Bright & Brief
TORONTO (AP) _ Sorry Virginia, Santa Claus no longer has a working number.
Canada Post Corp. has chopped its popular Santa Claus Hotline as an economy measure, though it won’t say how much it expects to save.
Last Christmas season, children wanting to talk to Santa made 535,000 calls to a special number in the Toronto and Oshawa areas, the only two centers in the country where it operated, a Canada Post spokesman said.
Pulling Santa’s plug is the second recent cost-cutting measure by the postal agency, which expects a $200 million deficit this year. Starting next week, all parcels and letters with insufficient postage will be returned to sender instead of being forwarded.
But Canada Post isn’t being a complete Scrooge. It will continue to accept and answer letters to Santa.
PEKING (AP) - It’s quicker to deliver a message by bicycle than to wait for a phone call to get through in the southern city of Canton.
Because of a chronic shortage of switching equipment and telephone lines, it can take an hour to make a call, compared with about 20 minutes for a bicycle messenger, the official English-language China Daily reported Saturday.
To begin remedying the problem, the city installed a Swedish switching system with 26,000 new lines last week, it said.
The city of more than 2 million has only 31,000 telephone lines.
DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) - Robots soon will be able to do routine household tasks normally handled with a human touch, says the chairman of the National Personal Robot Association. But don’t expect them to scrub dirty plates.
″Dishes will be one of the last applications. A more likely capability will be vacuuming and as a security function,″ said Joe Bosworth, head of the Dearborn-based group of 10 active robotics companies and about 200 individuals.
″Just the idea of having a robot clear the table and distinguish between cups and spoons is a very complex task,″ Bosworth said.
Personal robot manufacturers hope to change some people’s minds about their technology this week at the second International Personal Robot Congress in San Francisco featuring displays of robots developed by commercial manufacturers and individuals.
During the convention, dinner reservations will be honored at a restaurant in San Francisco for two ″Omnibot 2000″ robots dressed in black ties and accompanied by human dates.
″The robots will order dinner for their dates, serve champagne and chit- chat with the waiters,″ said Stacey Ivers, spokeswoman for the Tomy Corp., the Carson, Calif.-based developer of the robot.