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Now, even your cereal box can talk back.

I guess it had to happen: smart bombs, artificial intelligence in computer chips, robot lawnmowers, and now talking cereal boxes.The world may not be ready for this latest innovation trumpeted by the Paperboard Packaging Council.

As a bleary-eyed schoolchild, I was known to read every word on my cereal box, down to the last vitamin equivalency and riboflavin content. It was a way of tweaking the brain cells into some sort of wakefulness each morning. Great literature it wasn't. So-called "kids' cereals" occasionally attempted to capitalize on the box-reader syndrome, but I can't recall any best-sellers from that effort.

I pondered where Battle Creek, Mich., might be and how it could have been named that. So far as my grade school history went, I could think of no major skirmish in Michigan. My favorite boxes for reading were Post's Raisin Bran. Loved the box, couldn't stand the cereal. Mr. Post (I learned later he was called C.W. by his intimates) put out a fine, literate and informative box, chock-full of nutritional information with a minimum of "Hey, kids!" hype. You could read a raisin bran box for an hour if you really concentrated.

Of course, veteran cereal readers did not actually concentrate. Mostly they zoned out.

The dead, dull prose would begin to swim before your eyes, and fantasy time would set in.

You could live a whole other life while staring at the 4-point disclaimers printed on cardboard: "Ladies, and gentlemen, the heavyweight champion of the world, Andrew Mershon . . ." or Andrew of Sherwood (who bore a suspicious to resemblance to me) riding across an English heath with Maid Marian, cloaks flying in the wind.

Now a possible marriage between cheap computer chips and cardboard may be in the future. The public relations handout carries a picture of a cute kid who should be studying sugar content and malt/-dex-trose relationships, simply punching a button on a box of something called "Space Ships" cereal.

What's he going to get back from the chip? "Beam me up, Mr. Scott! I've got the freeze-dried blueberries so the crew can get into warp speed."

"Good work, Ensign. You've saved the mission."

And how much, for heaven's sake, is talking cereal going to cost?

My mother was embarrassed to admit that her family even occasionally breakfasted on DRY CEREAL (as opposed to the more politically correct cooked cereals like oatmeal, or a REAL meal of bacon, eggs, toast, homemade jam and milk).

To compete with that motherly mindset, the cereal makers used to price the stuff down there with the horse fodder that most of it tasted like before they frosted everything and discovered more appealing grains. These days, $2.75 is not unusual for an ordinary box of flakes. If they fight off sogginess for more than 30 seconds, the price is higher.

I still read cereal boxes, when I have the time. I'm sure that hidden in there somewhere is the six numbers I need to win the lottery if I just had my decoder ring.