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New Golf Ball Blends Distance and Control


Traditionally, golfers have had to choose between soft balls that offer greater control and hard balls that go farther. Now Spalding Sports Worldwide of Chicopee, Mass., ([800] 225-6601) has developed a ball that combines the benefits of both.

"Never before have we seen such enthusiasm from tour players for a new product during testing," says Mike Sullivan, Spalding's vice president for research and development. The hybrid Top-Flite Strata got a big push when Professional Golfer's Assn. pro Mark O'Meara won two firsts and two seconds in a few weeks using the ball.

What makes the Strata so special? Spalding modified its two-piece tour ball into a three-layer design by adding a hard layer (for distance) around the soft inner core and under a rubbery outer cover (for control). The Top-Flite Strata is available in stores that sell golf equipment and retails for about $52 per dozen.

Ultra-Portable Printer: In the race to develop smaller and lighter wireless peripherals, Santa Monica-based Citizen America ([800] 4PRINTERS) has certainly scored some points with its PN60i portable printer, the smallest, lightest laser-quality printer yet. Compatible with PCs, Macs, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and palmtops, the PN60i weighs 1.5 pounds including battery and measures 10 inches wide by 2 inches high and about 2 inches deep. That makes it ideal for tucking into a briefcase or overnight bag. It prints 360 x 360 dpi on plain paper, letterhead, envelopes, labels or transparencies. The PN60i can function as a wireless printer or can be used with a variety of cable connections. Of course, the PN60i has some limitations. It's a low-volume printer with a cartridge that needs to be replaced after printing only about 100 pages. And though color-capable, the printer should be used only for documents that require spot color, not entire color pages. The PN60i sells for about $500.

Automatic Home Mini-Bar: A personal bartender would probably be very nice, but how about the next best thing: a programmable beverage dispenser that mixes and pours drinks just the way you like them. Thomas Electronics Corp. in Waukesha, Wis., ([800] 819-5934) has introduced the SideBar Beverage System, which dispenses five different beverages from their original bottles, saving you the trouble of washing out and refilling tanks. You can store the bottles as far as 24 feet from the SideBar dispenser. The pump unit houses five tiny pumps that force the liquid of your choice through one of the beverage lines to the spout. After your gimlet's poured, SideBar automatically siphons any remaining vodka and lime juice back to the bottles--you don't need to clean up any icky drips. The maker says the mini-bar, which is smaller than a shoe box, can be installed in less than an hour. SideBar costs about $500.

CD-ROM Thriller Teaches Tongues: Interactive software seems an obvious tool for learning foreign languages, so it's striking that no one until now had come up with a product like Who Is Oscar Lake? Language Publications Interactive of New York ([800] 882-6700) has developed a role-playing game with multiple story endings available in German, Italian, Spanish, English or French. Players take on the role of an innocent diamond merchant sent to a foreign country to appraise a valuable rock. When the jewel is ripped off, police seize the player as the prime suspect. To expose the real thief, you must learn the local language. LPI has tried to translate the immersion technique--a method of language instruction that forces students to communicate only in the language being learned--into the context of a CD-ROM. The game requires players to listen to native speakers communicating in real-life circumstances, such as ordering restaurant food or booking a hotel room, and to interact with the characters they meet in the 3-D environment. A recording capability helps players hone their speaking skills. Each version includes more than 1,200 vocabulary words and provides point-and-click object identification. Who Is Oscar Lake?--available in both Windows and Macintosh versions--sells for about $80.

Automatic Bike Transmission: You're pedaling hard up a hill on your racing bike under a big, golden sun. Everything's copacetic, except that when you shift down, your gears grind and skip, creating a jarring counterpoint to your otherwise smooth ride. Wouldn't it be great if somebody could invent a derailleur that moved chain to sprocket less gruffly? Somebody has. Browning Component of Lyndon Station, Wis., ([800] 311-5213) has designed a 12-speed, fully automatic bike transmission for both racing and mountain bikes. Besides utilizing a battery-powered computer that decides when to shift by calculating speed from the spinning of the rear wheel, the Browning system boasts continuous gear/chain contact during shifting. This makes for fast, almost silent gear changes. Bikes equipped with the 12-speed automatic Browning system will be available for between $900 and $1,200 in the spring.

Mary Purpura and Paolo Pontoniere can be reached via e-mail at

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