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Roomba the robot vacuums the house calmly

They met in the closet of an upstairs bedroom. It seemed to be a friendly encounter. I hadn't known how I would tell my 1950 vintage Electrolux that a robot might be taking her place. This new, sophisticated vacuum cleaner is named iRobot Roomba ...

They met in the closet of an upstairs bedroom. It seemed to be a friendly encounter.

I hadn't known how I would tell my 1950 vintage Electrolux that a robot might be taking her place. This new, sophisticated vacuum cleaner is named iRobot Roomba and was a birthday gift from my daughter Carol -- the same daughter who brought the dog named Dot.com when she came to visit last year.

The Lord only knows what she will think to give me for my birthday next year. I have spent the past year growing accustomed to a dog who jumps, barks, goes wild and then crawls into a clothes basket to rest.

I have taken the dog for shots, neutering and grooming. Dot.com has become part of my household. The dog takes me for walks in the evening.

And now, we have Roomba as a companion. She needs no walks. She's round and flat, about the size of a big pie.

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She meanders her way up and down and around a room as she picks up lint, dirt, hairs -- all of those things that accumulate on floors. Roomba is fairly silent as she works. She weaves her way under furniture and beds. She has the common sense to veer away if she nears a stairway or a window well on the back porch.

Roomba, in short, is terrific.

Roomba says very little. She just keeps moving. She has boundless energy because she is souped up on electricity from the charger that is her resting place.

With Roomba the robot, I have come full circle in the world of vacuum cleaners. I started with Ellie, the Electrolux, when I was married 60 years ago. We bought Ellie from Arnold Christianson, known as "the friendly singer of friendly songs" on Radio Station KFYR, Bismarck. She cost about $85. And I knew Jack really loved me when he said we could also buy the automatic winding cord. That was an additional $15.

Ellie faithfully cleaned our first gray shag carpeting, as well as the bare floors. She had attachments to get into corners and over dusty walls. She was then -- and she is now -- a good vacuum cleaner. When she grew a little older, I put her upstairs and bought a Riccar tank type vacuum cleaner for the downstairs.

Over the years, the Electrolux kept doing her job. But you know your vacuum cleaner is growing old when you see one just like it in a museum. And I did see the same model of Electrolux in a museum in Longmont, Colo. After that, I tried to get Medicare and an AARP card for Ellie. But she still does her work upstairs in retirement and then rests in a dark closet. Sometimes, when she has finished a run and I turn her off, she makes a wailing, gasping sound.

On the other hand, the robot sits quietly on her little pad and asks no favors. When she is ready to go, she turns green in the middle. When I want her to crawl around a room and clean up, I just push her belly button. And she methodically and quietly crawls around the house.

The iRobot Roomba 530 commands a high price -- about $300. But she came to my house when Carol found a sweet deal on the Internet for about $125. My Roomba doesn't have all the bells and whistles as some of her city cousins who are higher-end models. But she does have a little lighthouse that sends out a beacon and creates a virtual wall and boundary for her.

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Roomba has a home base in the corner of my dining room where she returns when she reaches the end of a cleaning cycle or when the battery is running low. I have to remove and empty Roomba's bin after each use. Then, I have to clean Roomba's filter compartment. It isn't too bad. There is a bin to empty and a filter to brush off. Excessive buildup of hair in Roomba's brushes and bearings can permanently damage her.

Roomba does have her problems. When her side brushes get caught on carpet tassels or wires, they may spin slowly or briefly spin backward to get free. Or she might thump until she gets free. Roomba doesn't slow down when she approaches certain obstacles. Instead, she uses light touch bumper technology to identify walls and other obstacles.

I was afraid she would tumble right down the steps. Instead, she used her sensors and turned away from a fall.

So, maybe it's a toss-up. Roomba is fairly remarkable. I can sit on the couch and watch her work, almost silently. On the other hand, I have to guide the heavy and bulky old Electrolux around. But she can get into the corners, and she has a lot of suction left in her old metal body.

Reach Hagerty at (701) 772-1055 or send e-mail to mhagerty@gra.midco.net .

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