Thursday, February 02, 2006

Pint-Sized, Living Large

Life on the road with portable products

by Carla Diana

[See Photo]

ROME, March 27, 1997 -- Many people who read [Image]
Gulliver's Travels wonder what it felt like to be
the giant in Lilliput. Now, as I live surrounded by a
collection of miniature travel accessories, I have a
better idea.

While I've been grateful that the existence of portable
appliances has allowed me to bring so much with me to
Italy, I haven't gotten used to the proportions of the
objects around me.

My makeshift sound system consists of a personal stereo
and portable "sports" speakers (a handsome set,
affectionately referred to as "Ross" by one entertaining
etowner). When I need to turn down the volume, my fingers
itch for the comfort of a bulging knob, but instead have
to contend with the measly dial that pokes out of the top
of the tape player. Advancing a cassette can't be done
easily with a stretch and a backward lean while sitting
in a dining chair. Only the clumsy procedure of holding
the thing with one hand and pressing the buttons with the
other yields successful results.

My laptop, while not the most powerful of its kind, is
delightfully small and light. It's a dream when packed in
carry-on luggage, but looks puny when dwarfed by the
hefty, five foot long desk in my apartment. My eyes have
just begun to adjust to the smaller screen, but my hands
still battle for room on the scaled-down keyboard.

At the end of the day, when my eye-hand coordination is
at its most pathetic, I have to do fine surgery on the
back of my mini alarm clock as I squint at the face to
set the time.

As if the diminutive stature of the things in my indoor
environment weren't enough, the Lilliputian trend seems
to continue outdoors. I have to turn sideways to let
people pass on the narrow cobblestone streets. A
Volkswagen bug, the "little guy" on North American
highways, towers over the Fiat parked next to it.

Yes, it's cute; it's charming; it's a reminder that every
day is an adventure. Still, I wonder if the buttons,
knobs and displays of my travel gadgets had to scaled
down as much as the objects themselves. Should I have the
opportunity to design portable electronics, I'll keep in
mind these frustrations.

Much as I love it here in Rome, I'll know I'm home the
day I see a skyscraper, a T-Bird and a full-sized
computer keyboard.

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This column is an etown.com exclusive.

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