A View from David Zax
The Swiss Army Knife Goes Digital
Looking for a holiday gift for a tech-savvy Swiss soldier?
I often think that the smartphone is the Swiss Army knife of the digital age – my iPhone springs forth apps much in the way that that iconic red multi-tool springs forth scissors, nail files, and blades.
But where does that leave the Swiss Army Knife of the analog age? Must it sit in the sidelines, in obsolescence, a curio for Boy Scouts and other survivalists?
Not if Victorinox has anything to do with it. The company now produces a Swiss Army Knife for the 21st century – namely, one that packs a USB stick along with its other, more traditional tools.
PC Mag sums up the different options in the so-called “Flash Collection”: the Victorinox Slim just packs a drive; the Flash Alox Flight also has a knife, scissors, and nail file; the Flash LED adds on a (surprise!) LED flashlight; the Flash Laser has a laser pointer instead. If you want to get heavy duty, there’s the Secure, which only allows you to access the drive by means of your fingerprint. A version called Presentation Master has a laser pointer and Bluetooth remote, for the PowerPoint junkies out there. That last, most tricked-out version runs about $300.
Victorinox has called the thing “unhackable” in the past. And indeed, the company held a contest this year offering a quarter of a million bucks to anyone who could access encrypted information on a Victorinox drive. No one could.
Cuteley, BusinessWeek recently interviewed Major Christoph Brunner, a Swiss Army spokesman, about why Switzerland bothers to have an army at all, if it’s neutral (“To defend the nation and protect the people of Switzerland,” Brunner said simply) and whether Swiss army soldiers are given special training on the knife (“No. That’s not necessary…. It’s not considered a weapon, but a tool.”)
In other words, Swiss Army soldiers use the knives much like our Boy Scouts always have – only now, perhaps, with a digital twist. The new Swiss Army Knife might just make a fine stocking stuffer for that family member who somehow finds himself in the wilderness with a pressing need to securely transfer files.
Become an MIT Technology Review Insider for in-depth analysis and unparalleled perspective.Subscribe today