Honk if you Love Horntones
Car alarms currently sound like
this: "Chirp chirp." But if Mike Kosco's invention takes off, they may sound
like this: "Quack quack."
Kosco, a 42-year-old hardware engineer consultant from San Clemente, started
taking pre-orders for his FX-550 Horntones device this week. The electronic
gadget is modeled after cell phone ringtones.
Kosco is hoping to make cars of the future just as musical. "Instead of hearing
that annoying little chirp in the mall parking lot," Kosco said, "maybe you hear
a little . . . whistle, or bell, whatever sound you like so you know it's your
Kosco said he got the idea two years when he drove his Hummer into a donut shop
parking lot. His car has an Incredible Hulk airbrushed across the hood and some
kids teased him about the homage to the green comic book character. "At that
moment," Kosco said, "I wished I had a button that could make it growl."
Since that drive home, Kosco started developing ways to get sound effects into
his car. He built a hand-held device that could download MP3s (it stores 256
megabites of memory) and ran a wire beneath the hood to an external speaker. The
tricky part, Kosco said, was finding a high quality speaker to fit beneath the
hood of modern cars, since most are designed for a sleek look.
Shortly after Kosco's invention debuted at CES, a flurry of blogsphere chatter
assumed the Horntones was as billed: Music from the horn.
Like a lot of excited potential customers, a commenter on The Urber Review, an
electronic gadgets blog, had already considered the benefits. "HA! I'm spending
the money, it will be worth it to play the A-Team theme song and jump into
action if someone cuts me off."
Unfortunately, the bugs are in the details. Kosco's lawyer is currently
reviewing copyright laws, and he's aware the CHP may not take kindly to the
idea. (The alarm modification is also being polished, Kosco said.)
Jaime Coffee, a California Highway Patrol spokesperson, said the state vehicle
code prohibits amplified music from traveling beyond 50 feet from the car.
"It looks like they can have it," she said, "they just can't have it that loud."
Kosco stressed his invention is only a "horn augmentation" and recommends users
play the jingles only when the wheels are stopped. For instance, Kosco said when
he picks up his kids from school, instead of laying on the horn to get their
attention, "I play a lil' Scooby Doo. And the kids just love it, too."