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Can you even call this a “smart” keychain?

February 6, 2015

One of the 40-or-so super photos I found on the Superex.

Binners and dumpster divers are always fishing old technology out of the garbage. The little digital photo keychain that a friend of mine just rescued out of a dumpster is a perfect case in point. Even though it’s still sold in stores it’s definitely old technology.

The Superex digital photo keychain, style 99-53, boasts a 1.8-inch colour TFT LCD display. The internal 32MB of storage can hold up to 94 photos, which need to be scaled down to the screen’s resolution of 128 x 160 pixels and synched to the device using photo viewer software available for both Windows and OSX from the Superex support site. The device charges its built-in 3.7v Lithium battery and synchs through the same USB 1.1 port.

Navigation is provided by three physical buttons: forward, backward and menu. Besides being able to cycle backwards and forwards through the photos, the device can display the current date and time.

According to the 99-53’s user manual it is made in China for Superex Canada Ltd. of Toronto and has its own Costco number: 161792.

But as limited as it looks on the surface, it’s a fact that the true capabilities of many a computer device are underplayed or deliberately hidden so that the device can fit comfortably within a product category.

Several dedicated ebook readers, such as the Kindle Fire and the Nook can be fairly easily “rooted” in order to unlock their full-fledged tablet computer capabilities. Even my humble little Sansadisk MP3 player can run video games and edit text files thanks to the addition of Rockbox firmware.

So what power might lurk inside this photo keychain; what amazing things can you do with it?

You can turn it into a video player


Well, you can at least make people think it plays video. Load a bunch of pictures onto to it which are individual frames of animation and then quickly click the forward button to cycle through them — a flip book for the digital age!

Read ebooks with it


There’s nothing (beyond common sense) to say that you can’t fill your digital picture keychain with pictures of text. Admittedly the screen is small and you would have to make your wee little 128 x 160 pixel “pages” in an image editing program but you could do it.

As to what kind of content could possibly justify such effort; I guess it would need to be something very short and personally meaningful — did I mention short?

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This trick of turning text into pictures is admittedly easier and works better when used to turn a 7- to 10-inch digital picture frame into a cheap ebook reader.

If you have a bit of computer wherewithal you can use an available conversion script written in the Python programming language that will automatically convert Project Gutenburg ebooks to images suitable for a digital picture frame.

Otherwise, I think you can do just as well using a print-to-image utility such as the freeware Windows program PDFCreator which can scale and “print” any document to a PDF, JPG, PNG or TIF image file.

Make yourself a smart-looking watch


Glue it onto a strap of some sort and voila! people will think you have a smartwatch. If anyone asks to see it do notifications or run apps, just tell them that you’re still having trouble Bluetoothing it to your phone.

For bonus verisimilitude, use a fine black marker to write the word “Samsung” over the Superex logo, or just cut and paste a small computer company logo of your choice from a magazine ad.

Tech for people who don’t know any better

Okay, I admit it, the Superex photo keychain does next to nothing and what little it does do can be done better, bigger and faster by the cheapest and crappiest modern phone.

The Superex photo keychain belongs to a category of computer stuff that exists only to package and sell obsolete tech.

Otherwise it’s a dreadful excuse for a computer product. It features a crappy little LCD screen that was low-end even in 2005; it’s USB 1.1 port was new tech back in 1998 — 17 years ago! Everything about it, especially its processor, will be of a similar ancient vintage.

It exemplifies the kind of electronics that you will find on the shelves of so-called dollar stores and on the counters of 24-hour convenience stores, right by the cash registers, so as to tempt a bit more money out of the pockets of very drunk people at three in the morning.

Useless as this photo keychain is though, I still think it’s a keeper.

It lights up and tells the time, charges off my laptop and, unlike the person who originally paid money for it in a store, I got it free out of the garbage so I really do feel like I got my money’s worth; though I never did figure out where to put the keys. Click the images to enlarge them.

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