This column was inspired by Valentine's Day. Trust me, though, this has nothing to do with romance. This is a computer column -- not a wimpy, purple-prosed letter to the lovelorn laced with syrupy sentiment.
Yup. These columns are as hardboiled as a 20-minute egg, and twice as tasty.
But I digress. . . .
To my (pleasant) surprise, I actually got Valentine cards. Admittedly, they were mushy and cutesy-poo in a Hallmark sort of way. But these perfumed pieces of cardboard got my mind to whirring. My entrepreneurial juices began to flow; my wallet trembled with eager anticipation; my synapses fired: I had an idea!
Greeting card software!!!
Instead of putting passion on paper, why not slip it on a disc?
Imagine: Your birthday. In the mail comes a floppy disc for your IBM PC clone or Commodore or Apple. You wonder what it's for. You boot it up and . . . the screen crackles with a Happy Birthday message accompanied by the appropriate tune(s). Mucho computer graphics and sounds. . . . You choke up, touched by the sentiment.
One could even create a "greeting-card construction kit" to design custom greeting cards for recipients. Of course, you can send them only to your PC-owning friends but, hey, it's the thought that counts.
I've got you in my sights, Hallmark.
One idea cascades to another:
You've heard of A. G. Bear, Teddy Ruxpin and other computer-driven stuffed animals that did dynamite business at Christmas. Ugh. Next thing you know they'll be sticking microprocessors and speech synthesis chips into Barbie Dolls so they can ask for more clothes. Dull . . . dull . . . dull.
Turn it around. Why not make the home computer into a pet? Petware. Boot the disc and you turn the screen into the face and body of an animal. (Have the Muppet people do the software for this, they would be terrific.)
The documentation would be just like a children's book. One could feed the pet by hitting the right key combinations. If you didn't "feed" it the right keystrokes, it would get sick. The kid would have to "clean up" after it. (You could even arrange to pet the pet if you had an adjacent touch-pad.)
After the kid boots it up the appropriate number of times, the pet "dies." How's that for teaching children about reality? What's more, you've got built in obsolescence. This product would be great for urban dwellers who can't buy their kiddies dogs and ponies.
But wait! There's more!
What's the most popular new technology in the home? Videocassette players. Why not rig up an interface between PCs and VCRs that would let you edit special effects graphics from the computer screen to videotape? [Commodore's new Amiga has the potential for this, but why not for Apple, C64 and IBM PC users, too?].
Think of it. You record an episode of the "A Team" on your VCR. You hook it up to your PC and -- voila -- you can "edit" the explosions. Perhaps this S/FX package will include software with pre-programmed special effects like mushroom clouds, grenade explosions and a rippling screen.
Discolor Mr. T's jewelry; paint a moustache on Masterpiece Theater's Alastair Cooke; blow up the football on a Monday Night kickoff. Add new special effects to the Star Wars trilogy or digitally enhance old classics like the "Wizard of Oz." Computer-aided video graffiti. I'm sure there's a market for it.
For those with a more serious streak, I've long wondered why someone doesn't come up with a pocket calculator-sized "smart" peripheral that can help you track expenses. Let's say you're on a business lunch. You whip out this device and enter in vital statistics like the date, who you lunched with and the bill. You can tap in the data for hotel expenses, phone calls, dinners, rental cars, etc.
At the end of the week, you stick the device in a socket in your PC and it downloads all this information into memory and on the screen. Hit the right function key and -- bam -- a complete expense form is printed out with expenses listed in chronological order. Just don't forget to keep the original receipts.
Just a few errant thoughts: If anybody out there already has developed these ideas into marketable products, more power to you. I haven't heard of you, so let me know how you're doing. Besides, you may have a customer.