Bill Buxton's Notes

This is an extreme case of what I call a "super appliance", or multi-function device. The heart of it is a 5" black-and-white portable television. But that does not even begin to tell the whole story. Here is a list of what it includes:

  1. Television: 5" black-and-white TV with VHF/UHF bands
  2. Radio: with Weather Channel and AM & FM bands
  3. Siren: acoustic
  4. Lights:
    1. Flashing Red Emergency Light
    2. "Torch" style flash light
    3. Fluorescent Lamp for general illumination
  5. Thermometer
  6. Clock
  7. Compass
  8. Ultra-Sonic Mosquito Repeller

So that you can use this device in a range of circumstances, it can be powered by batteries (9 D-cells), from an automobile cigarette lighter receptacle, or from your regular home wall-plug.

Given the inclusion of the emergency lights and siren, and its ability to be used un-tethered due to the option of battery power, one might imagine that the device is designed to be used in emergency situations, such as in a storm, for example. One might be forgiven, therefore, if one is a bit taken aback by the cautions in the manual about using the device in the rain, extreme heat, or its fragility:

Of course, the value of all of these emergency functions hangs on whether or not you have the device with you at the time of the emergency. Given its size and weight, I suspect that unless you travel in a very large motor-home, you will not have room for it.

This device caught my eye the minute that it was released. It was so over the top, I had to get one. I have no idea who it was designed for (other than collectors of bizarre products like me), or why Jeep – a company known for making rugged outdoor products – would want to associate their brand with such a product.

When I got it, I was even more surprised (delighted?) by how bad it was. In addition to having so many functions that it was essentially useless, you could pretty much only use one of the electronic functions at a time. For example, you can’t have a light on while listening to the radio or watching TV. Fantastic!

Given how many potentially great products I have seen that never made it into production, I am still amazed by some of the products that do. There is an important lesson in this: a great idea is not enough to carry a product to market. There are other factors at play that the designer and innovator must take into account. Furthermore, these other factors may very well trump a good idea.

Successful design must take the whole deal into account!

Bill Buxton
April 2011

Device Details

Company: Jeep Electronics | Year: 2003