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One machine that is designed for a variety of jobs is key today.

I know it sounds kind of crazy today, but there was a time, not too long ago, when a person had to buy a telephone, camera, music player, computer, address book and photo album separately. Back then, putting all of the above into carry-on luggage didn't leave much room for more than a few magazines and a paperback book. While I'm still not sure who asked for a telephone that could also snap photos, I've quickly become comfortable with the other things this smart little handheld device can do.

The mobile phone has become an electronic Swiss Army Knife at the same time the venerable Victorinox brand of knife has also become an electronic device: the SwissMemory knife comes with 1 GB of memory (and a ball point pen). You'll probably have to check your bags because of that blade, but once at your destination the knife could help you get through a business presentation, in more ways than one.

Just as pockets and briefcases provide only a limited amount of space to hold all of the gadgets that now seem to be necessary parts of life today, farmers, airports, road builders and other mobile equipment customers can quickly run out of room in their equipment shed.

Plus, when ROI comes down to equipment usage, finding additional jobs for a specific machine becomes a vital step toward business survival. There's another approach, however, that is more common in Switzerland's European Union neighbors than it is here: buying a new machine that is specially designed to perform a wide range of different jobs.

Working to give equipment buyers more options in a single machine, Custom Chassis Inc. advertises that its UT5212 Power Platform, the subject of this issue's cover story, is a "multi-purpose vehicle with four-season versatility."

It is a machine that is difficult to categorize: Its roots are in the fields of the Midwest. Photographing it on a cold fall day with it pulling a disc through CCI engineer Matt Tipple's soybean field seems natural. But to call it a farm tractor is to limit its potential.

In its standard configuration a farm tractor is a power unit, ready to do the work that is required of it once it's hooked up to an implement. The design of the fully featured Power Platform means that compiling a list of implements, attachment and bed options suitable for the machine involves crossing many seemingly unrelated industries.