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COMMENTARY

High Tech Stocking Stuffers


By Rob Kay

This time of year we like to write about some of the more interesting items that have come across our desk over the year that we think might make worthy Christmas gifts. Before we examine the merchandise let's consider how you might shop with your computer instead of fighting the masses down at Ala Moana Shopping Center or Kahala Mall. First of all, shopping over the Net is not something just for geeks. Industry observers estimate that Internet-related sales could surge to $1.5 trillion in 2003 from $10 billion in 1997. According to a recent speech delivered by none other than Bill Clinton about 40 percent of U.S. homes with computers will use the Internet to do part or all of their holiday shopping. This is up from 10 percent last year.


One of the online companies we like is the famous Amazon.com, which in addition to books now sells music CDs and other gifts over the Net. Using it is a snap. Once you've established an account it's easy to choose the book or gift that you want. Amazon also provides commentary by readers and reviews if you‚re having trouble deciding what to purchase. The thing we appreciate about Amazon are their value-added services that include providing a card with a note, gift-wrapping, and the capacity to send it anywhere in the world for you. That means no waiting in line at the post office. It's a great time saver for delivering gifts to friends, relatives or clients on the mainland.

For middle school or high school kids we think Britannica CD 99 Multimedia Edition, produced by the venerable Encyclopaedia Britannica, is a terrific gift. The multi-media edition, which works with Windows 95 or 98, comes in a two-disk format that has the text of the Encyclopedia and much more. It delivers thousands of images, maps, videos and numerous Internet links that allows a student to explore topics in a detailed fashion. In addition, there are numerous cool features such as reports, tables and graphs that enable the user to compare 191 countries‚ demographics, national economy and other areas. There is also a timeline that allows you to see what was happening contemporaneously in the fields of architecture, literature, medicine, religion, etc, from 90,000 BC to the present. The price is $119 for the full blown Multimedia version or $59.00 for the standard edition which still has the entire text of the 32-volume print set, the last five Britannica Yearbooks, images and interactive maps on one CD-ROM. Call 1-800-747-8503 or more info or see http://www.eb.com.

For the businessman or woman that has everything you might consider the CardScan 300 from a Cambridge, Massachusetts company called Corex. This has got to be one of the coolest business tools we've ever seen. It allows you to take all those business cards that are probably cluttering up your drawer or wallet and easily scan the data into a database on your desktop computer. Modeled after an actual Rolodex, the software is full-featured, well-designed and easy to use. CardScan 300 has a very effective scanner that sucks up all those fax numbers, e-mail addresses, Web sites and the like that we are all too busy to enter in manually. This little gem also works with a Palm Pilot and is worth considering if you want to help that special someone organize his or her life electronically. Price is around $300. Call 800-942-6739 or order online by logging onto http://www.cardscan.com.

Another great gift for that special erudite person on your shopping list is the CD version of the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED is the most complete, scholarly dictionary of the English language and has over a half million words in common use from 1150 AD to the present. The dictionary utilizes only one CD and is linked to Microsoft Word. Thus when you‚re using the word processor all you do is click on the icon on the control bar and voilą you have a definition. The format is a bit clunky compared to other works but you can't have a better reference at your fingertips. It's available for a mere $395 or you can get the shorter OED on CDROM for $95. The shorter OED is newer, slicker, better designed and a good value if you don't need or want the full bore OED. Check out the Oxford University Press web site at http://www.oed.com for ordering information.

Finally, if you're interested in the latest electronic gadgetry, you might consider a digital camera. Prices are coming down, the quality is getting much better and these items are getting easier to use. We scoured the Internet for price/value and found one camera that seems to stand head and shoulders above the rest in the under $300 category. The Epson PhotoPC 550, priced as low as $182, is a real bargain. Well engineered, it takes excellent quality images that you would expect of a higher priced item and effectively sets the standard for pocket-sized cameras. At 4.2 by 2.6 by 1.5 inches and 5.4 ounces, the 550 can fit into your shirt pocket and can snap 1,000 photos without draining the three AA batteries. See http://www.epson.com for more information. If you're willing to spend around $400 you might want to check out Kodak's DC210 Plus which has gotten rave reviews as well. It has a zoom lens and plenty of other nifty features.

Pacific Business News - Friday December 11, 1998

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