ITag Bookmarks the Radio

SAN FRANCISCO (07/05/2000) - You're driving along when a song that you love comes on the radio. You don't know the name or the artist, so you're hoping the DJ will name that tune for you. Instead, when the song's over, the DJ spins right into the next one.

You're out of luck -- or are you? Not if the folks at Xenote Inc. have their way. The company has a new device called an ITag that lets radio listeners 'bookmark' music as it's played on participating radio stations, then get more info about the song and artist on the Web.

When you sign up at the company's Web site, they'll mail you an ITag, a dark blue, translucent gadget about the size of a car's electronic lock-unlock device. When you hear a song that you want to know more about, you simply point the ITag at the radio and press a button to tag the tune. The device makes a sound reminiscent of R2D2 and a green light flashes.

You then connect the device to a serial-port cable on a PC, log in at the Xenote site, and upload the 'tags' to the Xenote server. In less than a minute, your browser will display basic information about the album on which the song is included and a list of other albums by the artist. In many cases, you can listen to excerpts from the artist's albums. And, of course, you can click a link to Amazon.com or CDnow.com to buy the album.

The ITag also allows you (joy!) to tag advertisements and promotions that you hear on the radio.

I checked out the device and found it performed as advertised, with no hitches.

At the moment, though, the use of the ITag is fairly limited. Currently, only eight radio stations are participating, one each in Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Houston, Phoenix, San Francisco, St. Louis, and Washington, D.C. Also, you must have an available serial-port on your PC. If not, you'll have to disconnect whatever device is using that port and temporarily disable its software, which can be a pain.

Finally, the entire process requires at least five steps, from zapping the radio with the ITag to uploading the tags. Unless you love gadgets, most people will opt to just write the song down on a piece of paper-- if the DJ offers it, that is.

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