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James Bond, Phone Home

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Most of us are not beeper people. Rarely are we summoned to attend to mothers in labor or strung-out club kids looking for a quick fix. I'm no exception, but the 30 days I spent with the Seiko MessageWatch convinced me that there is room for a pager in my life -- as long as it's strapped to my wrist.

The MessageWatch is actually the world's most accurate timepiece (it sets itself to the Atomic Clock at least 36 times a day), a personal information system (it retrieves sports, weather, and financial info), and a pager. Here are a few of the things I learned during my 30 days:

  • I don't know where, or even what, the Atomic Clock is, but I really like the fact that I'm in sync with it.
  • Along with basic numerical pages, you can send text messages to the MessageWatch via phone, e-mail, or the Web. The magic of this feature, I found, is not in the NASA-worthy technology that makes it all possible but rather in the urban haiku-like creations that arrive randomly throughout the day. For example, I once received, within the span of 30 minutes, the curious triptych "Call office," "Send photos," "Eat shit."
  • Indiglo rules. Unfortunately, the MessageWatch doesn't come with Indiglo. (It's got a pathetic little old-fashioned lightbulb.)
  • When you're wearing a MessageWatch, strangers on the bus feel compelled to ask (a) "How much does it cost?" and then (b) "Does it vibrate?" The answer to the former is "$14.95 a month" (the watch itself, available in different styles, starts at $79.95; call 800-724-3585 for stores) and to the latter, a regrettable "no." The MessageWatch just beeps a lot when a page arrives, so you're forced to live with the paradox that on any given day you are exactly as annoying as you are popular. Then again, the lack of vibrato also reduces the temptation to strap on elsewhere and let callers experience what it's really like to reach out and touch someone.


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