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Gadgets for Gadget Haters

June 07, 1991

Manny Camacho, a fashionably dressed employee of the Sharper Image in Beverly Hills, withdraws an object the shape and nearly the size of a checkbook from his inside coat pocket. In minutes, he convinces a skeptical consumer that this electronic accessory could change her life forever.

Camacho is holding the Sharp personal organizer, a tiny computer that is to the '90s what the Filofax was to the '80s. For success-oriented individuals, Camacho believes, this is the way to keep track of every aspect of their lives, from telephone numbers to airline schedules to bank balances. The device knows the time in cities around the world and can beep to remind him when to leave for an appointment.

As electronics companies scale down the size of telephones, fax machines and the like, and expand the range of miniaturized products, even people who relate better to quill pens than computers are warming up to these tote-size gadgets. Their mini-ness makes them as enticing as sweets. (Picture a Twinkie-size telephone or a talking computer as big as a Hershey bar.)

First purchases are likely to include a camcorder that fits in the palm of a hand. Advanced collectors may move on to such special-needs items as a pocket translator that speaks 65,000 phrases in six languages.

But as sweet-tooths know, desserts have a price. At the low end, a basic Sharp personal organizer sells for about $100. A Sony Video Walkman television with VCR is priced at about $1,400.

Statistics show that men buy the most electronic marvels. But Bob Gerson, editor of the trade publication TWICE, This Week in Consumer Electronics, says that in his New York office more women than men use cellular phones and computerized personal organizers.

For Gina Stover, a 28-year-old Warner Bros. employee, life wouldn't be the same without the computerized organizer she inherited from her boss after he upgraded.

"I'm getting married. If I didn't have one, I'd be lost," says Stover, who was shopping, organizer in hand, at Diamond Foam and Fabric on La Brea Avenue.

The experts, including Gerson and Camacho, say that if you are just getting into the world of electronic accessories, the first step is to determine your needs. Then, get on friendly terms fast. "It's like a VCR," says Camacho. "If you don't use it in the first couple weeks, you probably never will."

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