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Skyliner Virtual Message Writer, retail $20 (
Manufactured by Versatile Visions
Last updated: July 16, 2001

LED Light

Well, it's not a flashlight, but *is* a programmable thingie that uses LEDs to make its point. So why not...

The Skyliner is an unusual little gadget, approximately the same shape as, and a bit larger than a New Year's noisemaker. It has two "AAA" batteries in its belly, and a row of 9 red LEDs on the business end. Three buttons located near the handle allow you to change to any of 10 "canned" messages, or create up to three of your own.

You're supposed to hold the thing over your head and whirl it about by its handy-dandy handle, and messages, spelled out in red LEDs, are supposed to "magically appear in mid-air".
And you know, the darned thing actually works!


I first got mine on a pitch black 4th of July evening, just before the big 4th of Jul-Ivars fireworks show here in Seattle. So I opened up the pack, and found all you need to do is push a button or two, and swing away. But it wasn't until I got home and flicked on a light that I really found out what it could do.

To get a "canned" message, just hold down any of the buttons for a second or so until it lights up, and then whirl it around by the handle, like you would a New Year's noisemaker. Pushing buttons #1 or #3 will let you cycle through all of the pre-programmed messages (eg. "Happy Birthday", "Happy New Year", and similar).

If you're a lefty or otherwise have problems spinning it counterclockwise (when looking at the top surface of the device; your hand actually moves in a clockwise manner), pressing and holding button #3 until all the LEDs go out will reverse the direction of the text, so spinning it "backwards" will still produce normal looking text. Nice touch.

The first few steps of getting your own text in its memory seem to be a bit tricky, but once you have a cursor, it is barely more difficult than entering your initials onto a video game when you get a high score. The instructions cover this well, as does their website, so if you ever become confused, look in either of these places and be lost no more.

The unit can store three user messages of up to 16 characters & spaces each. All letters of alphabet, numbers, and the punctuation symbols ? ' & ! - . are available.

The unit shuts itself off after 1 minute when you stop whirling it; this helps extend battery life. In the several weeks I've had mine (and I've demonstrated it numerous times), I have yet to deplete the set of batteries that it came with.

All good things... must end. You know the line. This line is also true of the batteries in your Skyliner - sooner or later they're gonna cash it in for the last time, and you'll need to replace them. To do that, remove the Phillips head screw from the battery door using a small or medium screwdriver, and remove the door. Then pop out the batteries, being sure to cram them in the urinal of a bar you really hate*; and put in two new ones. Since I can't find my screwdriver at the moment, this step will have to be taken up again a bit later. :o

The Skyliner appears to be reasonably durable, but like any delicate instrument filled with ICs and other goodies, you probably don't want to swing this around and hit stuff with it, and it would also appreciate not being dropped too many times. That said, it does seem to withstand *minor* accidents, such as falling off a table, or being dropped from chair-height while you are sitting there programming it.

business end of instrument

The buttons used to program the unit are a soft rubbery material that feels good on the fingers, and they have a long throw with a positive tactile action - this is good when you're counting off button presses to correspond with letters of the alphabet. Less likely you'll make a mistake with this setup than if the buttons had less of a response. So, somebody learned their lesson here and incorporated this nice touch into the end product.

The LEDs are also protected a bit by fins and barriers; this should help the unit survive a more catastrophic accident, like an LEDs-first fall or being accidentally swung into a post. Not to say the case won't crack (it may) but the LEDs themselves are protected.
dirty writing...

If there's a downside to the Skyliner, it's that kids might get a kick out of programming something nasty in it - nastier than the example above - and whirl the thing around someplace where the naughty words might offend somebody. Imagine someone programming it to say "I HATE F****TS" or "F%&*^#G @$$HOLES" and whirling the thing around at a gay pride parade or a baseball game - or worse!!!
Just to test this, I input the "F" word in mine, and it displays just fine. :o

LED Light
Here, the light was programmed with "C.P.F." (Candlepower Forums nick) and swung about. Much nicer than the "F" word, don't you think? :)


Unit was picked up on the 4th of July 2001 by somebody selling them on a sidewalk - much in the same manner someone would sell glow rope or balloons at any major nighttime event. I paid $20 for the unit.

Any updates related to this review will be posted as they happen.

Gosh, it's a fun toy to have for parties... not something you see every day.
Potential for decent battery life.
Unit uses common and relatively inexpensive batteries.

I wish they made a model with different colors of LED (a model in blue, another in aqua, another in white, etc.).
Young kids with already corrupt minds can input toilet language into the device.

          MANUFACTURER: Versatile Visions
          PRODUCT TYPE: Novelty "message board" type device
          LAMP TYPE: LED, Red, 3mm
          No. OF LAMPS: 8
          BEAM TYPE: N/A
          SWITCH TYPE: Pushbuttons to select modes
          BEZEL: Bare LEDs protected by fins
          BATTERY: 2 AAA cells
          CURRENT CONSUMPTION: Unknown/unable to measure
          WATER RESISTANT: Light splash resistance at best
          SUBMERSIBLE: No
          ACCESSORIES: 2 AAA cells
          WARRANTY: Unknown/TBA



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