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Oh, what fun!

Check out some of the 40 or so cool gadgets, games and thingama-gizmos that we brought into our offices to play with.

December 7, 1998
Web posted at: 5:00 PM EST

by Computerworld Review Center

(IDG) -- Would you rather be watching a DVD movie on a big plasma display screen, reading a newfangled electronic book or swapping out disk drives? We know that database development tools, Web servers and storage management can be dry, dull and necessary. But are they fun? Nah. Check out some of the 40 or so cool gadgets, games and thingama-gizmos that we brought into our offices to play with. (Hey, we want to have fun, too!)

Some of our favorites: The latest in Global Positioning System technology, a digital video disc player and new displays, an affordable digital camera and the latest games, including this year's hot new title, Trespasser.

We have a little of everything and something for everybody: the professional in you, the geek in you and the kid in you. It's cool stuff ... and not-so-cool stuff.

No lost horizons

Yes, you can get there from here, if you use one of the various Global Positioning System (GPS) and map products that are available. With Street Atlas, you can find and map addresses and area codes. You also can plot travel between two points. It can take a few minutes to get started, but the program has loads of features and even shows which radio stations you can receive along the highways. You also can connect the GPS receiver to your laptop and see exactly where you are along the way. The Magellan GSC 100 Global Communicator goes a step further. It lets you tell someone else exactly where you are, anywhere in the world, by sending them an E-mail.
Stewart Deck and Tom Lamoureux

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Street Atlas USA 6.0 (with GPS Receiver) by Delorme
Price: $199.95

Magellan GSC 100 Global Communicator by Magellan Corp.
Price: $999

Divine DVD

Fast-forwarding your VCR to the beginning of a movie is a stab in the dark. But with digital video disc (DVD) players, you get a menu to guide you to where you want to go. Click down once to see the opening credits or click on to your favorite scene (DVDs segment the movies). I hooked up Toshiba's SD3108 DVD to my fairly old color TV and was astounded at the sharpness and brilliance of color. The only drawback: Rentals are hard to come by. DVD players range in price from roughly $350 to $1,000.
Cathy Gagne

SD3108 DVD Video Player by Toshiba America Consumer Products Inc.
Price: $699.95

Surf 'n' veg

WebTV Plus Special Edition, which comes as a plain black box, is relatively easy to set up (about as difficult as hooking up your cable and VCR to your TV) and has enough features for E-mail, simple searching and surfing popular Web sites. WebTV also includes TV features such as program reminders and local listings.

Keith Shaw

WebTV Plus by WebTV Networks Inc.
Price: $199 for box; $24.95 for monthly service

Pssst . . . got $22,000?

Skinny TV's? Skinny TVs? Yup. Plasma display technology is hitting the consumer scene. Well, for now, the wealthy consumer scene: Screens range from $10,000 to $22,000. The screens are about 4 to 6 in. deep, can hang on your wall and offer screen widths from 40 to 50 in. We reviewed a 42-in. screen from Fujitsu and a 50-in. screen from Pioneer. We were impressed by the sharp resolution and rich colors. But if you're closer than, say, 12 feet, the screen is grainy.
Cathy Gagne, Jim Connolly and Kevin Burden

Plasmavision 42 by Fujitsu General America Inc.
Price: $10,999

PDP-V501X by Pioneer New Media Technologies
Price: $22,000


Out of the dozens of digital cameras ranging from $250 to less than $1,000, the Olympus D-600L and Kodak's DC210 Plus shape up as this year's hot sellers, according to our informal poll of a half-dozen major camera stores. We also reviewed Canon's Vistura Camcorder, which Canon says has the longest zoom lens of any digital video camcorder up to eight times zoom maximum. The Olympus was hard to use. The resolution and color were sharp and bright only when set at the highest resolution. The cheaper Kodak's images were bright and clear, the colors were true, and it was a snap to figure out. The digital camcorder also was easy to use.
Cathy Gagne and Laura Hunt

D-600L by Olympus America Inc.
Price: $899

DC210 Plus by Eastman Kodak Co.
Price: $599

Vistura DV Camcorder by Canon USA Inc
Price: $1,799

Dead clever

Playing the role of a dead person is the easy part of Grim Fandango. The hard part is trying to solve a mystery in this 3-D adventure from LucasArts. Based on Mexican, Mayan and Aztec mythology, with some hard-boiled film noir thrown in, this game will have you laughing along with the other corpses as you try to reach "heaven."
Keith Shaw

Grim Fandango by LucasArts Entertainment
Price: $39.95

Stayin' alive

Your objective couldn't be more straightforward: Don't get eaten. But when you're marooned with rogue dinosaurs on the tropical "Site B" island, in the aftermath of the Lost World expedition, staying alive isn't so easy. Everything in the Trespasser environment reacts according to the laws of physics, which is what makes this game so much fun. The catch for this sophistication is a minimum system of a 266-MHz Pentium II with 64M bytes of RAM or better.
Kevin Burden

Trespasser by DreamWorks Interactive
Price: $49.95

Part 2

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