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High Tech Holiday Gift Guide

By Rob Kay and Jeff Bloom
Every year we like to suggest what we think are the coolest high tech holiday gifts. This year we’ve found there’s a bumper crop of reasonably priced electronic items for those on your Christmas list. Best of all, these gifts can be purchased online thus saving you the hassle of finding them at the store. So get your computer fired up and your credit cards ready…

Personal Organizers

The Palm Pilot series has spawned a number of imitators but we really like the original. The Palm IIIe, is the least expensive version, runs for about $229 retail but you can get it for less online. The Palm IIIe doesn’t have the memory nor an external expansion slot of the higher priced models but shares virtually the same capabilities that made the Palm Pilots runaway best sellers. Features include Date Book, Address Book, To Do List, Memo Pad, Email, Find, and Expense. It also has a very cool capability called "HotSync" which allows you to easily synchronize data with your computer. If you really want to go all the way with the Palm you can purchase the Palm VII which has all the above features and an antennae that will allow you to pick up your email and provides for limited web browsing wirelessly. The catch is that you can only do this in certain areas on the Mainland. (It doesn’t yet work in Hawaii.) Another option in the handheld computing area to check out is the new Handspring Visor Deluxe which also runs on the Palm operating system. The company was founded by the folks that created the original Palm Pilot and they intend to bring a new capabilities to the original concept by offering an a proprietary expansion slot, called the "Springboard". The Visor has the same "organizing" qualities as the Palm Pilots but the Springboard will allow you to add additional software and hardware to the device such as MP3 players and wireless phones. This will be a very hot gift this year but is only available for purchase online. Price is around $250.

Digital Cameras

Digital Cameras continue to decline in price and they are getting better all the time. If you’re thinking about purchasing one, this is the year to do it. Of all the models we looked at for this article, the new Kodak DC280 Zoom seemed to stand out. This is not a toy—it’s intended for a more experienced photographer. We agree with CNET (the online technology magazine) which said "this camera's pictures are among the best we've ever seen". It's got state of the art features such as a 1,760-by-1,168-pixel resolution (which is really incredible), a 2X optical zoom, exposure controls, and a 32MB onboard memory card that enables you to store up to 245 pictures in the camera. At around $800 it’s not cheap but it’s clearly the best.

If you don’t want to spend the money it takes to get a Kodak 280, you may well consider the Fuji DX-10 which is priced at around $300. This would be the perfect for someone who may be interested in digital photography but is not particularly electronically inclined. It's got the most user-friendly interface around and takes good quality shots that you can post on the Web or email to friends and family. It’s pocket-sized and has a resolution of 1,024 by 768 pixels but with only 2MB of storage.

Cell Phones

It seems like everybody has a cell phone nowadays—especially in the Aloha State which leads the country in per capita use of wireless telephony. If you are considering this as a gift be sure and check out the Motorola StarTAC ST7760. It's incredibly small and easily fits in your pocket. It also has an unusual dual-mode capability that runs both on the digital CDMA network and the analog AMPS network. We like easy-to-use clamshell design, which lets you answer and end calls by simply flipping the phone open or closed. The price on this about $525 but varies depending up on your service plan.

Another very cool phone is the NeoPoint 1000 which will definitely interest the high tech whiz in your family. Not only is it a phone but will allow you to surf the Web and send email through the use of a built-in modem. This item also has PC synchronization. Thus if you’ve entered new contacts or appointments into the phone or the PC both the data will automatically be updated when the phone gets hooked up to the computer. Again, exact price depends on your service plan but it retails for around $400.

Computer Games

If you’re considering a computer game set up for that special child n the Sega Dreamcast has gotten rave reviews and will probably be the gift this holiday season. With a128-bit console that renders life-like animation and other high tech features, technologically it’s superior to anything else on the market. It has a wide array of must-have software titles and, at a price of around $200, it won’t break the bank.

If you’re interested in purchasing these items online a good place to start is CNET which provides a great list of vendors and detailed product reviews of above items as well as other suggestions. You can find them at www.cnet.com.

Rob Kay is a Honolulu-based public relations practitioner who works with technology companies in Hawaii and Silicon Valley. He can be reached at rkay@pactechcom.com or 539-3627. Jeff Bloom is the founder of Computer Training Academy/Network Resource Center, a computer education/consulting firm based in Honolulu. His contact is jeffb@cta.net or 839- 1200.

Pacific Business News - Friday November 17, 1999

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