Magazine article Editor & Publisher

A Consumerist's Technocopia of the Most Current Gizmos

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

A Consumerist's Technocopia of the Most Current Gizmos

Article excerpt

BETWIXT AND BETWEEN 'ROBOT DOGS' AND 'NETWORKED TOASTERS' BY CHARLES BOWEN

When the little-p politics of consumerism got rolling in the flush years after World War II, citizen advocates were concerned primarily with getting the best deals for constituents who were hungry for new trailers, toasters, and TVs. Later on, scam warnings and hazardous product alerts were added. Consumers needed to be advised about con artists and substandard services and merchandise, not to mention the whole new field of knockoffs and the morality of dealing in counterfeit goods.

Now, half a century after the first consumer activists began heightening the collective awareness of buyers' rights and responsibilities, a new element has been added. Education is a new emphasis as consumerists respond to the digital revolution. New technology is so rapidly creating new products (robot dogs?) and refining old ones (networked toasters?) that no one can keep up with all of them.

The new age requires a new kind of consumer reporting, going beyond shopping advice to answer questions such as, "What is 'piezoelectric' technology and how can it help me hit a baseball farther?" "Do I really want a house that's smarter than I am?" "When can I expect heart operations to become outpatient surgery through the use of 'robot surgeons'?"

These and other edgy new topics are daily fare at a site called Technocopia, a constantly updated electronic publication brought online by a well-established authority in the field. Since the early 1980s, founder Hillary Rettig has been writing for publications such as Wired, Working Woman, Inc., PC Magazine, and Home Office Computing, and she has operated her own computer consulting business. She targets Technocopia to cover consumer topics in what she calls the emerging "digital household infrastructure."

To check it out, visit the site at http:// www.technocopia.com, where the introductory screen is divided into five departments:

Your Home, focused on automation, energy, gadgets/appliances, networking, and "fun stuff," such as games and toys.

Your Work, detailing home office and communications topics.

Your Play, covering developing technologies in hobbies and sports, home theater, pet products, and smart toys.

Your Life, concentrating on assistive technology, health, and transportation subjects. …

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