March 19, 2009— -- There is, we'd better warn, something of a gross-out factor to many people about this story, although there are others who seem to think it's pretty cool.
It is the story of Jerry Jalava, 29, a self-described software developer from Finland who lost part of his left ring finger in May in a motorcycle accident.
Now, he says, he wears a prosthetic finger made of silicone, which looks fairly natural -- except that he can peel back the tip to uncover a USB drive tucked inside.
Jalava's finger of the future has become a small Internet sensation.
Some of the photos on his page at Flickr.com have been viewed more than 80,000 times.
The USB drive -- also called a flash drive or thumb drive or memory stick -- contains 2 gigabytes of memory and can plug into almost any currently sold computer. Jalava keeps several computer programs on it, he says, and hopes eventually for an upgraded version.
"My friends take it same way as I do," he told ABC News. "First, they are terrified, hearing about the lost finger, but then they are relieved and laughing after hearing about the USB finger."
"It is not attached permanently into my body; it is removable prosthetic, which has USB memory stick inside it," he writes, in slightly broken English, on his blog protoblogr.net. "When I'm using the USB, I just leave my finger inside the slot and pick it up after I'm ready."
Jalava said he has two different prosthetic fingertips that he can use. The other is conventional, made to look like a natural finger, but Jalava says he does not plan to keep it that way.
"Right now I use it mostly when I need to do network inspections or memory testing on computers in our office," he said, "but when I get the latest one ready, it will be my single sign-on to my computer and my e-mails."
All this began one day last spring, Jalava says, when he was driving his motorcycle home from work. He hit a deer, slid a couple of hundred feet and lost the tip of his finger. He was taken by ambulance to a hospital in nearby Helsinki.
"I'm still very happy of the outcome," he wrote later. "It could have ended a lot worst. I think most of the compliments for my survival with minimal damage goes to the great motorcycle clothing and safety gear I had on."
So how did he get from there to having a digitally enhanced digit?
"The idea started after I told the doctor what I do for a living," said Jalava. "I found a small USB stick from a local store. He said it would be fun for him to try to do something new, and we started planning the current beta finger."
For six months he used it occasionally, mostly keeping quiet -- until a friend of his blogged about it as a birthday present to him. It has been mayhem since.
'This Is Just Gross'
Some people find the whole thing hard to take, and a few suspect a hoax. "This is just gross," one person commented on a European Web site.
Others, posting comments on Jalava's Flickr page, were more charitable.
"Like Microsoft says: 'Information at your fingertips,'" said one.
"I am sorry that you lost your finger ... but this is the coolest thing ever!" said another. "By the way, nice bike!!"