Unintended connections

If you’ve never seen James Burke’s fantastic ten episode 1978 series called Connections, watch it! Watch it soon, watch it now!

One point he stresses in the series is that no inventor has any idea of the consequences of his invention. Do you think the first person to conceptualize the automobile thought it would completely change the structure of our cities and dump enough CO2 into our atmosphere to change the climate? I imagine they’d think you were suffering from brain fever if you suggested it.

Once you have this pointed out, you can see all kinds of devices and products being used in ways that the designer had not envisioned.

Just this week I saw a very clever example of this.

20091219_airlockAirlock is a remarkably ingenious piece of software for the Mac. All modern Macs come equipped with Bluetooth. Similarly, second generation and newer iPhones and iPod Touch models have Bluetooth. After installing Airlock, you have it identify your iPhone so it will recognize it from all others. Then, assuming you keep your iPhone somewhere on your person, your Mac will lock itself when you leave your desk, and unlock itself when you return. You don’t have to type your password or press any keys. It just happens.

It sounds too simple, but it works exactly as advertised. Don downloaded it and showed me. Once the application recognizes your iPhone, it simply locks the computer when your iPhone moves out of range (or beyond a configurable distance) and unlocks the computer when your iPhone comes back.

Bluetooth was designed as wireless means to allow electronic devices to exchange information over short distances. The cordless headset you use with your mobile phone probably uses Bluetooth. Your cordless mouse and keyboard probably use Bluetooth as well.

But to use Bluetooth to lock a computer when the user’s phone moves out of range is a very clever use of existing tools … and certainly not something the Bluetooth designers thought of at the time!

I’d already have Airlock if I could use it. But alas, I cannot. I don’t have a Mac at work, and my iPod Touch is a first-generation model without Bluetooth. Denied! Too bad … as the price is certainly reasonable. They’re asking just $7.77 and also have a demo that will work for three hours at a time allowing you to run it through its paces.

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  1. Rachel
    Posted December 20, 2009 at 14:16 | Permalink

    I LOVED the show Connections. My history teacher had us watch it in high school. It was fascinating. I have mentioned it over the years to friends but hardly anyone my age remembers that show.

  2. Shawn
    Posted December 21, 2009 at 08:53 | Permalink

    This is so cool!!!!! I can hardly wait for the PC clone to show up.

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