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January 18, 2001

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It's a Bird! It's a Plane! No, it's... Ginger!

It's

    Anvar Alikhan

    OK, so we've all read about "Ginger," the mysterious new invention that's going to be bigger than the Internet, and that's going to make its inventor, Dean Kamen, richer than Bill Gates in the next five years, blah, blah, blah. And we're all agog about what exactly it's going to be.

    Dean

    Well, Dean Kamen himself has now come out, rather confusingly, to inform us that -- uh -- actually the invention is not "earth-shattering". But then the technology correspondent of The Wall Street Journal (who has apparently seen the damn thing up close), is still insisting that it is "bigger than the Internet," although he admits that it is "smaller than cold fusion."

    So what the #&@% is it?

    Is it going to be some kind of anti-gravity scooter (as some smarty-pants deduced by looking up Kamen's patent application)?

    Or is it merely going to be a new kind of palm pilot made from some translucent candy-coloured acrylic, as one cynic suspects?

    My own bet is that until it actually comes along and hits us on the head, we ain't going to know for sure. (Don't forget that Time magazine, in its notorious 1995 cover story on 10 Technology Trends for the Future, made only a passing reference to the Internet.)

    Dean
    When it comes to speculation, even the smartest of business pundits often make complete ass-holes of themselves. Take the case of Martin Sorrell, for instance, the financial genius who masterminded all those Saatchi & Saatchi takeovers in the mid '80s, which made it momentarily the world's largest ad agency.

    When Sorrell quit Saatchi & Saatchi to start out on his own, the entire business world was on tippy-toe. They all knew he was up to something Big but they didn't know what the hell it was. Then word suddenly leaked out that Sorrell had bought himself a nearly bankrupt supermarket trolley company, called Wires & Plastic Products.

    Wow, said everybody, what a stroke of genius! Trust Martin Sorrell to spot the great business opportunity in supermarket trolleys. It's so obvious: he's realised that there's going to be a big boom in using supermarket trolleys as an advertising medium. Why didn't anybody think of this before?

    Supermarket

    And that was it, until several months later, when we realised that Sorrell couldn't give a shit about supermarket trolleys -- all he had wanted was a cheap shell company through which he could raise the capital to finance his mega agency takeovers: first, J Walter Thompson, then Ogilvy & Mather, and more recently, Young & Rubicam, the biggest, bluest chip names in the advertising industry.

    Can you imagine how Sorrell must have sniggered when everyone was busy trying to analyse his supposed "Supermarket Trolley Game-plan"? Well, that is precisely the way Dean Kamen, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos and all the other investors in "Ginger," are probably sniggering at all the speculation right now. ("An Ionized Hover-board? Did you hear that, Steve? Ha, ha, ha, ha!")

    So I would suggest that we don't waste any more time trying to guess what the damn thing is; just sit back and relax till Mr Kamen is good and ready to finally unveil it in 2002.

    And, meanwhile, here's something to keep your little grey cells gainfully occupied: an Acronym Generator, which you can use to play around with the word GINGER (in the unlikely event that the acronym itself presents a clue). Just choose one word from each column at random, put them together and see what you get.

A B C D E F
Gyroscopic Intuitive Networking Globular Enhanced Responder
Gravitational Intelligent Nanotech Gamma Energised Receptor
Geodesic Icon-based Newtonian Genital Electronic Receiver
Global Inductive Neural Genomic Epistemologic Radiation-Device
Galactic Intermediate Neucleotide Ginseng-flavoured Ectomorphic Ram-rod

Alternatively, you could create your own acronym, from scratch. Like maybe "Garbage Insertion, Non-Garbage Ejection Responder". Or, in other words, some sort of device that automatically separates the rubbish from the facts.

Which, of course, is exactly what we need under the circumstances.

Design, Illustration: Lynette Menezes

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Anvar Alikhan

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