A man named Jake is struggling through a bus station with two huge and obviously heavy suitcases when a stranger comes up behind him and asks Have you got the time?
Jake sighs, puts down the suitcases and turns around. After glancing at his
wrist he says it's about a quarter to six.
Hey, that's a pretty fancy watch, exclaims the stranger. Jake brightens a
little. Yeah, it's not bad. Check this out, and he shows him a time zone display
not just for every time zone in the world, but for the 86 largest metropoli. He
hits a few buttons and from somewhere on the watch a voice says
"The time is
eleven 'til six" in a very West Texas accent. A few more buttons and the same
voice says something in Japanese. Jake continues I've put in regional accents
for each city.
The display is unbelievably high quality for a mere watch, and the voice is
simply astounding - smooth and perfectly audible, without the tinny sound you
might expect from a speaker that could fit on a watch. The stranger is struck
dumb with admiration.
That's not all, says Jake. He pushes a few more buttons it has more than a
dozen and a tiny but very high resolution map of New York City appears on the
display. If we were outside, Jake says apologetically, it could show you where
we were by satellite positioning, but under this roof all it can do is remember
my last position and a map of the surrounding area. View recede ten, he adds to
the watch, and the display changes to show eastern New York state.
It responds to voice? gasps the stranger, and Jake nods enthusiastically. But
I haven't got it all programmed yet, most of the functions are still
I want to buy that watch, says the stranger. Oh, no, it's not ready for sale
yet; I'm still working out the bugs, says the inventor. But look at this: and he
proceeds to demonstrate that the watch is also a very creditable little FM radio
receiver with a digital tuner, a sonar device that can measure distances up to
125 meters as well as trigger the stopwatch function for close racing finishes,
a pager with thermal paper printout and, most impressive of all to the now
drooling listener, has capacity for voice recordings of up to 300 standard size
books, though I only have 32 of my favourites in there so far, says Jake. He
starts up The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein, and although the
stranger has never heard of either he can still hear those amazing un-tinny
voices coming out of the normal-sized watch on Jake's wrist.
I've got to have that watch, he says.
No, you don't understand; it's not ready
I'll give you $1000 for it.
Oh, no, I've already spent more than $8000.
I'll give you $10000 for it.
But it's just not done.
I'll give you $15000 for it. And the stranger pulls out a chequebook. I've
just *got* to have that watch.
But.... Jake stops to think. He's only put about $8500 into materials and
development, and with $15,000 he could make another one and have it ready for
merchandising in only another half a year. $15000?
The stranger frantically finishes writing the check and waves it in front of
him. Here it is, ready to hand to you right here and now.
Jake abruptly makes his decision. Ok, he says, and peels off the watch. They
make the exchange, the check for the watch, and the stranger starts happily
Hey, wait a minute, calls Jake after the stranger, who turns around warily.
Jake indicates the two suitcases he'd been trying to wrestle through the bus
station. Don't you want the batteries?