"Spot" is a lame name for a dog, a cool name for a hippo, or a placeholder word for a place that is clear by context but which the speaker is too lazy to remember. Commonly used with "action" to denote maximum vagueness, as in: "Let's fire up the action at the action spot."

The name of Data's pet cat on Star Trek: The Next Generation. First appeared in episode 85, Data's Day (TNG) but was not actually named until episode 99, In Theory (TNG).

Spot's gender is somewhat of an enigma. Originally the feline was referred to as a "he" but in episode 71, Genesis (TNG), "he" was able to become pregnant. This was apparently due to a writer's glitch. Also, the cat's type changed from Somali to regular Felis Domesticus in Birthright, Part I (TNG).

A little pus-filled imperfection in the skin that can lower a persons self esteem six fold. Spots tend to appear where and when least appropriate at a given time, and while usually caused by acne, can also be result of stress. Spots of different types tend to appear in different places.

    Little spots - tend to appear on the forehead and sides of the nose. Undetectable at 4 feet away, these are almost entirely filled with quite viscous puss close to the surface, and several can be popped at a time with ease.

    Big pale lumps - the size and shape of half a pea, these don't discolour the skin although create reasonable large bumps. They are filled with a surprisingly large amount of toothpaste-like puss, and appear around the forehead and chin area primarily.

    Big red lumps - usually the result of an irritation such as shaving, these are a cornucopia for a clear runny substance, once popped they seemingly refill within the hour. If persistently attacked for long enough, they may yield some of the toothpaste puss as above. These can appear on the upper neck forehead and other softer areas.

    Giant angry volcano spots - the bane of every image-conscious person, these have very few places they will not attack, and are the main cause of pock-marks in people. They fill up with the clear runny puss, while displaying a bright off-white beacon of toothpaste puss at the top. If left unpopped they often cause permanent imperfections in the skin, though they have a defence mechanism in the form of exerting extreme pain. The volcano-type will often stay for weeks.

Microsoft's Smart Personal Object Technology

Microsoft Chairman billG introduced SPOT at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2003.  Despite the initial assessments by the digiterati, i.e. "Spot is a dog," the notion of "smart objects," deserves a closer look.  In a nutshell, SPOT uses a subcarrier frequency on existing FM radio networks to send information to SPOT-enabled devices.    Gates had a gaggle of SPOT-watches strapped to his wrist that were configured to download weather info, stock quotes, the accurate current time, whatever.  

My first impression was a big yawn, sounds like a one-way pager but harder to read.  But then I bumped into a few interviews with Bill Mitchell, who is Microsoft's general manager for SPOT, and after thinking about what he had to say I decided there might be more there than meets the eye.  Mitchell's initial vision for SPOT targets two primary goals: 

  1. Lower the barriers for distributing information from the digital world in the real, non-computer, world.  SPOT addresses this by distributing its data over the FM radio signals that are already pervasive throughout much of the world.  You don't have to be in a Starbucks to receive the weather forecast on your SPOT-enabled umbrella.  Anywhere an FM radio would work, so will SPOT. 

  2. The second goal for SPOT is to facilitate the creation of smart devices.  SPOT accomplishes this by providing a very inexpensive technology that is designed from the onset to be included in small, common devices like your watch, or the refrigerator magnets holding up your shopping list. Like any digital technology, the price should drop precipitously as the volumes increase.  If SPOT only added a couple of dollars to the cost of a digital watch, they'd all have it.  Don't believe me?  Three watch manufacturers (Citizen, Fossil & Suunto) have already signed up to sell SPOT-enabled watches by the end of 2003 according to Microsoft.  Hey, a watch that sets itself periodically to the correct time and knows when you change time zones sounds pretty useful to me.  And what about the clock in my car and in my microwave and my DVD player and.... well, you get the idea.

How's it work?

The SPOT transmission technology has been around for a long time. If you've ever been tortured by the irritating banality of elevator Muzak, then you've heard sub-carrier FM in action.  It's not exactly music to the ears, but it does allow the large scale distribution of information using existing infrastructure. That means that SPOT could be implemented widely, quickly and inexpensively.  In this respect, Microsoft's timing is excellent because the leading uses for the subcarrier FM signal, such as Muzak are diminishing as digital satellite signals come into favor.  

The FM subcarrier band is perfect for the kind of slow steady drip of information that SPOT devices are designed to receive. Implementing SPOT transmissions involves cutting a deal with an FM radio station for the leased use of their subcarrier frequency, and the straightforward installation of a  subcarrier box at the station.  Scaling up to a broader audience just means contacting more stations.

The current iteration of the SPOT chipset is based on a design by SCA Data Systems, the company that helped Atari develop a similar system back in the 1980's to deliver video games to users.  SCA's single chip design, which will be manufactured by National Semiconductor, contains two main components; a radio section that receives and processes the signal, and an ARM-based processor that formats and displays the information. The chipset consumes very little power, allowing it to be used in almost anything.

The initial SPOT channels include:

- Local traffic reports

- Sports scores

- Weather updates

- Stock quotes

- News

- Your calendar, schedule and personal messages

- Automatic time setting and time-zone changes

- Downloadable watch faces and alarm tones

Two-way SPOT

Microsoft calls the SPOT transmission technology "Direct Band," and is already hinting that the FM signal might someday be replaced or extended with 802.11 or Bluetooth  This opens the door for SPOT to carry on a two-way conversation rather than just receiving data downloads. That would enable a whole range of device to device communication, allowing, say your laptop tell your wristwatch every time your E2 writeup gets cooled. If  SPOT devices become ubiquitous and they can all talk to each other, it will require a whole new definition of peer to peer computing. 

It's probably way too soon to hazard a guess as to whether SPOT is a dog, or not. Many promising technologies fail for all sorts of reasons, but on balance, I'd have to say that with Micro$oft behind it and the potential for quick, widespread implementation, SPOT may be coming soon to a wristwatch near you!  


More Information

SPOT & SCA Data Systems: http://archive.infoworld.com/articles/hn/xml/03/01/10/030110hnspot.xml

Microsoft's CES press release on SPOT: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2003/jan03/01-09SPOTWatchesPR.asp

Microsoft SPOT Homepage, complete with pictures and demos: http://www.microsoft.com/resources/spot/default4.mspx

Spot (?), n. [Cf. Scot. & D. spat, Dan. spette, Sw. spott spittle, slaver; from the root of E. spit. See Spit to eject from the mouth, and cf. Spatter.]


A mark on a substance or body made by foreign matter; a blot; a place discolored.

Out, damned spot! Out, I say!


A stain on character or reputation; something that soils purity; disgrace; reproach; fault; blemish.

Yet Chloe, sure, was formed without a spot.


A small part of a different color from the main part, or from the ground upon which it is; as, the spots of a leopard; the spots on a playing card.


A small extent of space; a place; any particular place. "Fixed to one spot." Otway.

That spot to which I point is Paradise.

"A jolly place," said he, "in times of old!
But something ails it now: the spot is cursed."

5. (Zoöl.)

A variety of the common domestic pigeon, so called from a spot on its head just above its beak.

6. (Zoöl.)


A sciænoid food fish (Liostomus xanthurus) of the Atlantic coast of the United States. It has a black spot behind the shoulders and fifteen oblique dark bars on the sides. Called also goody, Lafayette, masooka, and old wife.


The southern redfish, or red horse, which has a spot on each side at the base of the tail. See Redfish.

7. pl.

Commodities, as merchandise and cotton, sold for immediate delivery. [Broker's Cant]

Crescent spot (Zoöl.), any butterfly of the family Melitæidæ having crescent- shaped white spots along the margins of the red or brown wings. - - Spot lens (Microscopy), a condensing lens in which the light is confined to an annular pencil by means of a small, round diaphragm (the spot), and used in dark-field ilumination; -- called also spotted lens. --
Spot rump (Zoöl.), the Hudsonian godwit (Limosa hæmastica). --
Spots on the sun. (Astron.) See Sun spot, ander Sun. --
On, or Upon, the spot, immediately; before moving; without changing place.

It was determined upon the spot.
Syn. -- Stain; flaw; speck; blot; disgrace; reproach; fault; blemish; place; site; locality.


© Webster 1913

Spot, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Spotted; p. pr. & vb. n. Spotting.]


To make visible marks upon with some foreign matter; to discolor in or with spots; to stain; to cover with spots or figures; as, to spot a garnment; to spot paper.


To mark or note so as to insure recognition; to recognize; to detect; as, to spot a criminal. [Cant]


To stain; to blemish; to taint; to disgrace; to tarnish, as reputation; to asperse.

My virgin life no spotted thoughts shall stain.
Sir P. Sidney.

If ever I shall close these eyes but once,
May I live spotted for my perjury.
Beau. & Fl.

To spot timber, to cut or chip it, in preparation for hewing.


© Webster 1913

Spot, v. i.

To become stained with spots.


© Webster 1913

Spot (?), a.

Lit., being on the spot, or place; hence (Com.),

on hand for immediate delivery after sale; -- said of commodities; as, spot wheat.


© Webster 1913

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