Meet Jon Barnes, who might be the most enterprising taxicab driver
on the face of the earth. Not one to let the online world pass him by, John
has built a "moveable media feast" of sight, sound and motion into his
Aspen-based Checker cab.
From the outside, Jon's Ultimate Taxi looks just like any other 1979 Checker Cab with 360,000 miles on it. But when you step inside, you find yourself inside the planet's first pay-by-the-mile disco, recording studio, paparazzi palace and Internet sanctuary. And if you've got access to the World Wide Web, you can catch a glimpse of Jon and his clientele on the Web site John updates several times a day right from his front seat.
When fares hail Jon's cab for a evening spin, they often look like a deer caught in the headlights. With nine lasers, six blacklights, 800 feet of fiber optic lighting - and a mirror ball for effect - the Ultimate Taxi has been transformed into Studio 54 on radials. The only lighting it doesn't have is fog lights - because the only fog you'll see is inside the car, compliments of a dry ice effects machine.
You might expect Jon to have a killer car stereo system, which he
does. But what you wouldn't expect to find is a digital keyboard and drum
set, a 4-track mixer and a minidisc recorder. So as you get the Magical
Mystery Tour of Aspen, you can spice it up with a little impromptu concert
or Karaoke in the sound- and embarrassment-proof confines of the back seat.
And if you want a keepsake of your Checkered past - or you want to prove to friends back home that it wasn't just some figment of altitude sickness - you can mug for a digital snapshot. He'll even print it while you wait.
As if turning his cab into a recording and photography studio
weren't enough, Jon recently became a mobile point-of-presence on the
"You can e-mail your friends from the cab, or read USA Today online from the back seat. You can even get a current stock quote from the World Wide Web," adds Jon.
His eclectic Web site (www.ultimatetaxi.com) gets more than 4,000 hits a day. It's been featured in Newsweek magazine and touted as one of the hottest sites by Netscape and USA Today.
Photos of some of Jon's most notable fares can be found here. Clint Eastwood, Ringo Starr, Jerry Seinfeld, Michael Douglas and Peter Frampton are just a few of the celebrities who have mugged for the "cab-cam."
Some lesser-known celebs have attained worldwide exposure, too. One series of shots was edited into an animated graphic that showed a local street artisan actually juggling in the back seat.
Maintaining the Web site from his home office would be tough
enough, but doing it from behind the wheel is downright remarkable. "I
probably update my site from the taxi three or four times a day," says Jon.
No UNIX expert, Barnes didn't even get his first computer until April of '95. He now uses his laptop, modem, cellular phone, and Internet Direct's GoGadget site administration software to keep his site tuned up. "With a 486 laptop and a 9800 baud connection, there's no way I could be doing this without GoGadget. I'd need to download the entire site from the server just to change a page. And with hundreds of pages, that would take forever at cell phone speeds."
"With GoGadget, I just make changes to the version I keep on my own hard drive. When I upload, the software runs a 'file compare' and automatically posts only the updated pages to the server. It's literally a click of the mouse. (A comforting thought when you picture his yellow chassis hurtling toward you at 100 feet per second.) To give you an idea of how fast it is, I can snap a photo of a rider and get it up on the Web site in less than 5 minutes - before I even drop him off."
Jon's ultimate goal is to run a live show from his cab. (Not so far fetched when you consider how fast technology is moving.) In the meantime, he'll settle for being the most "wired" cabby in the country. As he puts it, "the closest thing you'll ever find to the Magic Bus."
Alpine sound system
Yamaha PSR-620 keyboard
Yamaha DD-14 digital drums
Yamaha SU-10 sound sampler
Tascam 4-track mixer
Sony minidisc recorder
Kodak DC-50 digital camera
Fargo digital photo printer
GoGadget Internet server
Toshiba 2130CT laptop
PCMCIA flash memory
Apex cellular modem
2 Nokia 232 cellular phones
Street Glow Blue Undercar Neon