The Tornado Spins New Tech

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The Tornado is a handy little device for hooking together two computers. It's basically a USB cable wound up inside a fist-size spinner that makes it easy to transfer files between computers. What is particularly intriguing is what it doesn't do or doesn't force you to do: There's nothing to load onto your PC to get the thing to work.

No CD accompanies the Tornado with device drivers or even software to make the gadget do its job. Plug the ends of the cable into two Windows PCs, and the device automatically loads a small, simple application into the memory of each computer. The software features two windows on each computer: one for "this computer" and one for "other computer." Moving files is as easy as dragging and dropping. Unplug the cable, and the software goes away.

So far, it works with Windows Vista or XP--Win98 users must download a driver. A Macintosh version is planned for later this year.

The company that sells the Tornado, Data Drive Through, likes to say a chimpanzee and an 8-year-old girl can get it to work, and in fact, made a commercial showing just that. This is no product for moving programs from one Windows PC to another--that requires sophisticated software. This is about simple file transfers, which makes me wonder if it's worth the asking price of $60. I'm not sure I wouldn't just save the money and use a USB thumb drive to move files across, though admittedly it's a bit more hassle.

I'm impressed, nonetheless, by the tech that automatically loads the software. It seems like a great idea for other devices, such as a video camera that effortlessly loads editing software onto a PC. Data Drive Through says it has the technology patented but would be interested in licensing it. If only those connections came as easily as the Tornado's.