15. One in the bathroom and another in the hall make a lot more sense.

But check with your mate before adding a little Limelight to your life. When I plugged my Limelight into an outlet in the dining room, my wife looked at it and groaned.

"Now you can't get away from your computer even while we're eating," she said.

In the interests of domestic harmony, I moved it to my office. It looks better there anyway, like the junior partner of our three computers. I'd like to get another one, but I think I'll pass. I'm waiting for the model with the built-in screen saver.

 Image courtesy of Adobe Systems Inc.technofile: [Articles] [Home page] [Comments:]