Hey, what's that beep? Cell phone? Pager? Watch alarm? No, it's your wallet -- you left your Visa card back at the store.
Yes, the beeping wallet, technology's latest effort to save us from ourselves. It works like this: Remove a credit card from your wallet, it beeps. One beep, like when the microwave has the Lean Cuisine ready. If the card isn't back in the wallet within 20 seconds, it beeps again, three times.
This beeping continues intermittently until your card is safely back in the wallet or until five minutes have passed, whichever comes first. Apparently the wallet figures that if you don't get the hint by then, you're beyond hope.
The beeping wallet is the brainchild of David Kopel, a former NASA aeronautical engineer in California who saw the need for such a wallet when his wife lost her credit cards a few years ago. Using his own wallet, he experimented with various wires and electronic components before hitting on a combination of a tiny microchip and a watch battery.
The beeping wallet from Kopel Inc. comes in both men's and women's styles and sells for $20 to $35. And there's another model that beeps when you remove your passport. All the particulars can be found on Kopel's Web site: www.beepingwallet.com.
One beep-free warning: Like everything computerized, of course, the wallet is garbage in, garbage out. For it to work properly, you have to have a credit card -- or a driver's license or a library card -- in each of its pockets. Otherwise it -- and you -- will get confused.