For Parents

(Part of The Future: A Retrospective)


Fever Check

Fever Check
Odds 95%
Year 1992
Cost N/A

Got the fever? Keep it in check, with Fever Check! Alternately, instrument your kids' pajamas with an under-armpit thermometer so that you can micromanage their body temperatures when they're sick. It's Harry Bloch's idea and you can read all about it in Patent #4747413.

This exists today, in the form of the Bebe Sounds Remote Fever Monitor Free Shipping, for about $60/2007. It's a clip-on, so you don't have to make your kid wear the same pajamas every night they're sick. Epinions reviewer hates it, says it's inaccurate. Maybe your abdominal temperature is just different from your oral temperature?


Velcro Cloth Diapers

Velcro Cloth Diapers
Odds 100%
Year 1991
Cost "Same as regular cloth diapers"

Velcro has proven a boon ever since its introduction to Earth society by the Vulcans. Now, Velcro addiction can start earlier than ever, with pinless Velcro cloth diapers. These exist today (at about $10/2007 per pair of diapers), but are they used? I asked my sister, a known harborer of babies who wear diapers:

me: do you ever use diapers with velcro tabs?
Susie: yes, always

There you have it. Velcro cloth diapers: undisputed conquerors of Earthlings' butts. The brand mentioned in this entry, Didee-Snugs, is no longer being manufacturered, and people online have mixed feelings about it.


Pregaphone

Pregaphone
Odds 100%
Year 1990
Cost $14/1989 ($23/2007)

I'm pretty sure this was one of Joel's invention exchanges on MST3K. It's "one of those wonderful ideas that started out as a joke and turned into a business." Like Enron! It's a mouthpiece connected to a funnel by a tube. You can talk to your unborn child with it.

In a bit of chain-letter-esque writing we learn that "Dawn Hodson, a California business consultant, gave it to a friend as a shower gift. She now runs Pregaphone Inc." The name on the patent is Janet D. Hodson, and this NYT article describes Janet as "a business consultant in Ventura, Calif." Is "Dawn" just Janet's nickname? [Update much later: oh yeah, the "D" probably stands for "Dawn".]

This review says that the pregophone is pretty much useless, since "[e]very unborn child will hear a parent just as well if they raise their voice--no additional amplification is needed." Which makes sense, since your voice originates near the unborn child. Despite the uselessness, this kind of product is still being sold.


Kids' TV Monitor

Kids' TV Monitor
Odds 100%
Year 1990
Cost $70/1989 ($120/2007)

You might thing this is a way to spy on your kids with hidden cameras, but the late 80s weren't quite that creepy. It took a full decade for the amazing X-10 wireless spycam to make its appearance. This is actually a full-scale assault on the most pressing public health issue of the 1980s: kids sitting too close to the TV.

"Kids respect technology," says Mike Stevens, "and this effectively conditions them to sit back." That explains a lot, actually. If you get too close to the TV, the picture is disrupted and you see the color of a television tuned to an empty channel. It's sold through H-S, and promised enhancements to the future of parental control include control over when your children can watch TV, and what channels they can watch.

I wonder how well any of this would work since it probably connects to the TV through RCA cables that are easy to disconnect. Also, they probably got put out of business by the V-Chip. Remember the V-Chip? Remember when that was all there was to get worked up about? Good times.

The company responsible for the Eye Guardian shows up mainly in references to a court case, "Platinum Communications Systems Inc v IMAX Corp and Bank of Nova Scotia". Doesn't sound good for them.


Infant Safe Seat

Infant Safe Seat
Odds 70%
Year 1991
Cost N/A

Whenever I read a sentence like "The solution was The Sitter." I know I'm in for a good Future Stuff entry. The solution to what? Mobile babies, basically, renegade babies who don't play by the book! They won't hold still to have their diapers changed in a public place! BUT THEY GET RESULTS. The results being poop.

Locate table for changing babies? You need baby changing table. The Sitter appears to be the ancestor of the now-ubiquitous changing table found in institutional bathrooms across the country. The inventors: Vincent and Marie Siani. Future Stuff claims the invention was patented, and although there are many patents for changing table technology, none of them are assigned to people with these names.

"One question remains unanswered, however. For every Sitter sold for a public ladies' lounge, will the inventors be able to sell one for a men's room too?" From the future, I can answer this question in the positive.


Meals For Kids

Meals For Kids
Odds 100%
Year 1991
Cost Under $3/1989 ($4/2007)

"These nutritious meals are the first to be packaged for mass-market distribution with the two- to eight-year-old in mind... they'll be adisplayed next to the dry pasta in your supermarket."

The real innovation here is "retort packaging", a technique that never really showed up in US supermarkets. I guess some of the Tetra-Pak stuff qualifies. The selling point of Mary Anne Jackson's "My Own Meals" is that it's a healthy meal that's easy to prepare. But not too easy: "'Because mothers have to remove the food from the pouch and arrange it and put it on a plate, they feel as if they are serving a meal,' says Jackson."

Well, cake mixes used to have dried egg in them and then switched to requiring a fresh egg, so that people who made the mix would feel like they were really cooking. I think if you're aiming to alleviate parent-guilt with your product, playing up the importance of proper plating won't do it. Better luck next time, retort packaging.


Biodegradable diapers

Biodegradable diapers
Odds 100%
Year 1990
Cost $59 per case

They're diapers. They biodegrade (but not in actual landfill conditions; see "Biodegradable Plastic Bags" passim). This is not going to be one of the more exciting entries. There's a NYT article that spells out what's in the Future Stuff entry.

Note that the state of California says reusable diapers are more environmentally friendly than biodegradable. So stick with the Velcro diapers.


Home Shopping For Kids

Home Shopping For Kids
Odds 90%
Year 1991
Cost "Free service"

"The trend has gone from Tupperware to sexy underwear and now to kids' clothing." That sums up my purchase history pretty well. Ba-dum-bum! No, Future Stuff is talking about "those at-home shopping parties." Yes, in keeping with a chapter-long tradition of misleading names ("Kids' TV Monitor", "Infant Safe Seat"), the stuff being sold here is not cool H-S gadgets that kids would enjoy, but boring clothes.

Fittingly, boredom was the inspiration for this project. "I hated shopping with my kids," says Margot Ravon, "particularly in small Manhattan boutiques, because it was a nightmare and the kids hated going." Sure, who doesn't hate small Manhattan boutiques? Now, the sanctity of your home can be defiled as the boutique comes to your living room! The business is called "Clothes to Home", which has the ideal small-business name as it combines a cliche with a pun. Contemporaneous NYT article.


Toddler Hair-Washing Board

Toddler Hair-Washing Board
Odds 75%
Year 1991
Cost $15/1989 ($24/2007)

Normal "ticking bomb" hypotheticals that coerce you into waterboarding arbitrary strangers are for chumps! Do you dare to wrestle with the weighty moral dilemmas posed by the "ticking super-bomb" scenario, in which an even deadlier bomb can only be defused if you waterboard a baby? Don't be caught off guard should this sickening, unrealistic and completely improbable hypothetical arise! This beauty sports "a plastic surface with safety straps that hold the child in place, suction cups to secure the board to the countertop, and neck and headrests like those in a beauty parlor."

Having written that paragraph I could dial it down by saying that this product is actually just a way to keep your child from squirming while you're washing his/her hair in the sink. Or I could continue playing along with the bleak joke. Or I could try to defuse the tense situation by going meta, which is what I've done. Won't stop the nightmares, though!


This document (source) is part of Crummy, the webspace of Leonard Richardson (contact information). It was last modified on Monday, March 31 2008, 00:26:30 Nowhere Standard Time and last built on Wednesday, October 01 2014, 05:00:07 Nowhere Standard Time.

Crummy is © 1996-2014 Leonard Richardson. Unless otherwise noted, all text licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Document tree:

http://www.crummy.com/
writing/
TheFuture/
For Parents.html
Site Search: