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  Mystery Invention Is Topic of Book

The Associated Press
Thursday, Jan. 11, 2001; 2:15 p.m. EST

NEW YORK –– chief Jeff Bezos says it's a "product so revolutionary, you'll have no problem selling it." Computer whiz Steve Jobs says it will change the way cities are designed. Silicon Valley entrepreneur John Doerr has invested millions in it.

But what is IT?

Harvard Business School Press has paid $250,000 for a book about a mysterious invention with the codename "Ginger." Neither the agent nor the publisher knows what "Ginger" is, but they apparently believe it's well worth finding out.

The Harvard press declined to say when the book is coming out, but the invention's identity is expected to be revealed in 2002. The book will be written by Steve Kemper, a journalist whose articles have appeared in National Geographic, Smithsonian and elsewhere.

Reports of the deal first appeared Tuesday in the Web site

According to Dean Kamen, the inventor of "Ginger," his device will be an alternative to products that "are dirty, expensive, sometimes dangerous and often frustrating, especially for people in the cities."

The submitted proposal for the book states that Doerr expects "Ginger" to be as significant as the development of the World Wide Web. Another investor, Credit Suisse First Boston, thinks "Ginger" will be the most lucrative start-up in history and will make Kamen richer than Bill Gates. Bezos and Jobs were reportedly dazzled by a demonstration.

The 49-year-old Kamen lives in a hexagonally shaped mansion on a hilltop outside Manchester, N.H., where visitors have included President-elect Bush. His previous inventions include the first portable insulin pump and a wheelchair that can climb stairs.

Kamen recently received the National Medal of Technology, the country's highest award for technology. The Web site of his corporation, DEKA, describes him as an "inventor, physicist & snappy dresser."


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