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Electronic Device Uses Echoes to Get Distance

July 26, 1987|Dale Baldwin

I admit it: I love gadgets and precision devices of all kinds. Cameras, firearms, wood- and metal-working tools fascinate me to the point where a major room addition is the only solution to our collective space problem.

Antique measuring tools--including mariner's sextants--are often works of art and command high prices. But when it comes to measuring a room for new carpeting or planning an addition, nothing beats the latest wrinkle in measuring, the pocket-size Measure Mate electronic tapeless tape.

Tapeless tape? Yep, the eight-ounce device uses an ultrasonic measuring system--not unlike the one on certain models of Polaroid cameras--transmitting sound waves that bounce off an obstruction in their path and return as echoes. The unit calculates the distance by measuring the length of time the echo takes to return, displaying the results in feet and inches.

I tested a Measure Mate from Microtech Marketing Inc., 9215 S.W. Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway, Portland, Ore. 97225, and found that it was accurate for the vast majority of measuring tasks. A contractor friend confirmed the accuracy with his steel tape and pronounced the Measure Mate a handy if somewhat expensive device at just under $100. He also questioned its survivability in the typically rough use that a contractor would give it.

The Measure Mate came with a nine-volt battery and works best inside, where the walls provide perfect surfaces for the echo to bounce. Outside, you'll have to have someone with a handy piece of plywood provide a temporary barrier to measure up to 35 feet. The smallest distance the Measure Mate will calculate is two feet, surprising since my Polaroid 680 will accurately focus down to less than a foot.

If you want a Measure Mate that will give read-outs in the metric system, Model M is available (the one I tried is Model R, for "regular," I guess). There is also a Model E that measures in feet and tenths of a foot. The two optional units cost the same as the test unit, $95 plus $1 shipping from Microtech Marketing in Portland.

Anyone who has struggled to measure a room with a metal tape measure will appreciate the ease of this useful gadget. On top of all that, it's fun!

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