TypewriterFrom The Urbach Letter – December 2002

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Cool Thing of the Month


The Griffin Technology Power-Mate
You open the package, set this brushed aluminum cylinder on your desk, and plug it into your PC or Mac's USB port. A ring of transparent plastic around its base begins to glow iridescent blue. The giant dial looks like it came from a high-end audiophile stereo system; it even has that same silky feel when you turn it. Twisting the dial adjusts your computer speaker volume. Tapping it instantly mutes the sound. The blue ring dims or brightens as you adjust the volume – or you can set it to slowly pulse while the computer is idle, causing passerby to stop and remark, 'What *is* that cool thing on your desk?'

But wait, there's more… The Griffin Technology Power-Mate is actually a universal controller, capable of performing any command that has a keyboard equivalent. You can use it as a 'jog wheel' to rewind or fast-forward a video or audio file, scroll through web pages or word processor files, change the size of a paintbrush in Photoshop, or do practically anything you want (it senses the program you're using and adjusts itself accordingly). The default out-of-the box configuration is a master volume control, and for me, that's the killer application. I like to listen to internet radio when I'm working, and being able to fine-tune volume without reaching around and fiddling with tiny speaker knobs is wonderful. Even better, when the phone rings, the Power-Mate acts like a giant emergency mute button! The Power-Mate designed by Takahiko Suzuki, a jewelry designer from Nagano, Japan. The blue light was suggested by Naoko, his wife. Seems Naoko was always yelling, 'Takahiko, turn down that music!' She was the inspiration he needed to create the ultimate volume control. Is it worth $45? You decide. I'm giving them as holiday gifts.

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