Strangers on a Train

RFID technology tracks Boston subway riders.


"Did he ever return, no he never returned and his fate is still unlearned," the Katt warbled, Kingston Trio-like. The Kitty Katt continued humming the old folk song about Charlie, the rider trapped forever on Bostons subway system, as a Beantown pal told him about the new contactless RFID card being sold by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

The CharlieCard, a prepaid subway pass for commuters, has Hub skeptics concerned that passengers who pay for the card by credit card could theoretically be tracked. Swiping the card through the automated fair collection system allows the MBTA to track where a rider entered the system, but detractors say that since radio-frequency identification cards can be read from a distance, it possibly would be just as easy to track which station a rider exited from as well.

"I guess theyll know exactly where and when Charlie returns now," laughed the Lynx. Spence and his pal had resorted to taking the subway because Boston traffic had ground to a halt due to a guerrilla ad campaign staged by the Cartoon Network. Small devices resembling Lite-Brite boxes were scattered around the city to promote the cable channels "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" show. Unfortunately, the devices were mistakenly perceived to be bombs, shutting down half the city.

As the crowded train rumbled along, His Hirsuteness held his breath as he was sandwiched between a perfumed matron and a reeking rummy. Unfazed, the pal asked Spence if hed heard that CAs former chief financial officer, Ira Zar, was sentenced to seven months in prison for his role in the software companys accounting scandal. Former CA Senior Vice President of Finance David Kaplan was sentenced to six months of home detention. "They should have sentenced them to ride this train for a "35-day" month, groused the Grimalkin as he gagged from the pungent aroma wafting through the subway car.

Soon, the duo escaped the human stew of Bostons underground transit and tossed back a couple of brews at Mr. Dooleys Tavern. There, the pal noted that Microsoft is planning to release Windows Vista SP1 by December. Redmond hopes new users will jump on board its Technology Adoption Program to help add fixes to the upcoming service pack. "I guess the adage here could be, A pound of cure is worth an ounce of prevention," mused the Mouser.

As they ordered a second round, El Gato griped that he still couldnt shake the scent of the subway from his sniffer. "Speaking of scents," said the pal, "The Wall Street Journal and USA Today both plan to run scented ads in their print editions." The pal explained that the papers planned to use a scented ink technology developed by a company called Scentisphere. The company calls its aromatic ink technology RubnSmell. "Hmm, they call their scent-vertising RubnSmell? Thats what Id call our morning commute," cackled the Kitty.

Spencer F. Katt

Spencer F. Katt

Spencer F. Katt, the Whiskered Wonder, has been the mascot and tipster extraordinaire for eWEEK and its predecessor print publication PC Week since 1984. The Gadabout Gatto makes the rounds of...