Neat Gadgets to Drool Over
A child tracker, CD-ROM changer and autofocus binoculars are among the 14 choices
BEEPERKID CHILD TRACKER ($150). Keeping tabs on wandering tykes at shopping malls or along grocery aisles is a job for Job, especially when they're intent on playing hide-and-seek underneath the coat rack. Now you can call in the Army. The new BeeperKid from A+H International Products is designed to keep your kids in tow by utilizing a wireless digital technology developed five years ago by defense contractor Harris Corp. for use in hand-held military communications and tracking. BeeperKid comes in two parts--a 2 1/4-inch circular unit that you clip to a child and a slightly larger unit worn by a parent or guardian. When the child moves more than 15 feet away--even around a corner or behind a door--the parent's unit issues a moderately loud "beep-beep." The units are coded so other BeeperKids in the area won't interfere with your unit. A recharger, included, powers both units overnight for six hours of use. Some parents may chafe at the 15-foot range, which cannot be altered for different situations, but A+H says the setting is designed to give advance warning before a child wanders too far.
ECO CHARGER BATTERY RECHARGER ($49). Everybody knows nickel-cadmium batteries, or nicads, can be recharged again and again, but they cost $3 to $8 apiece. How about reviving ordinary batteries? The Eco charger recharges disposable alkaline and carbon zinc batteries and nicads, too. The unit, a product of electronic- games maker Saitek Industries, can revive up to four AAA-, AA-, C- or D-size batteries at a time--it can't handle 9-volt batteries--automatically testing each one to see if it has life left or is beyond redemption. Depending on type and use, Saitek claims that a battery's life can be multiplied by a factor of about three to 10. Alkaline and carbon zinc batteries recharge best when they still have at least 40 percent of their strength left, so Saitek recommends a regimen of regular recharging before you notice any decline in a battery's performance. That may be more precaution than necessity, however. In a test, two D cells were deliberately discharged below the 40 percent level by leaving a flashlight on overnight. Both batteries perked up in the Eco charger after a day and a half of charging and powered the flashlight for more than an additional three hours. Depending on a battery's condition, recharging can take several hours or up to a couple of days. A nice touch is a display screen that shows the condition of each battery and the estimated recharging time needed. The unit displays an "all done" symbol when recharging is complete.
HEWLETT-PACKARD OFFICEJET PRINTER-FAX-COPIER ($960). A printer, a fax machine and a copier use the same basic imaging equipment, which is how Hewlett-Packard could roll the three devices into one all-purpose office machine. The company wasn't the first--Okidata makes that claim--but HP brings an incomparable reputation for reliability, plus the ability to sell the OfficeJet to the masses at an affordable street price of about $800. The machine incorporates a version of HP's inkjet printers, which print at about three pages per minute. Feed a sheet of paper into the "output" tray, and you can make copies by pushing the button marked "Start/Copy." Or you can fax the paper by punching in the fax number on a number pad. Unfortunately, the OfficeJet cannot scan a document into a PC. And faxing a file requires printing it out first and then feeding it into the OfficeJet for faxing, rather than sending it electronically from the PC. The OfficeJet comes with Windows and DOS software; Macintosh owners have to buy a third-party program like GDT Softworks' PowerPrint (about $150).