How quickly we forget…


Hey all you 30- and 20-somethings, listen up, ’cause grumpy old Gen X Man has something to say to you: You did not invent the world.

I know, I know – exactly the kind of thing you’d expect from a curmudgeon who was born before the internet, the cellphone, Facebook, Netflix, PVRs, blah, blah, blah.

But pay attention because this might actually interest you once you’ve had a chance to tear your attention away from your disappearing text messages and your next potential Tinder conquest.

Lately, I’ve seen a few examples of so-called new tech that frankly, is anything but new.

Let’s take a the crowd-sourced project known as “Vocca” as an example. You’ll like it. It’s a gadget that turns any lightbulb in your home into a — wait for it — voice-sensitive light bulb that will turn on (AND OFF!!!) at the sound of the right voice command shouted in its direction.

Is that a collective “ooooh” I hear? Thought so. And with good reason too. It *is* a neat idea. After all, what could be handier than lights that can be switched on and off from the comfort of your bed instead of requiring the old-fashioned process of getting up, walking across the room, flicking a switch and then reversing yourself?

But guess what? Someone invented the Vocca decades ago. It was called The Clapper, and they’re still on sale today. The Clapper is superior to the Vocca in three important ways. One, it’s cheap. One Clapper costs only $18 at Walmart — compare that to the $39 + for the Vocca. Two, it controls more than just lights; it can control any electrical appliance you can plug into it. Three, it doesn’t require any special phrases. Just clap your hands to turn it on, and then clap again to turn it off. This also means that the Clapper provides support for an unlimited number of languages. Et tu, Vocca?

What’s most surprising is that of all the write-ups I’ve read on the Vocca, only one author has pointed out that the gadget is an over-priced, over-designed, and far less versatile Clapper. Not one. Why?

I can only guess that most of the people who have written about the Vocca, much like the creators of the Vocca themselves, must be too young to remember the onslaught of “Clap-on, Clap-off, Clap-on, Clap-off” commercials us 40-somethings were exposed to for most of our formative years.

And though you didn’t miss a lot (the commercials were really dreadful), you did miss the fact that we already have a Vocca. It’s called the Clapper. Though it’s as useful as it sounds, it sure isn’t cool. And if you think clapping at your lights sounds silly, wait till you have to shout at them. Repeatedly.