A lot of people my age remember David Hasselhoff in Knight Rider, a picaresque 1980s TV series programmed somewhere between a secret agent adventure and a tender bosom buddies romp. Hasselhoff played mysterious crime fighter Michael Knight, and a black Pontiac Trans-Am played his faithful sidekick, a friendly black Pontiac Trans-Am. Everyone in the know wanted such a car by the age of twelve, particularly one with a customized steering wheel with only enough wheel to grip at 10 and 2 o’clock. But the thing about that car, the car called KITT (an acronym for the Knight Industries Two Thousand), the thing was KITT talked to Hasselhoff and kept his jaw-jutting machismo company on their various car-oriented misadventures. If Michael Knight got in hot water over his mullet, he could just call out to his Pontiac cavalry for help and KITT would drive real fast to rescue Hasselhoff in a car-oriented way. Often this involved running over a menacing gang of unidentifiable Eastern European conspirators. Then a woe-begotten Michael Knight would get inside his warm sidekick and KITT would say something comforting and witty in his fatherly British way, something like "Michael, it’s about time you called for help! I couldn’t find you anywhere &, indeed, my bio-radar and heat sensory systems were overloading with worry." I never did get a Pontiac Trans-Am, but I got the next best thing in being blind. Instead, I have a computer that—no. I have a computer who talks to me, at least with some similarity to KITT. I can make him say witty and comforting things like "indeed, my bio-radar and heat sensory systems were overloading with worry". I can make him say witty and comforting things as often as I like. I’ll do it now.
Witty and comforting things.
There you go. &, like Hasselhoff, my computer voice keeps me in a pretty decent job. I don’t kill off evil people with my trusty traffic violations, or anything vigilante like that. I just mark literature essays through my computer voice, which I suppose is its own specious brand of violence in the name of the law. KITT was really good at helping Michael Knight with important issues such as where they were heading, mapping things out for him, identifying ambushes and landmines down the road, that sort of thing. That’s because the car had this red Cyclops eye on the grill which looked back and forth, looked ahead and side to side, very much like a Cylon in Battlestar Gallactica. My computer sidekick is called JAWS. What JAWS stands for I haven’t a clue to go on. Maybe something like "Just Another Writing System". You’d think with a fishy name like JAWS he would want to keep moving, writing and reading ahead, telling me where we’re going and how to get there safely. But, no, JAWS tells me only where I’ve already been, what’s already been said and done, without accenting anything in an unsolicited British or fatherly way. You’d think if they can design a car Like KITT, or make a voice of hindsight for the blind, you’d think if they can do all that then it wouldn’t be all that fictional to imagine by now some corporation like Knight Industries would have triumphed by now a better solution for moving the blind through this unflinching and rigid world. Nobody has yet improved on swinging a very un-sexy white stick with some red tape from side to side. I’m not complaining. It’s just that’s as far down the road as I’ve seen technology go in my time.
600 w. 22nd August, 2001