Remember Chumby? It was one of the oddest looking consumer products introduced in 2008. Squishy, the color of mud; it offered something that was then called widgets (we’re now starting to call them apps) and displayed, for starters, the time, the weather, your friends’ Facebook status, the pandas at the San Diego Zoo (live), the view from the bridge of your favorite cruise ship, and, if you were feeling restless, bubble wrap to pop. You either loved it or hated it. I loved it. My husband hated it. So, these days, Chumby sits on my nightstand. It serves as my alarm clock and, when my kids wake up, they rush over and tap it for a weather check. I also use it to monitor the weather in Evanston, Ill., where my oldest attends college, so if the weather is going to be really nasty I can text a reminder to wear an extra layer.
Fast forward to CES 2010, held last week in Las Vegas. Sony introduced a very cool gadget, the $199 Dash Personal Internet Viewer, that does things like tell you the time, the weather, and your friends’ Facebook status. It was so well received that it was one of the ten contenders in Last Gadget Standing, a gadget face-off (won this year by the Boxee Box, a device that feeds Internet content to a television). While on the outside, the Dash doesn’t look anything like a Chumby—it’s black and hard-edged and very high tech with a nice big display—it is indeed “powered by Chumby;” Chumby has grown up.
I wonder if my husband would want one?
Top left: Sony Dash. Right: Chumby.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 40 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.