The 21st Century Clapper

The original clapper launched in 1986. It was a disaster. Because of shoddy engineering it started blowing up TVs, and Joseph Pedott ended up having the whole thing re-engineered. The rest is history. And a jingle!

Pedott, who lives in San Francisco, doesn't claim to be an inventor. He is an ad guy with a penchant for marketing through TV ads that were basically music video infomercials. He knows what people want and knows how to sell it: by infecting brains with addictive tunes that have no cure. Clap on! Clap off! Clap on, Clap off, The Clapper! Looking at the Clapper in that light, it makes sense that Pedott's other hit was the Chia Pet nearly a decade earlier. Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia!

I'd never actually owned a Clapper before, despite having seen the commercial a few hundred times. But I've got lamps, many of them far, far away from doorways. So I figured I'd try one out and picked up The Clapper Plus. Plus! Yes, while you weren't looking the Clapper evolved! But just a bit.

The original design worked its magic on one outlet, but this fancy new Clapper controls a second outlet. (Clap three times.) And the Plus model gains an RF remote control, which comes in handy because the thing still doesn't pick up claps as accurately as you'd like. That's one reason why the Clapper sadly makes less sense in the 21st century, except in an ironic, humorous kind of way.

The Clapper likes quiet rooms. The Clapper requires you to clap very loudly, especially if the Clapper is behind an upholstered chair or bed headboard. The Clapper is sometimes hard to trigger from across the room, requiring you to walk across the room, tip-toeing like a ballerina yet clapping loudly and madly at just the right pace, defeating the purpose of the Clapper. Oh, yes, it also requires you to clap at just the right rhythm. Too fast or too slow just won't turn on your light.

There's also an away mode, which turns on the light with any ambient noise, meant to be used to deter burglars. It is excellent for scaring the crap out of pets.

But that trick doesn't account for today's home electronics. The Clapper doesn't work with modern TVs, and lots of other electronics have soft button switches as well. So the clapper isn't really useful for anything except lamps. And there's competition.

For the same cost, anyone can pick up wireless sockets that are remotely operated by something that looks very much like a wall switch. Or motion sensing fixtures. No clapping or tip-toeing required.

But these newfangled switch companies lack a Joseph Pedott: a man who can turn their regular electronics into something unforgettable and aspirational. Forgetting about the operational quirks of the clapper, he was selling an effortless fantasy world where a light or TV was only two claps away. That sounds only one degree away from the remote-controlled wonder home of the future that I'm still waiting for.

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