Society | June 16, 2002, Sunday // 00:00

The Bulgarian designer Lachezar Tsvetanov, a junior at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, won the competition for creating a digital player for the needs of the library of the US Congress, the Washington Post reported. The library is planning a $75 million, three-year conversion from cassette tapes to microchips -- the audio program's first technological update in three decades. The goal is to trade 23 million cassettes for memory cards. To do so, the library, which supplies special playback equipment, will need by 2008 a new digital device to serve 730,000 reading-disabled people.

More than 140 prototypes were presented at the competition. But as the jury of six professional designers and senior library staff members worked their way around the room, a clear preference emerged for something familiar. First prize went to a prototype in the shape of a book, the Washington Post writes.

The winner was "Dook," a rectangular device that opened like a standard volume and belonged to Bulgarian Lachezar Tsvetanov, who is a graduate of the Sofia School of Mathmatics. Tsvetanov chose the form for two reasons. He thought a book would be immediately familiar to seniors, who make up half the program's users and are seen as wary of new technology. The designer was also determined that people who needed talking books be able to blend into the world around them. "Users want to be like anybody else," he said. "If you see a young blind person walking down the street and holding an odd-shaped product, it would really stand out." Tsvetanov will be awarded $5,000 for ingenuity at the industrial design society's annual conference July 20-23 in Monterey, California. And his device will be displayed at the library's Madison Building on Capitol Hill, along with four second- and third-place winners.

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