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Madeleine Begun Kane,
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Madeleine Begun Kane


I have great news for all you multi-taskers and for people who think pumping gas is a bore: Any day now, your local service station may be equipped with a combination gas pump/web browser. That way you'll be able to surf hot sites and scan your spam while breathing in gasoline fumes.

You think I'm making this up? Fraid not. Radiant Systems Inc. has announced this very service/product/testament to modern mankind's inability to do just one thing at a time.

As bizarre as this "service" sounds, don't assume it'll disappear quicker than you can burn through a tank of gas. AOL, which has a talent for sniffing out and popularizing the "next big thing," has announced a strategic partnership with Radiant. Now "strategic partnership" is one of those phrases I never quite get. For all I know, AOL's "You've got mail" slogan may soon be replaced by "You've got gas."

Radiant's technology is being touted as a practical addition to our busy lives and a solution to the problem faced by people who are laptopless and lost. Picture a woman driving in circles with a carload of kids:

Mom: Hand me that laptop. I need to download a map:

Laptop-Hogging Kid: I can't. I'm in the middle of a big Pokemon deal at EBay.

Can gas pump/web browsing really work? Or will fist and/or gunfights break out when gluttonous pump-surfing leads to Carterian gas lines:

Antsy Customer: Excuse me, but I'm waiting for gas. Please move your car so I can get to the pump.

Surfer: I'm busy -- wait your turn. Damn! That Yahoo of a map site crashed again.

Antsy Customer now reading for his gun: Move your #$%^%$# car or I'll... Hey did you say map site? I didn't know Yahoo had maps. Cool! Show me how it works ... or I'll blow your head off.

Bloomberg News quoted a Radiant spokesman as saying: "You stick your credit card on the (gas) pump, it recognizes you and brings up your AOL Web page. You can check your stock quotes at the gas station."

This brings up the following question: Do savvy investors really pump their own gas? Now I'm not sure about you, but my only pressing financial concern when gassing up my Mazda is whether my gas charge purchase will go through.

According to another article -- this one in InfoWorld -- pilot programs have enabled gas pumpers to order groceries from in-station convenience stores and have them delivered to your car. That makes sense. After all, walking a whole 30 feet from pump to convenience store is too #$%^%$# inconvenient.

But perhaps I'm being unfair. That pump/browser may come in handy when I'm on my way to an important meeting ... and I need to replace my gas spewed clothes.

© 1999 Madeleine Begun Kane. All Rights Reserved.
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