It's amazing in this time of economic expansion and excess, how such extravagance manifests itself even in our gadgets and gizmos. Technology designers have been set free to play! They've taken perfectly normal electronic devices and, by adding some surprising extras, transformed the ordinary into the extraordinary. Below are gadgets with add-ons most of us would never have asked for. They're now solving problems we never really knew we had. But once we get used to these features it's hard to believe that we ever lived without them.
The Thinkpad With A Night Light >>>>
As I write this, I'm sitting on a darkened airplane. An indescribably terrible movie is playing and choosing to type instead isn't a problem. That's because, here in the dark, this IBM ThinkPad i Series 1400 notebook comes with it's own night light! (They call it the "ThinkLight.") This ThinkPad features a slender body with a huge screen, an ingenious CD-player and all the add-ons a traveler could realistically need. But, with nearly every laptop manufacturer making clones of each other, this tiny light on the edge of the screen was the extra touch that made me laugh. Could I live without it? Of course, but now I can type here on the plane or at home in my bed in the dark while my long-suffering wife sleeps.
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ThinkPad i Series 1400
Palm Companions >>>>
Since handheld Palm devices have slimmed down to almost invisibility, you can now carry along Casio's Freedio scanner and printer. Just scan in business cards or color pictures and beam them, using IR (infrared) to your handheld device or directly to the tiny printer. Ok, I admit most information could as easily be entered on these organizers by hand but the Casio people figure their must be a market for all their weird peripherals. With so many Palms and Windows CE organizers out there, they figured people would "need" to carry these pint-sized devices... but mostly for the critical game of gadgetry one-upmanship. Configuring these devices to work with my Palm V was rather complicated. (Perhaps, for true gadget nuts out there, the extra effort of getting the right drivers to work with the right devices is part of the fun?) But the real fun is when you finally start beaming data back and forth from one hand to the other and everyone says, "Cool!" (Suggested price for each: $249)
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Freedio Palm Sized Color Scanner and Freedio Palm Sized Printer
It's hard to get excited about video games unless the displays are spectacular and Sega's Dreamcast, with 128-bit architecture, allows fast gaming in sparkling rich color. Realism moves these games to a whole new level making Dreamcast such a hot seller. But, as an itinerant bass fisherman, Sega's Bass Fishing touched me where I live. Sitting on the couch with the rod and reel adapter is so ridiculous, you have to brave the laughter around you. That is, until they first cast and you won't stop fishing. Even thlaughing cynics will change their tune when they haul in that rare 18-pounder. Why fish in the rain if you can achieve a "virtual" fishing high at home? The Bass Fishing game costs $39.99 and the Controller $34.99
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Sega's Bass Fishing and Sega Dreamcast Fishing Controller
Find Yourself in Pictures >>>>
Now, when you take a digital picture, you REALLY know where you've been. That's because several of Kodak's terrific Digital Science cameras can now be fitted with an optional GPS device that places an exact location stamp on your digital images. This DC290 zoom camera takes stunning 2.1 megapixel images that rival the best film cameras in most conditions. Add the GPS kit, and your photos can be precisely geo-referenced to the latitude and longitude. I admit that most people need this function like a whole in the head. But, if you're in real estate, in law enforcement, or in journalism, it sure comes in handy knowing where an image was taken. This feature fascinates me because, as digital images become easier to manipulate, technologies like this that incorporate time and location stamping, encryption, and watermarking will become more important to ensure the authenticity of the imagery. But such extras have a pretty hefty price tag: the camera lists at $999 and the GPS kit costs nearly $500 more.
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Kodak's DC290 Zoom Digital Camera and Kodak's GPS kit
Smile! You're on Tiny Cam! >>>>
Now, you remember I said that Casio comes up with some "weird peripherals." Well, their mad scientists score a daring success. Say you just bought a beautiful Cassiopeia E-105, the Windows CE device with a bright 65,000-plus color display. You don't want WASTE such screen-gorgeousness just playing Solitaire. Slip in the optional digital camera card in the expansion port and you're ready to record terrific stills and mini-videos that can easily be emailed using this handy handful. The multimedia E-105 lists for $599 and the camera card and software another $299.
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Cassiopeia E-105 and Digital Camera Card (and software bundle)
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