"Get Smart" Gets Real

By Tim Moran  |  Posted 2009-03-26 Print this article Print

Bad ideas in computer history, bad television in real life, and the Governator.

‘Smart’ Aussie Takes ‘Control’ of Shoe Phone

OK, you knew it had to happen one day. An article in Australia’s The Age (theage.com.au) reports that an Aussie “boffin”—their term of endearment for an egghead engineer or computer geek—has created a real, working version of the shoe phone used by Maxwell Smart on the Get Smart TV show some 40 years ago. The boffin has also published detailed instructions for making the phone at instructables.com and is considering selling it online at some point.

Dr. Paul Gardner-Stephen, a post-doctoral fellow in bioinformatics at Adelaide’s Flinders University, created the original phone as a prop for a church camp show. When he realized that no one had yet devised a fully functional version of a shoe phone, he stepped lively, clicked his heels and trotted off to make one.

According to the article in theage.com, Gardner-Stephen’s first iteration was simply a Bluetooth headset embedded in the sole of a shoe. The wearer still had to carry a mobile phone in his or her pocket. He then enlisted the help of a “cobbler friend” (a cobbler?!), who hollowed out the heels of a pair of shoes into which Gardner-Stephen fit a Motorola V620 phone in one and a Bluetooth headset in the other. The post-doc fellow used the phone for three days and called it “quite good fun,” except when he had to answer his slip-on while driving.

On a serious note (is that any longer possible?), reports theage.com, Gardner-Stephen realized that “the concept could be applied to caring for the elderly and remote patient monitoring. He said storing electronics in a shoe would be unobtrusive and wouldn’t be objectionable to older people who aren’t comfortable with modern technology.” Well, at least he’s not a heel, and he has some sole.

Tim Moran is a freelance writer for Baseline magazine.

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