Packet Rat: Toon in for the latest in IT products from TV Land

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

'They call it what?' The Rat was examining the latest buzz-creation device issued by Apple on a recent morning and was having some difficulty getting past the name.

The new pointing device, with virtual left and right buttons, a clickable 360-degree scrolling ball and a set of programmable, digitally conjoined belly buttons is called ... Mighty Mouse.

'No, they couldn't have possibly have gotten this past their legal department,' the whiskered one insisted.

While nearly every tech writer who has touched the new huggable, clickable Mac mouse has raved about it, it is just another mouse, after all. The name, however, has convinced nearly everyone that it is somehow something more than that'it must be, because it's 'Mighty.'

Which, to the wirebiter, begged the question: Would other computer peripherals become objets d'art if they, too, were affixed with names reminiscent of increasingly obscure cartoon characters from the last millennium?

To find out, he gathered together the best minds in his coffee mess and set about creating a short list of hardware and software products that would be sure, trademark licensing permitting, to make Googlenaires out of all of them.

There were some significant early failures, to say the least. 'Somehow, despite the name recognition, I don't think a Popeye-branded monitor would do very well,' the Rat said tactfully to his team. 'And though a spinach-can-sized monitor would certainly do wonders for desktop real estate, I suspect that the resulting eyestrain would indeed pop eyes.'

A related product offering was also a flop. While a burger-shaped and -sized computer showed some promise in early audience testing, no one seemed interested in actually buying anything called a Wimpy PC.

There was some initial success with the Boris & Natasha Search Engine. But unfortunately, the search algorithm only worked well with the keywords 'moose' and 'squirrel.' And whenever it found sites with those terms, the system bombed.

The El Kabong-edition iPod had similar problems. As a result of the ruggedization required to fully meet the trademark tie-in specifications, the El Kapod was better-suited to being used as an improvised weapon for subduing evildoers than for actually playing digital music files.

An alternative wireless peripheral system code-named 'Snaggletooth' kept dropping signals and exiting, stage right, even. And when it did manage to connect, it had serious performance issues due to an overacting protocol.

Not every project was a total failure, mind you. An intelligent shopping-agent technology called Yogi proved especially adept at finding picnic baskets.

And then there was the new sports digital music player that worked even when totally immersed. It, however, suffered from a dual trademarking curse.

'We wanted to call it AquaMan,' the Rat explained to his wife as lawyers from Sony and Marvel battled in the next room over the prototype.

And so, dear reader, if you have any suggestions on other potential cartoon-tech tie-ins, the Rat will be happy to give you what the venture capitalists gave his crew for theirs'a hearty handshake.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at

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