Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Backpacks Appeal to the Tech-Savvy Set ; Forget Wheels and Handles - the Newest Varieties Have Built-In Bluetooth and iPod Controls, and Even Solar Panels

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Backpacks Appeal to the Tech-Savvy Set ; Forget Wheels and Handles - the Newest Varieties Have Built-In Bluetooth and iPod Controls, and Even Solar Panels

Article excerpt

Now that my kids are back in school, one of my daily tasks is checking their backpacks to ensure all proper schoolbooks and lunches have been loaded.

The backpacks my kids use are almost identical to the ones I used in college 20 years ago, but with two important improvements: wheels on the bottom and a pull-up handle. One would think that these technological advances would be enough to keep most kids happy.

Of course, that's not the case. Our world is an increasingly high- tech one, where a student's most important tools are not protractor and pencil, but iPod and cellphone. It's only a natural progression, I suppose, when the most common item in a college student's backpack is a laptop computer. Realizing this, backpackmakers are turning out new models that might be quite comfortable on the bridge of the starship Enterprise.

I became intrigued by the packs last month after reading a Washington Post article that described a variety of new packs, including one that was solar- powered. Yikes!

Michael Gartenberg, research director and vice president of Jupiter Research in New York, says we're going to see more of this mix of "form and function."

"As technology becomes more a part of the mainstream, you're going to be dealing with a lot of people who care about things like appearance," he says. "Tech enthusiasts don't care a bit. But the average person cares as much, if not more, about aesthetics than about functionality. It's just going to become more and more integrated into our lives."

After some research, I tried out a new-fangled pack: the JanSport "Dreamer." JanSport makes a lot of backpacks, and while I've never owned one (I've always been an L.L.Bean guy), its bags are everywhere. I counted 11 of them in my oldest daughter's fourth- grade class. Many come with hip names. My personal favorite is the "Elefunk."

The Dreamer is part of a new product line called LiveWire. …

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