Globe

Today at work my friend Kerry and I were talking about geography and globes, which was prompted by the Yahooligans Where in the World is? game (where you see if you know your world geography), and came up with what I think would be the perfect globe: an interactive one whose outer surface is a touch-sensitive LCD screen that has all the details projected onto it from the inside. Think about it: it’s basically a spherical computer screen, so it could always be up-to-date with new political country borders—download new data to it via a USB connection to your computer—and facts about each country; a touch-sensitive surface means you could simply poke a country to get information about it, or play games on it (find the country); it could be custom color-coded; it could be animated; you could even load other planets onto it, say Mars, Jupiter, or even a fictional one. It would have to be programmable, of course, so hackers could customize the hell out of it.

A cursory search online reveals this: The Explorer Globe from LeapFrog. It’s similar to what I’m thinking:

Touch the interactive pen any place on this interactive, talking atlas and learn thousands of amazing facts. Compare population and land area between say Dundee, Scotland and Oaxaca, Mexico. Find out flying times between Lubbock, Texas and Kyoto, Japan. Learn fascinating facts about continents, countries, capitals, music, currency, highest points and so much more.

There is also a “Eureka” game mode that prompts players to find geographic points of interest (giving hints along the way) before time runs out. Up to four players can play six multi-level games with this very chatty, very challenging atlas. And it isn’t just for kids either. Everyone will have fun testing their knowledge of geography and exploring the world.

Sounds cool. Sadly, I’m pretty sure technology isn’t advanced enough yet to come up with my perfect globe. When it is, though, I want royalties.

Paper Transformers

Via Boing Boing tonight comes a link to the PaperFormers, where you can print out the PDF files of cut-and-fold Transformer designs, and actually build working Transformers out of paper.

This takes me back; when I was young—probably around 12 or so—I used to create paper Transformers pretty much like these, though not nearly as elaborate. All I used was white paper, masking tape and small modelling sticks. Basically, I’d draw the design I’d want on the paper, usually in several pieces. Sometimes I’d color them. They were drawn to be foldable, with overlapping tabs for the tape and/or sticks to attach to. And they transformed, which of course was essential.

None survived to this day, of course. But they’re fun to do; maybe I’ll make some for the kids.

More than Meets the Eye

To my great delight, Amazon.com has the entire first season of the Transformers on DVD. This was the perfect television show that embodied the 1980s: a wildly popular cartoon whose sole purpose was to support an insanely popular line of toys, and yet there was such a seamless integration between the two that at times it seemed toys were introduced because they had characters in the cartoon (like the Dinobots and Constructicons).

I was a total tool for the Transformers— the toys and the cartoon both. One thing that always bothered me about them, though, was the names of the various factions; in the beginning, there were two: the good guys were the Autobots, and the bad guys were the Decepticons. Simplistic, yet descriptive: the Autobots were robots based on cars, and the Decepticons were deceptive robots that were bad (like cons— as in convicts). If you didn’t look for any real meaning behind the names, fine. But why did they always have new factions or groups with names ending in “bot” (for the good guys) and “con” (for the bad guys)?

That was just plain silly, even to my brainwashed mind. It was the laziness of marketing greed going too far, and destroying the illusory experience of deeper meaning. I mean, really. Right off the top of my head I can recall (aside from the Autobots and Decepticons) Dinobots, Constructicons, Insecticons, Aerialbots, Motorcons, and Predacons.

So then, I have to ask: where do Emoticons fit in? You know, emoticons— those plain-character simulated facial expressions that are an inseparable part of Internet culture (like

:)

to indicate a smile,

;)

to indicate a wink, and

:P

to indicate sticking your tongue out). Are they what they appear? Or are they really a new breed of Decepticon? Or, a clever synergy of ’80s toy culture and post-modern Internet culture?

Perhaps only I know the true answer…

Some Transformers links for the stalwart: