I have held the future in my hands and it is weird.
What has a microphone, a speaker, and syncs up your actions with sound by navigating little dots? It's not Rock Band. It's a pen called the Pulse, a name which I have previously seen mainly describing gyms, dance clubs and the efficiency of the human heart.
The main idea behind the pen is to help people who take notes on something that happens aloud to capture every moment. If you miss a word while taking notes, the pen catches it.
WAIT, WHAT DOES IT DO?
Let's say you're taking notes in a meeting. The Boss is outlining your duties on an upcoming business trip, and you are feverishly writing down every detail. A welcome break comes when The Boss' assistant pokes his head in to ask for a sandwich order, enabling you to catch up with some of the last action items The Boss has given you.
But later, you realize that you have written down his sandwich order rather than the drop-dead minimum price you are to get for some sale.
This is OK for two reasons: One, you are a peerless suck-up and now know The Boss' favorite sandwich, which will certainly come in handy eventually. Two, you know that you are not going to sell the company property for a peanut butter, banana and bacon fried sandwich, and all you have to do to find the actual amount is tap the point of your Pulse pen on your notepad to hear the audio it recorded of The Boss saying the dollar amount.
HOW DOES IT DO THAT?
It works because you've written your notes on special paper emblazoned with "microdots" -- or small dots, if you will -- that are recognized and recorded by a tiny camera near the tip of your Pulse pen. It knows where exactly on the paper you were writing 5 minutes and 18 seconds into the meeting, which is when the Fried Sandwich Incident went down.
So to recap: You tap the pen on the words "peanut butter, banana and bacon fried sandwich," and the audio picks up playing exactly what was happening as your wrote the name of that grotesque lunch choice. If you tap it a little higher up in your notes, you'll find the audio you're looking for.
The pen is more intuitive to use than I expected it to be, and I guess I am usually overly skeptical about such things anyway. It works great -- I tested it out while watching a rerun of American Gladiators and taking extremely serious notes on the program. (Incidentally, the new series is amazing, but I do miss Larry Csonka and the Csonkastrator.)
The Pulse pen has a few other gimmicky functions that I won't get into, but you can find them all at the device's Web site.
AND WHY WOULD I USE THAT?
The chief uses, it seems to me, would be in college lectures and in journalism, but it could catch on for business use if people didn't feel weird about holding a big, bulky pen that records everything said in conference rooms. Everything. Got that, Richard Nixon? You live by the tape recorder, you die by the tape recorder.
Cool pen. Retails at $149 or $199, depending on if you'd like one gigabyte of storage or two. Friends I talked to and showed the pen to said they'd definitely pay $50 for it and maybe $75. If I were more regularly in the field reporting -- and if there were more shapes and sizes of notebooks -- I could see myself paying $100.
SCORE: FIVE OUT OF FIVE SNACKS AT GRACELAND
or: NINE OUT OF TEN INCRIMINATING OFFICE MOMENTS ON EASILY-SHAREABLE MP3s