Ginger Mavis was a STEM geek. Her first invention came at the age of 8 when she somehow rewired the doorbell to ring whenever the ice cream truck was ten houses away.
She had timed herself to see how long it took her to make it outside by the time she heard the carnival music of the truck playing. It was roughly ten houses. Her father was perplexed when the doorbell suddenly stopped ringing. He was equally dumbfounded when the doorbell rang randomly between five and six o'clock every evening.
The jig was up when the neighbor down the street discovered an unidentified object secured to the side of his mailbox. He called in the police, who in turn called in an investigative team.
The device turned out to be a modified camera and motion detector. Ginger had somehow jimmy-rigged the items to her house's doorbell to notify her of her daily delivery of frozen confectionaries.
Ginger was grounded for a month. Her science and discovery kit was confiscated by the police, who couldn't believe an elementary school kid was responsible for the monitoring device. Her other tech toys were confiscated by her parents.
Although she was bored to tears by the end of the thirty days, the incident didn't deter her from wanting to invent more things.
Flash forward twenty years. Ginger is happily married to her job as the lead inventor at a startup tech company. Butterfly Collar was the name of the company. BC specialized in manufacturing bespoken electronics. A lot of their work involved retrofitting new devices to look old. They also created some new-old devices from scratch.
Most requests came from people wanting record players that looked like phonographs; floor-size, wooden hi-fi systems; steampunk headphones; and solid wood casings mobile phones. The company was very popular in this niche.
Ginger's job was to research old devices and redesign them for modern practicality. She was happy with her job, but her title didn't seem to match her efforts.
When she was hired five years prior, she thought she would be inventing things that were completely new, or redesigned in a way that it was a new "type" of thing. What her company did was mainly redesign exteriors. Ginger's passion was to take things apart and see what was on the inside, then change it to do something different.
Disillusioned with social media's influence on real-life relationships, Ginger ditched most of her personal social media accounts. She did remain connected to MeetUp and some other social club groups that met in person. She wished more people would return to some of the old ways of meeting new people and building relationships.
Her creative juices started flowing when she came across some boxes in her parent's basement. The cardboard bins contained retro calculators that took rolls of paper; answering machines; wall-mount telephones (push-button and rotary); a couple of old brick cellphones. Ginger also found two pagers.
After refreshing her memory online about what the small, boxy Motorola was for, Ginger brainstormed about how to bring it back in style.
When pagers were at their social height in the nineties, cell phones weren't prevalent. That meant people were able to send an electronic to someone while they were out and about without being glued to the device for other things, like web surfing, social media crawling, or getting lost on short-form video platforms.
In Ginger's mind, the time before cell phones were the golden age of socializing. How could she start a movement to disconnect people from their cellphone screens and rely less on being online to do things offline?
After buying a dozen or so used pagers from eBay, she got to work on her newest invention. Eight months later, she had a working prototype of the Zeeper. The Zeeper was a cross between a beeper, a "check-in" app, MeetUp, and Pinterest.
Users who were out doing activities or in areas where fun things were happening could push a button to ping their location. If another person who was using the Zeeper was in range and was also 'pinged' to the location, an encrypted phone number for each person would be sent to the Zeeper.
All a person had to do was call the number (using any phone, not just a cellphone) and they could talk on the phone and get to know one another. If they agreed to meet, they could, and just like that, a new friend was made. Offline, and with minimal dependence on the internet or mobile device.
Her parents supported her reinvention of the beeper, but most of her friends thought it was lame. Why go through all that trouble to get paged on one device just to find another device to contact the person? And what if you need to use GPS to meet up at the agreed location? You're going to need your cell phone anyway. Might as well ditch the other steps and keep what most people already used.
Ginger was disappointed at people's inability to understand that the extra steps was the point. She wanted her device to encourage less swiping and more physical interaction. She wanted people to have to pick up a phone and call someone, without the ease of texting or messaging through an app.
Since most people were not a part of the low media lifestyle like Ginger was, they couldn't fathom not already being "connected" to the happenings going on around them and either participating virtually, or missing most of the moments by selfie-stripping the event through constant recording and photo-taking.
Although the invention was a passion project of Ginger's, she agreed to license it to her startup company after trying to market it for a year with no success. The fabricated plastic was replaced with resin-coated woodgrain. The clear white LCD display was replayed with the retro green of the nineties. The spring-loaded plastic clip was changed out for a die-cut metal bar with a beautiful art deco filigree.
Ginger had to admit, the makeover was a beautiful one. Sales on her Zeeper improved under the company, but barely. After two years a grand total of one hundred twenty sold worldwide. That was less than ten units every two months.
Never discouraged for long, Ginger headed to her parent's house. In their basement, she rambled through more items in the card cardboard boxes. Her creative juices were flowing again. It was an electric ashtray device called No Smoke. The funny-looking circular contraption was wrapped in its original packaging. A slight man with white hair was pictured on the box. The script above his picture said, "as seen on tv". The script below his face said: George Burns. She pulled the machine out of the box, turning it around in her hands. As she considered the easiest way to disassemble it, her creative juices started flowing.