Thoughts on the QCat personal hand-held scanner

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Since its introduction around August 2000, the QCat has generated much interest throughout the internet community. The premise is this: QCat is a barcode reader which installs between the keyboard and your PC. When you scan a barcode (either a proprietary "Cue" in certain print ads, or a product's UPC), QCat software directs your browser to the appropriate page. The idea is that QCat can conceivably save you some time, and even steer you to some special offers only available to QCat users. Sounds, well, to be polite (bear in mind my overall take on marketing & advertising), interesting.

The folks distributing these nifty gizmos, Digital Convergence (DC), include this tagline under their name in the brochure-

[insert chilling, somber music here. Bartok, maybe]

"Engineering your Digital Future"

Much of the controversy surrounding the device stems from two central issues (follow-ups on the links page):

1. DC clearly designed the device with the capability to track the use of each QCat individually, AND the 'registration' process includes reporting your name & demographics to DC before you can use the device. This adds up to some serious privacy concerns.

2. DC has also taken a heavy-handed tack in dealing with the inevitable hackers & geeks who have taken to modifying their QCats for their own purposes. DC's vague overtures include the assertion that DC reserves the right to control an individual's use of a free gift, and that using the device for other-than-intended applications could somehow result in damage claims from DC.

The brochure accompanying your complimentary QCat describes the device and the concept in glowing terms:
  • "QCat takes the work out of surfing the web."
  • "[the] technology is truly magic and installation is as easy as 1-2-3."
  • "With one swipe, the QCat reads any product code and instantly transports you to the corresponding web page associated with that product."
  • "The QCat reader reads product codes instantly connects you to special savings, offers, video and more on the web."
The cat-related section of this site is composed of several independent pages:
  • A deconstruction of the marketspeak outlined above.
  • A record of my attempts to use the QCat as intended.
  • A letter to Digital Convergence, requesting that they come get their device.

    Unless I hear from them, I'll post a photographic record of the QCat's destruction. If others feel compelled to likewise record the destruction of their QCat, I will publish their efforts here as well. If you happen to have any such pics, contact me.

  • A mildly humorous jpeg-album of "disabled" QCats (coming soon)
  • A list of QCat links

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