season for high-tech gift giving
by Alan Zisman (c)
First published in Business in
CurrentZ section. Issue #630 Nivember 20-26, 2001, GearGuide column
in the past, there's lots to choose from if you're shopping for tech
as holiday presents for your loved ones -- or even for yourself.
a new and improved model. Microsoft's new Office Keyboard
the space-age ergonomic curves of some of the company's previous
but like its other recent models it includes bunches of new keys and
sported buttons that may have looked good on paper, but were rarely
(Did anyone really need an Internet Shopping button on a keyboard?)
time around, the new features tie closely into the widely used
Office suite: they can start up the spell checker, save or print a
undo and redo an edit, open multiple programs, switch between open
and more. Each button is customizable and can even be set to point to
staring at a space-saving and easy on the eyes LCD (aka flat
display. Like a notebook display on steroids, these lack the flicker
built-into traditional cathode-ray tube (CRT) monitors. Various
have some displays with prices now starting just south of $500, though
the models you really want will be far north of there -- such as Apple's
22" Cinema Display (about $3900) or Viewsonic's 50" plasma
display for, oh, $8,100 or so.
lighter with a pocket-sized computer featuring the new Pocket PC 2002.
Once marketed as "PC Companions," these little gadgets have evolved to
the point that they are nearly notebook replacements.
32-Mb Jornada 565 ($895) and 64-Mb Jornada 568 ($999) have very
65,000-colour TFT screens. Their built-in mikes let you record brief
or notes. With pocket-sized versions of Word and Excel, you can go
basic calendar and contact lists. Add on a compact flash memory card
they can double as MP3 music players.
or Handspring Visor will do the basics for less, but this month
we're looking at the toys you really want!
a "PC Companion." Sony's Aibo promises to be an actual
In other words, a robot pet. This 1.5-kilogram, second-generation
is the size of a cat, but seems more dog-like. Its software allows it
mature and learn or, if you prefer, you can make it instantly
let it walk, sit, sleep and even wag its tail. It indicates emotions my
moving its ears and tail and flashing lights in its eyes. Touch sensors
let it know when you are patting it on the head or scratching its
to respond to a name that its owner gives it, can recognize up to 50
and can take photos through its eyes, transmitting them wirelessly to a
your choice of metallic shades of silver, gold or black. It's
cute and cuddly.
its $2,300 price a bit much, you can move down the robot pet
ladder. Hasbro's B.I.O. Mechanical Bug retails for around $60.
as real bugs are not as smart as real dogs, Hasbro's robot is nowhere
clever as Sony's. However, the designer, Mark Tilden, has
out that "Ninety-nine percent of creatures on this planet do very well
without a brain at all." There are four different "species" of robot
each with different characteristics.
season, you just might want to collect them all!