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Shape Up, Kid, Or I'll Delete Your Allowance

Bits & Bytes

Shape Up, Kid, or I'll Delete Your Allowance

IF YOU TREASURE THE MEMORY OF STUFFING A PIGGY BANK FULL OF COINS and had planned to hand that tradition down to your children, brace yourself. Times have changed. The cyberallowance has arrived.

A San Francisco-based startup called BlackBox Internet Group will debut a Web site in March called service designed to make it easier for children to buy online. helps get around one of the Web's biggest problems--the fact that many online transactions can only be done using a credit card. The free service allows parents to use a credit card to set up an electronic debit account for their kids--either a lump sum deposit, or automatic weekly, monthly, or yearly allowances.

Parents determine spending limits and what stores can be frequented, and they can monitor each child's account. "Kids and teens didn't have the financial services that the over-18 crowd does, so we came up with a solution," says chief executive R. Paul Herman, who founded the company last year. The company plans to make money by selling advertising on its site. Bye-bye, piggy bank.EDITED BY HEATHER GREENReturn to top

Flowers, Candy--and an E-Valentine

READY FOR VALENTINE'S DAY? Maybe the Martha Stewarts of the world have been hard at work creating heart-shaped cards out of homemade paper dyed with crushed cranberries. But for the rest of us, the fast-approaching holiday is causing a jolt of panic.

Breathe easy. There's a bounty of Web offerings that can keep you out of the doghouse. has 90 love-related "cards"--from sappy to steamy. They can be delivered electronically just minutes after they are ordered, even on the big day itself. On a shoestring budget? Check out Blue Mountain Arts ( This site offers animated, musical electronic cards, which can be personalized and sent for free. Maybe you're a secret admirer hoping not to leave a trail. If so, try (, where employees wearing surgical gloves will inscribe, address, and mail real-world Valentine's cards, with or without a return address.

For an action-packed alternative, check out Cupid's Corner on the site ( It lets you send your sweetie on a virtual Valentine's tour of the most romantic sites on the Web. When it's this easy, you haven't an excuse in the earthly or cyberworld.EDITED BY HEATHER GREENReturn to top

A Trading Desk You Can Really Live At

WALL STREET IS BUZZING about a hot new model--and it has nothing to do with the Victoria's Secret online fashion show. Instead, it's a sleek trading desk.

The desk from Eurocraft Corp., which will be unveiled at the IT for Wall Street '99 Show, running Feb. 23-25, promises to change the look of the trading floors at financial-services firms. With an innovative design made to incorporate the increasingly popular flat-screen computer displays, the desks save space so there's more room for each trader or more trading positions per floor.

Each two-person unit is fitted to suit the needs of individual traders. "A trading desk is more than just a desk," says Paul Marco, a sales representative for Eurocraft, based in Elkhart, Ind. "It's where a trader spends more than 10 hours a day."

The median price for each desk is $2,200, about the same as for standard desks, although some of the new designs can hit $4,000 with luxurious finishes such as leather. Early versions have been scooped up by big Wall Street firms, including J.P. Morgan and Prudential Securities.EDITED BY HEATHER GREENReturn to top

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