I was recently reading through newspapers from around 1898 to 1901. In a collection of articles from midwestern papers predicting what life would be like in the year 2000, I found this cartoon:

(Brown County Democrat, December 28, 1900.)

The label on the device reads ‘footomobile’. Words fail me.

Now, I have ridden a Segway (or, as I guess I have to start saying, ‘Footomobile’), and it’s actually tremendously fun. But of course they’re too expensive to be practical. Instead, I’ve found an alternative: electric skateboards.

They’re like Segways, but without all that silly safety stuff. I bought two cheap ones off eBay for about $40 each and tried them out. They were fun and worked well for getting around campus, so when I moved to Boston and got rid of my car, I bought a nice one from Exkate for $330 — the Raptor 3.0 model (I swear I didn’t pick it because of the name. They’re just everywhere!). It has a 10-mile range, travels pretty fast (10-15 mph), and recharges quickly. There are other longboard models with longer ranges and top speeds of 20 mph. Zero to twenty in four seconds. Yes.

The boards are heavy — mine is 28 lbs, and it’s the lightest they have. They still use lead-acid batteries because they can’t find cheap-enough lithium-ion packs. If they could switch to lithium-ion batteries, they could cut the battery weight in half and up the range to 60 miles. Sixty miles. Man. (Side note: if anyone has lithium-ion packs sitting around and wants a cool project, if you document it well, Exkate might be willing to send you some boards at cost to play with.) Their website isn’t the best, but if you have any questions, give them a call. The guys there have been really helpful, and they’ll give you any additional specs you’re looking for. You can also visit their shop in southern Orange County.

Now, the bad stuff: my board has suffered from various mechanical failures, and eventually I had to send it in for repairs. They said it’d take 2-3 days and it’s ended up being a month. I’m still waiting, in fact, but I think it’s finally on the way. Also, I’m a little disappointed the boards don’t hover like the ones in Back to the Future. But I’ve looked at some other companies and Exkate seemed like the best.

So, electric skateboards are magical. They’re practical for getting around cities or campuses, and they’re just plain fun to swoop around on. There’s nothing like carving up a hill. I hear Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics rides longboards and might be interested in getting one like mine, so maybe we can start a webcomic-author electric skateboard club. Practically everyone I know has a crush on Ryan, so it’d be interesting to see which was a more effective accessory for picking up girls — the skateboard or Ryan North.