And as if digital, remote-control speaking alarm clocks weren't bad enough, now technology brings you: a 900 number that can wake you up tomorrow, or in the year 2000, with the sound of your own voice.
"Other 900 numbers prey on lonely people. Mine is truly useful," says Keith Shanahan, founder of America's Personal Wake-up, Reminder and Message Forwarding Service.
You dial 1-900-3AWAKEN (that's 329-2536) and "interact" with a central computer based in Atlanta. You can get the computer to call you back whenever you want, with either a computerized voice or your own. You can get it to relay phone messages to friends and business associates. You can get it to send birthday greetings. All you need is access to a touch-tone phone (face it, who doesn't have that these days?) and $1.50 per minute for your calls to the computer (okay, that might be tougher), a charge that will appear on your phone bill.
"Obviously it'd be a little expensive for everyday use," Shanahan says. "But for those couple of times a year when you absolutely have to wake up, or for that anniversary that you can't forget -- it's worth it."
One other thing: "I can't guarantee the right person will answer the phone," Shanahan says. "This service requires a little bit of thought."
But the computer won't forget, that's the important thing. We're talking persistence. It will call every half-hour from the day and time you specify until someone actually receives the message. And if that someone hangs up without listening, the computer will call back until someone verifies that someone has paid attention by punching in an area code.
"This is breaking a technological barrier," Shanahan says. "The phone is America. Everyone uses it. As a matter of fact, my answering machine just broke, so if you're trying to get in touch with me you could call my service and it will keep dialing, dialing, dialing . . ."