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Home  /  geekspeak  /  Technology and water don't mix — or do they?

Technology and water don't mix — or do they?

Almost everyone over the age of six knows that electronic devices and water aren’t a good combination. There’s the safety aspect of not giving yourself a shock (and only a shock if you’re lucky), not to mention turning your shiny electronic gadgets into soaking wet paperweights, and not much else. Spill a cup of tea into your notebook, drop your iPod into the toilet or have your digital camera fall over the side of the boat, and you can pretty much kiss it goodbye, so the conventional wisdom goes.

Conventional wisdom, though, is changing, albeit slowly. In the notebook space, you might not think of Panasonic as a major notebook player, and with good reason. Head into any retail PC store and you’re less likely to see a Panasonic notebook on the shelves. That’s largely because they’re all out getting wet. Panasonic has for many years led the industry with its Toughbook line of waterproof, shockproof and darned near indestructible notebooks. At least within the context of other notebooks. I’ve seen things done to Toughbooks that would reduce other systems to so much digital dust. Toughbooks have been around for quite some time, but they’ve always been a costly option. Conventional wisdom again says that this kind of rugged costs big money.

Again, though, conventional wisdom seems to be shifting. In recent weeks I’ve hit examples of much more mainstream consumer tech getting the waterproof treatment. As I write this, I’m in the middle of testing Kodak’s PlaySport Zx3 handheld 1080P camcorder. It’s a pocket sized unit that uses flash memory, a category that’s exploded in the last twelve months and in which category leader Flip often draws the most headlines. The Zx3’s claim to fame? It’s waterproof up to 3 metres. I haven’t had the chance — yet — to find three metres of water to test it in, but even a camcorder that can survive a serious storm is something worth considering.

Sony, likewise is getting into the “don’t worry about the water” game with what it’s calling a “Washable Walkman” line. Way back in the dim dark 1980s, I once dropped a Walkman into a bathtub. Thankfully I wasn’t in it at the time, and I was most stunned when it actually worked afterwards. That was a tape based model with minimal electronics, however. I know plenty of people who got their iPods just that bit too damp and had to forego their dose of Wet, Wet, Wet as a result. The “Washable” Walkman doesn’t aspire to the same kinds of depths that Kodak reckon you can drop the Zx3 to, with notes that it shouldn’t be immersed in water, but can be placed under a tap with low to medium flow levels. Again, a perfect companion for the next time you go jogging in the rain. If only to get out of the rain, that is.

Not everyone will want a waterproof gadget. They tend to be a little bulkier and less aesthetically pleasing. Then again, there’s a strong argument that a gadget that still works after a little hydration is a whole lot better than a shiny brick that faints at the first sign of water.

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