Consumer Electronics Show 2001

The Philips booth is one of the largest at the show.
The Philips booth is one of the largest at the show.

The Consumer Electronics Show is a chance for 1,700 electronics manufacturers to show off their products to more than 100,000 journalists, buyers and customers. The show completely fills the Las Vegas Convention Center, the Riviera and Alexis Park Hotel Convention Centers and about a dozen huge pavilion tents covering the parking lots of the three convention centers. There is no way a single person could even hope to cover all of the show comprehensively!

Exhibits range from the small 10 ft by 10 ft booths to the enormous ones like this:

As at any trade show, there are amazing bids for attention. There's everything from a rare white tiger to this rappelling rock at the Uniden booth:

The climbing structure at the Uniden booth. The climbing structure at the Uniden booth.
The climbing structure at the Uniden booth.

To things like this huge LCD arch at the Samsung booth:

The LCD Arch The LCD Arch
The LCD Arch

The technology being demonstrated here is incredible. The following sections show you the highlights from many different manufacturers…

Seiko Super Wristwatch!

The Seiko Wristwatch Companion
The Seiko Wristwatch Companion

Seiko's Wristwatch Companion packs an amazing number of features into a device not much larger than a typical wristwatch:

To use the device as a cell phone, you must take it off your wrist. On the underside of the band on either side of the main device are a speaker and microphone.

A really neat feature is the wireless security function. Each Wristwatch Companion has a unique ID embedded in the unit. For example, if you have a PC that is Bluetooth enabled, you will be able to set up the PC so that it will not allow access unless your Companion is within a certain distance.

Entering information such as phone numbers requires the use of a tiny joypad navigation button on the watch face. The device has a 128-in. by 92-in. grayscale LCD and a rechargeable battery. The unit comes with a sleek recharging station that also serves as a stand to keep the Companion on when not in use.

DataPlay Micro-optical Disks

A micro-optical disk is tiny and holds 500 megabytes
A micro-optical disk is tiny and holds 500 megabytes

One of the most exciting products to debut at CES (it won the Best of Show award) is DataPlay's micro-optical storage media. Not much larger than a quarter, these tiny optical discs are capable of storing about 500 MB of data. The micro-optical player/recorder is about the size of a matchbox and features a 1 MB per second transfer rate, allowing it to record and play back faster than a typical CD!

A micro-optical disk drive A micro-optical disk drive
A micro-optical disk drive

The number of products already in production for this new storage media is amazing. MP3 players, digital cameras, removable drives, home entertainment, PDAs and many more devices are incorporating DataPlay drives. Some of the highlights include a home entertainment system from Samsung that includes a portable audio player with DataPlay drive. The portable player docks into the top of the entertainment center to recharge and play through the system but can easily be removed for use on the go. Other devices include removable DataPlay drives that connect to your computer via USB or PCMCIA slot and innovative PDA devices.

Samsung Ultimate Monitor

The ultimate monitor
The ultimate monitor

Samsung was showing off this gorgeous 24-inch, HDTV-ready, LCD monitor. With a resolution of 1920x1200 and a 16:10 aspect ratio, the Samsung 240T is The ultimate monitor!


Sony Satellite Radio
Sony Satellite Radio

Sony introduced a number of new products at CES in several categories:

XM Satellite Radio Receiver

(DRN-XM01) Featuring XM Satellite Radio reception, the DRN-XM01 is a portable receiver that can be connected to a standard home stereo or connected to an in-dash car radio. The receiver will use a digital line input if the car radio has it, otherwise you can use the optional cassette adapter.


(EMK-01) A neat little gadget that is available now for about $20, the EMK-01 can be put on your keychain. Install the included software on your PC and enter the call letters and frequency for your three favorite radio stations. Then, whenever you hear a song on the radio that you want more information about, simply press the button on the tiny device. When you get back home, plug the eMarker into the USB connected cradle and it will retrieve the song title, artist and other pertinent information and display it on your computer.

Sony eMarker Sony eMarker
Sony eMarker

SACD Players

Two new products, SCD-C555ES Multi-Channel SACD/CD Five-Disc Changer and SCD-CE775 Multi-Channel SACD/CD Five-Disc Changer offer the multi-channel SACD support. The SCD-C555ES is a high-end player targeted at professionals and demanding audiophiles while the SCD-CE775 is designed to bring the excitement of SACD to the average consumer.

DVD RW Dual Compatible Recorder

Designed primarily for archiving VHS video to DVD, this device will support both DVD-RW and DVD+RW media. Sony also previewed DVR-Blue technology for the first time in the United States. This technology uses a blue-violet laser diode to increase DVD disc capacity to over 22 gigabytes, about the same as five normal DVDs! Another neat DVD product is a 300 disc changer that will play either DVDs or CDs.


Wireless AV/IT Gateway

Wireless LCD-based entertainment devices are quite popular at this year's CES. Sony's new concept product, currently available in Japan, allows consumers access to e-mail, TV broadcasts, the Internet, video content and digital still images from almost anywhere inside their homes. The unit has a LCD touch-screen, PS2 keyboard connector and separate base station. You can control devices such as televisions, A/V receivers, CD/DVD players, digital satellite and cable boxes through the use of the included IR Blaster.

eVilla Network Entertainment Center

Boasting an unusual 15-inch, portrait-oriented display, eVilla comes with a keyboard and mouse and is bundled with an ISP that costs $21.95 a month. It enables users to instantly access e-mail, navigate the Web, listen to audio and Internet radio stations, and view video and images. It features instant-on access and also integrates two USB ports for easy connectivity, plus a Memory Stick media slot.

Trinitron Wega Television

Featuring a 40-inch CRT, the largest in the industry, the newest Wega adds several enhancements including Digital Reality Creation (DRC) MultiFunction with CineMotion reverse 3:2 pull-down process.

VAIO PCV-LX900 Slimtop Pen Tablet

A new addition to the VAIO line of computers, this full-performance PC is highlighted by a touchscreen LCD panel that folds down to a near horizontal angle. Using a special electromagnetic stylus, you are able to easily draw and edit images directly on the screen, like a artist's sketchpad, or view web pages just like you read a book.

Nokia Media Terminal

The Nokia Media Terminal
The Nokia Media Terminal

Nokia and Intel have collaborated on a hot new product that Nokia is showing at CES, the Nokia Media Terminal. This multimedia device combines digital television reception, broadband Internet access, digital audio and video distribution throughout your home, video-on-demand services, MP3 player, networked games and a host of other applications in one device!

Based on the Linux operating system, the Media Terminal uses the Mozilla open source browser (Netscape is based on Mozilla) and Nokia's Navibars Lite user interface. Inside the box is an Intel Celeron 366MHz CPU, 20 GB hard drive, 32- to 64-MB SDRAM, 4 MB video SDRAM, 1+1 MB Flash memory for an instant on boot process, 56k modem plus ISDN, ADSL, Ethernet and Cable connections.

Ports include composite and S-Video, RGB Video, RCA audio connectors, a digital audio port, two smart card readers, one PCMCIA connector, two USB ports, two 1394 (Firewire) ports, one phone jack, one IR port, one Ethernet connection and one Common Interface port.

The unit also incorporates DVR (Digital Video Recording) with a capacity of about 30 hours of video.

Minds@Work Digital Wallet

The Digital Wallet
The Digital Wallet

Minds@Work introduced the Digital Wallet at CES. This is one of those ideas that is really simple but very useful.

The Digital Wallet is about the size of a paperback novel and weighs around 13 ounces. It contains a 2.5-inch, 6-GB hard drive, a self-contained rechargeable battery, LCD display and a CompactFlash card reader. The idea is that instead of buying multiple memory cards or lugging a computer around, you can take the Digital Wallet along with you and transfer the contents of any memory card to the device. It transfers data at about 2 MB a second. Once you get back to your computer, simply connect the Digital Wallet to the computer via USB and it auto-mounts as another hard drive!


The Web Tablet
The Web Tablet

Intel is at CES in a big way! With a huge booth and a flotilla of products, Intel is determined to show that they are not just a chipmaker. Among the highlights are:

Web Tablet

This device is a wireless add-on to your PC. Using Intel's Anypoint wireless home network, the tablet is an extension of the desktop. It relies on the processing power and Internet connection of your PC to work properly. What it gives you is mobility and the ability to have two people surfing the Web from the same PC. The large color LCD is a touchscreen. The Web Tablet features a complete Web browser and several other applications.

Intel Wireless Series

Intel has introduced several wireless devices including a mouse, keyboard and gamepad [pics 88, 89]. All of these devices use the same base station, which can support up to eight devices. A prototype of a wireless e-mail device was shown at CES. Incorporating a long narrow LCD and a small keyboard, this device allows you to check e-mail while away from your computer or while someone else is using the computer.

Wireless e-mail Wireless e-mail
Wireless e-mail

Intel Pocket Series

Intel also introduced the Pocket PC Camera and Pocket Concert Audio Player. The Pocket Concert Player is a portable MP3 player that boasts a whopping 128 MB of storage or about four times as much as most players. The Pocket PC Camera is a Web cam that doubles as a digital still camera, similar to the Web Cam Go by Creative.

Digital Cam Digital Cam
Digital Cam

Other News

On the computer front, Intel demonstrated the latest Pentium 4 chips and announced a free download software bridge for their networking products. The software bridge enables Intel Anypoint wireless networks to talk with a phoneline or Ethernet network.

Olympus EyeTrekker

The EyeTrekker
The EyeTrekker

Olympus was wowing crowds with the EyeTrekker. This amazing device looks like a strange pair of sunglasses. When you put it on, you view two tiny high resolution LCD panels that make you feel like you are watching a 60-inch, big-screen TV. Integrated ear phones take care of the audio.


The Nomad Jukebox
The Nomad Jukebox

Creative introduced several new products:

Nomad Jukebox

Nomad Jukebox (seen here connected to the speaker add-on) provides 6 GB of storage, enough to hold more than 100 hours of CD quality music! The Jukebox is a portable MP3 player that uses rechargeable batteries and will run for six to eight hours on a single charge. It has a 5-minute shock protection buffer so your music never skips and includes a real-time effects processor for equalization and customization. The ports include Line In and dual Line Out for recording to and from analog devices and a USB port for downloading music from your computer.

The speaker that the Jukebox is connected to is an amazing device itself. Running off a 15 amp lead-acid battery and weighing in at about 14 pounds, it is not meant for taking on a long walk. What it does give you is superb sound quality and a very easy way to listen to the Jukebox at home, outside or in the car. While you are listening to the Nomad Jukebox, the speaker box is recharging the player's batteries!

Video Blaster

Video Blaster Video Blaster
Video Blaster

VideoBlaster Moviemaker is a fast and easy way to create digital video from your home movies. Using a sophisticated hardware/software combo, Moviemaker has a small external unit that you plug your video and audio sources into. The unit has a hardware codec that encodes the data in real time to a specified hard drive. You can choose to encode as MPEG1, MPEG2 or Video CD. Once the footage is on the hard drive, you can use the bundled Ulead VideoStudio to edit your video!



Here are three of the most popular products showcased at 3COM's booth:


Already available and receiving recognition, this device is the first in the new Ergo line of products from 3COM. Audrey combines Web surfing, e-mail, and PIM (Personal Information Management) functions like calendar, phone book and task lists into a single easy-to-use appliance. Audrey has a 7.8-inch LCD touchscreen with 640 X 480 resolution and 12-bit color. Inside of the unit is a 200 MHz Geode CPU from National Semiconductor, 32 MB RAM, 16 MB Flash memory and a V.90 56K modem. Ports include dual phone jacks, two USB ports, a serial port and a line out jack for audio. The keyboard is wireless and transmits to the main unit via IR (InfraRed) just like a remote control. There are two built-in speakers and a microphone as well as buttons for launching applications and a Channels knob. A complete Web browser with Macromedia Flash, Real Audio Real Player G2, JavaScript and SSL support is included.


Kerbango Kerbango

If you have a broadband Internet connection such as a cable or DSL modem, then you may just want one of these nifty radios. Combining a traditional AM/FM radio with a special Web-based interface, Kerbango offers the incredible array of radio stations you can find on the Web in the familiar and comfortable package that we are all used to.


Bluetooth PC Card Bluetooth PC Card
Bluetooth PC Card

3COM is embracing Bluetooth. Several new networking products introduced at CES provide you with ways to integrate Bluetooth devices into your home network. Two of the more notable devices are this Bluetooth PC Card that you can plug into your laptop and 3COM's Wireless Bluetooth Access Point 1000, a Bluetooth to Ethernet bridge that has a 100-meter working range in an open area or 30 meters in a typical home environment.

Altec Lansing

The Altec Lansing Digital Amp
The Altec Lansing Digital Amp

Altec Lansing unveiled a prototype for an all-digital speaker/amplifier systems using DDX (Direct Digital Amplification) from Apogee Technology. This will be the first true digital-to-digital sound solution for home use.


Home networking using your house wiring
Home networking using your house wiring

Intellon, a networking computer featured in the article How Home Networks Work, has updated their popular powerline networking product. These systems are now capable of approximately 6 Mbps data transfer rate between PCs connected to each other through your home's standard electrical wiring.

XM Radio

XM Satellite Radio launched the first of two satellites today. XM has developed key partnerships with several major car manufacturers such as Ford and GM, electronics manufacturers (Alpine, Pioneer and Sony) and major retailers (Sears). Using the two satellites (Rock is the first one and Roll is the second), XM will offer about 100 channels of music that will be accessible anywhere in the continental United States and eventually worldwide.


Panasonic in-car DVD systems
Panasonic in-car DVD systems

Panasonic has a new line of DVD products for the car:

  • A sophisticated head end unit that plugs into your dash and controls a CD/DVD changer located under the seat or in the trunk.
  • An in-dash DVD player that can be connected to an external display.
  • An in-dash DVD player with a pop-up LCD display built right in!
Panasonic in-car DVD systems Panasonic in-car DVD systems
Panasonic in-car DVD systems


In fact, wireless connectivity and mobile computing/entertainment are definitely the predominant themes of this year's CES. Many of the exhibitors are demonstrating products that are geared toward making the computer (and even the home entertainment center) an integral part of the car.

Q-PC, a Huntsville, Ala., -based company, is showing off an incredible computer system that can be completely integrated into your vehicle. Featuring a Pentium III processor, Windows 98/ME and a LCD panel that mounts in the front dash, the RealCar PC offers all the functionality of a laptop PC in your car. Options such as wireless Ethernet capability allow you to synchronize your RealCar PC with your home system as soon as you pull into your garage!


The Sharp MI-E1U
The Sharp MI-E1U

Sharp showed off this prototype mobile communications and entertainment device called the MI-E1U. Featuring a 32-bit RISC CPU, 16 MB RAM (8 MB Flash and 8 MB SDRAM), 3.5-inch color LCD, integrated slide-keyboard and two CompactFlash card slots, the MI-E1U is a complete PDA that also can play MP3s, MPEG-4 video and games.


One of the cameras in the Donnelly system
One of the cameras in the Donnelly system

Donnelly, long known in the automotive industry for their mirror products, has entered the consumer electronics market with the introduction of VideoMirror Camera Vision System. This system uses tiny CMOS cameras to monitor the lower rear area of a vehicle (ReversAid) or to watch an infant in a child seat (BabyVue). The images are sent via dedicated wiring from the camera to an LCD screen mounted below the rear view mirror. The LCD flips up and out of the way behind the mirror when it is not in use.

Donnelly has several other products in the works that add functionality to the basic rear view mirror. Integrated compasses, thermometers and auto-dimming features are among the highlights.

Telestial Prepaid Cellular

Some of the GSM phones available at
Some of the GSM phones available at
Photo courtesy Telestial

If you've read How Cell Phones Work, then you know that there are a variety of cell phone technologies in the world. In the United States, for example, there are CDMA, TDMA, and iDEN, among others. Different wireless service providers, in different countries, use different technologies for their customers.

One problem with having so many cell phone technologies in use is getting your phone to work when you travel. Different countries use different systems, so there's a chance your phone won't function at all once you leave home. In the early '90s, Conference of European Posts and Telegraphs (CEPT) launched GSM as an international standard to solve this problem. Originally this stood for Groupe Spécial Mobile but now its referred to as Global System for Mobile communications.

GSM is a digital system, with a number of useful features, including:

  • encryption to make phone calls more secure
  • data networking
  • group III facsimile services
  • Short Message Service (SMS) for text messages and paging
  • call forwarding
  • caller ID
  • call waiting
  • multi-party conferencing

In most of Europe, Asia and Africa, service providers use the GSM system, operating in the 900MHz and 1800MHz bands. This means you can use the same GSM cell phone as you travel from country to country in these areas. Unfortunately, GSM in the United States and Canada operates in the 1900MHz band, so your GSM phone may not work when you travel abroad. If you live in North America but regularly travel to Europe, Asia or Africa, this can be extremely frustrating. Some U.S. cell phone models do support this system, but you'll probably end up paying hefty roaming charges. And if your phone doesn't support GSM 900MHz and 1800MHz, and you have to get a separate cell phone in the country you're travelling to, you'll have to deal with the foreign provider. This means paying bills and making service calls to other countries! If you've ever tried this, you know it can be expensive and extremely confusing.

Telestial, a small company based in San Diego, was founded to offer U.S. and Canadian travelers an easier, less expensive option. Ken Grunski, the company's founder, was inspired by his own frustration with the hassle and expense of buying wireless service while traveling in Asia. The company's main goal is to make it very simple for travelers to get the technology and service they need before they leave on a trip. Then they have one less thing to worry about while they're abroad.

Telestial sells GSM cell phones that work in countries in Europe and Asia, as well as phones that will work both in these countries and in the United States and Canada. The company also sells prepaid cell phone service packages for countries in Europe and Asia. This includes a subscriber identification module (SIM) card, the crucial component that identifies your phone to the service network. The SIM card also stores your phone number and your security codes. To make everything as easy as possible, Telestial sells the phones and services online, at

Removing and installing SIM cards is quite simple. Removing and installing SIM cards is quite simple.
Removing and installing SIM cards is quite simple.
Photo courtesy Telestial

The service is prepaid, which has a number of advantages. The main benefits are:

  • You don't have to deal with billing problems in other countries. Telestial charges in U.S. dollars, and you pay before you leave.
  • You know exactly how much you're spending
  • Most pre-paid plans don't charge you for incoming calls.

Prepaid international wireless service is also a good alternative to calls from hotels and pay phones. Finding the right change for a phone in a foreign city can be extremely stressful, and prepaid phone cards don't work in every type of pay phone. Depending on your hotel, you may get a good deal or you may have to pay hefty surcharges. Prepaid wireless service is often cheaper than a credit card call from your hotel room.

Even if you do have a cell phone that works outside of the United States, you might consider prepaid wireless service. For most calls, the service is a lot less expensive: If people back home call you, it doesn't cost a thing on your end, and local calls are generally charged at the local rate, which is definitely cheaper.

Tech Media PDA Accessories

Photo courtesy Tech Media

If you've recently purchased a personal digital assistant, then you might want to check out Tech Media Industries' PDA Body-Guard line of PDA accessories. Tech Media is a rising manufacturer that focuses on accessories for electronics. Andy Schwartz founded the company in 1995, in Hauppauge, New York. Initially, the company produced mouse pads, and then moved onto cell phone accessories. They soon developed additional products, such as Wiper-Nu, a device for sharpening worn windshield wiper blades. Recently, the company has focused its attention on PDA accessories. In the future, their goal is to become the premier manufacturer in this field.

The PDA Body-Guard line is designed to improve your PDA's performance and minimize damage from wear and tear. Tech Media showed five Body-Guard products at CES this year.

Photo courtesy Tech Media
Photo courtesy Tech Media
  • The Body-Guard EVA Case is a protective wallet for your PDA. It measures 5.5 inches by 4 inches (14 by 10.1 cm), and closes with a dual-pulling zipper. The case is designed to fit most PDA models on the market. The durable, padded EVA material keeps your PDA safe from wear and moisture when you're not using it. The case also holds two extra batteries and has a strap on the back that attaches to your belt. For a list of compatible PDAs and available colors, check out this page on the PDA Body-Guard site. Photo courtesy Tech Media
  • The Body-Guard Leather Case offers protection from wear and tear like the EVA case, but it also includes some extra features. It has compartments for credit cards and money, as well as extra batteries. The 5.5-inch by 4 inch (14 x 10.1 x 2.54 cm) case is made of top grain premium leather, with a Velcro strap for securing the PDA. Like the EVA case, it closes with a zipper. For a list of compatible PDAs, check out this page. Photo courtesy Tech Media

Tech Media also sells a PDA Body-Guard Kit, which includes the leather case, a SmartStylus Pen, CareCleaners and ScreenShields. The kit also includes a MicroProtector, a piece of woven cloth designed to wipe dirt and smudges off of a PDA. If you just got a PDA, or are giving one as a gift, this kit will get you started.

Photo courtesy Tech Media

MicroTouch Touchscreens

Part of the revolving MicroTouch display
Part of the revolving MicroTouch display
Photo courtesy MicroTouch

One of the coolest booths at the CES was MicroTouch's revolving "Touch in Your World" exhibit. The display demonstrated how MicroTouch's partners include the company's touchscreen technology in their innovative products. The Electrolux/Ericsson's ScreenFridge Internet Appliance, with its electronic home center features (shown in the picture below) was a show-stopper. Other touch partners' devices on display were frontpath's ProGear wireless Web pad, IBM's SurePOS 500 point-of-sale register, Gateway's Touch Pad, goReader's e-textbook, NCR's Web Kiosk, uWink's WallRus gaming device, Pioneer POS's StealthTouch kiosk, and ICS-Olivetti's ModiFon Web phone.

MicroTouch Systems, Inc., founded in 1982, has become the world's leading manufacturer of computer touchscreen technology. They have recently joined with 3M, one of the top technology companies in the world. MicroTouch makes two different types of touchscreen -- analog capacitive and resistive membrane. Both technologies use thin glass panels that are positioned between a CRT/LCD display and the user. The touchscreen is so discrete that most people don't realize they're not actually touching the display.

A portable touchscreen device using a MicroTouch resistive touchscreen A portable touchscreen device using a MicroTouch resistive touchscreen
A portable touchscreen device using a MicroTouch resistive touchscreen
Photo courtesy MicroTouch

Capacitive screens read touch by interpreting disturbances in a voltage field. A low level electrical current is applied from all four corners of the screen, creating a uniform voltage field. When you put your finger on the screen, you draw from the electrical current, and the touchscreen controller recognizes a touch. This draw of electricity (your finger touching the screen) pulls from each of the screen's four corners. The voltage -- the electrical potential difference, or "electrical pressure" -- changes at each corner, in proportion to the distance between the corner and the point of contact. With this information, the touchscreen controller can calculate the exact coordinates of the touch. Touchscreen software then interprets these coordinates, so the computer application can register the touch as a mouse click.

MicroTouch resistive touchscreens. MicroTouch resistive touchscreens.
MicroTouch resistive touchscreens.
Photo courtesy MicroTouch

Resistive touchscreens work when pressure is applied to the screen surface. The touch makes a connection between two conductive coated screen layers, separated by non-conductive spacer dots. When the user applies a finger or stylus to the screen, it pushes the conductive-coated polyester top sheet down to the conductive-coated glass layer. This completes an electrical circuit between the two layers at that particular point. The system relays the point of the connection to the controller and a touch is recognized.

Touchscreens have a number of unique qualities that are useful in a wide range of applications. These benefits include:

  • Ease of use -- People interact with touch screens using a basic, intuitive system -- you touch areas of a screen you want to activate. Even people who are extremely uncomfortable working with personal computers will usually know what to do with a touch screen. This means less training time is required for touchscreen systems than for keyboard-driven systems.
  • Durability -- MicroTouch offers a number of heavy-duty touchscreens that hold up even when exposed to heavy wear-and-tear and excessive grime. This makes the company's touchscreen technology an ideal choice for computer systems used in industrial manufacturing plants. Traditional keyboards are easily damaged in these environments, but touch screens hold up. Because of this resistance to abuse, MicroTouch touchscreens are also a good choice for unattended systems, such as automatic teller machines and museum displays.
Touchscreen technology is extremely easy to use. Touchscreen technology is extremely easy to use.
Touchscreen technology is extremely easy to use.
Photo courtesy MicroTouch

In addition to these applications, MicroTouch screens work well for gaming systems, informational kiosks, and cashier stations. Some screens also capture writing, which is useful for all sorts of business applications. For example, doctors can use these touchscreens to approve prescriptions online, saving their patients time and energy.

MicroTouch sells capacitive and resistive screens that can be integrated with computer displays, as well as pre-assembled touchscreen monitors. To learn more about touchscreen applications, and to see MicroTouch's full line of products, check out

Intrigo's Lapstation

The Lapstation by Intrigo
The Lapstation by Intrigo
Photo courtesy of Intrigo

Our modern society is fast-paced. It seems like most of us spend our lives on the go, constantly shuffling from the office or school to home and back. For many of us, our computer is right there with us, along for the ride so that we can take advantage of any opportunity to work or play. In fact, many experts believe that mobile computing will eventually overtake desktop computing as the standard.

If you have ever had to balance a laptop computer on your knees while trying to use it, then you will definitely like the Lapstation. This graceful combination of stylish design and ergonomic utility is the flagship product of Intrigo, a hot new company based in Thousand Oaks, CA.

Lapstation started as an idea in the head of Maxim Weitzman, a student at Anderson Graduate School of Management working towards an Entrepreneurial MBA, because of the frustration felt by himself and fellow students as they tried to work on their laptops. In early 1998, Mr. Weitzman designed a folding lap desk and developed a prototype to see if it would work. He took the prototype to RKS Design, a local design company, and met with Ravi Sawhney, the company's President. Sawhney like the concept so much that he co-founded Intrigo with Mr. Weitzman in April, 1998 to develop and market the product. Another company, Peerless Injection Molding, Inc., became a strategic partner when Weitzman and Sawhney showed the Lapstation prototype to Scott Taylor, President of Peerless.

What makes the Lapstation cool is the simple beauty of the design. It took Intrigo and RKS Design a year to refine the original prototype into the design finally put into production. The Lapstation is split in the middle to fold up and the legs fold under, making it easy to carry around. All Lapstations have mesh pouches suspended between the legs. These pouches zip closed, making them perfect for storing diskettes, CDs and other small items. Each Lapstation has a wrist pad to reduce fatigue when working for extended periods. Lapstations adjust from 27.5" to 32.5" in width and from 10" to 11.5" in height. The total work surface is 25.3 x 16 inches and the pouches are 10 x 5 inches. When the Lapstation is folded up, it is 16"x12.6"x3.8". Expansion ports are built in that will work with accessories currently in development at Intrigo.

View this short movie to see how the Lapstation folds for storage!

There are three models to choose from:

  • B1 (Basic): This entry level model is made of high-impact polystyrene with medium density neoprene wrist pads, expansion ports and dual suspended mesh pouches. The B1 weighs 5.6 pounds, has a one year warranty and is available in three colors: Midnight, Sky and Mist.
  • B2 (Midrange): The B2 is made from Lexan, the same high-impact polycarbonate plastic that is used for bulletproof windows. It has gel filled wrist pads, expansion ports and dual suspended mesh pouches. The B2 weighs 5.9 pounds, has a one year warranty and is available in three colors also: Aqua, Smoke and Vapor.
  • B3 (Premium): Intrigo says that the B3 is the ultimate experience. Made from a high-impact PC/ABS alloy that actually has pulverized aluminum in it, the B3 looks more like metal than plastic but without the weight. It has the same type of gel filled wrist pads, expansion ports and dual pouches found in the B2. The B3 only comes in one color, Titanium, weighs 6.3 pounds and features a lifetime warranty.

The Intrigo Lapstation has already received several accolades, including:

  • CES 2001 winner: Best of Show Award
  • CES 2000 winner: Innovations Design Award
  • Top Ten Gifts of 2000: Time Digital
  • Top Ten Gifts of 2000: In Style
  • Top Ten Gifts of 2000: Computer Shopper
  • Top Ten Gifts of 2000: Laptop Buyers Guide
  • Both LYCOS and MicronPC Plus gave away Lapstations as their holiday promotion in the months of October through December 2000.
This woman is enjoying her Lapstation. This woman is enjoying her Lapstation.
This woman is enjoying her Lapstation.
Photo courtesy of Intrigo

Prices on the Lapstations range from $69 for the B1 to $139 for the B3. Intrigo has a Lapstation bag coming out in February 2001 to make it even easier to take your Lapstation with you. You can purchase the Lapstation directly from Intrigo at their Web site:

American DJ

If you've read How Analog and Digital Recording Works, then you know there are a number of differences between records and CDs. One of the more obscure differences is the ability to scratch a piece of music. This familiar sound -- produced by sliding a record under the phonograph needle -- is a standard effect for DJs. But because it is created by sliding the needle along an analog track, it can't be easily reproduced with a digital CD.

At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, American DJ, a leading manufacturer of club lighting and audio equipment, introduced the world's first single-CD player that "scratches" like a turntable. The PRO-SCRATCH 1 takes the CD's digital audio signal and interprets it as an analog signal, to produce a realistic record-scratching sound. The scratching control is a disc-shaped platter, with grooves and a finger indentation to give it the same feel as a record. This lets DJs create the scratching effects they want, without having to track down rare records.

The PRO-SCRATCH 1 has a number of other useful features, including the ability to loop samples, or play them backwards. If you have a separate mixer, you can use Q Start, a component that lets you jump to programmed "cue points" on the CD. The PRO-SCRATCH 1 also has several built-in sound effects, such as Echo, Bop Effect and Trans Effect. Additionally, the device lets you sample, store and recall your own sampled sounds.

American DJ also displayed Pocket Scan, a portable device that produces club lighting effects. Pocket Scan is unique in that it combines a scanner and a laser, two popular light displays, into one lightweight unit. The unit uses a 5 mega-Watt diode laser to produce a razor-sharp laser-beam effect and a halogen lamp to project 14 scanner gobo patterns -- shapes such as stars, flowers and triangles -- in 15 colors.

The Pocket Scan is an intelligent lighting unit, meaning it can create complex lighting displays based on programming or sound input. If you hook it up to a DMX-compatible controller, you can program all sorts of light show patterns to compliment the music. You can also set the Pocket Scan to sound-activated mode, so it responds to ambient sound, or stand-alone mode, which uses built-in movement programs. To create more complex displays, you can link multiple Pocket Scan units together in a chain, with one master unit controlling several slave units.

Cobra Electronics

Two-way radios in the Cobra micro TALK™ line
Two-way radios in the Cobra micro TALK™ line
Photo courtesy Cobra Electronics

Before cell phones, the main options for on-the-go communication were two-way radios. You could hook up a citizens band radio in your car, or get a pair of portable walkie-talkies for short-range communication. Cell-phones expanded on this technology, to offer greater coverage, and duplex voice channels.

But even with the advent of cell phones, two-way radio is still a very popular communication tool. For certain applications, in fact, portable two-way radios have a number of advantages over cell phones.

Cobra Electronics manufactures a variety of radio communication products. At the Consumer Electronics Show, they showcased their microTALK™ line, an affordable collection that make use of the family radio service (FRS). The FRS is a section of the citizens band frequency range set aside in the United States and Canada for short-range radio communication. Anyone with an FRS radio can use this frequency range in these countries, at absolutely no cost. Cobra microTALK radios are an ideal way for families to keep in touch when they are less than a few miles away -- at the mall or amusement park, for example, or just around the neighborhood.

Since you don't need to subscribe to a service or pay for airtime to use them, FRS radios are much more economical than cell phones. Cobra's models are designed with the average consumer in mind -- the units are compact, affordable and easy to use. Cobra has also given special attention to the appearance of the radios. The new microTALK units feature removable SNAP™ faceplates in a variety of colors and designs.

Cobra also offers a variety of in-car CB radios. In addition to clear, two-way radio communication, the new 18 WX ST II Weatherband CB Radio features 10 channels of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather information. This gives travelers 24-hour, up-to-the-minute information about weather conditions in the surrounding area.

A Cobra Classic CB radio A Cobra Classic CB radio
A Cobra Classic CB radio
Photo courtesy Cobra Electronics

Cobra also includes 10 NOAA weather channels in their new radar detectors, along with highly-sensitive radar-sensing technology and additional hazard detection systems. The new Strobe Alert™ system warns drivers of any emergency vehicles at upcoming intersections, while the Safety Alert® system detects approaching trains, construction vehicles, utility trucks, buses, emergency vehicles and other potential driving hazards.

At the 2001 CES, Cobra also displayed their line of power inverters, compact devices that let you power alternating current electronics from your direct current car battery (via the lighter jack). Cobra's new High Gear™ power inverters boast a number of advanced features that make them ideal for powering advanced electronics such as laptop computers and DVD players. The Pentagon Protection™ system provides comprehensive protection against common power problems. The proprietary technology features thermal shutdown, reverse polarity protection, over-voltage shutdown, low-voltage shutdown and low-voltage alarm.