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PERSONAL TECHNOLOGY | HOT STUFF / MARY PURPURA and
PAOLO PONTONIERE

Gigahertz and Ye Shall Receive

November 04, 1996|MARY PURPURA and PAOLO PONTONIERE

Wireless technology can now avoid the interference that characterizes the 900-megahertz band--crowded by cordless phones--thanks to the recent availability of the 2.4-gigahertz frequency. One of the first 2.4-GHz devices, the Wavecom Junior made by RF-Link Technology of Torrance, makes possible static-free, wireless stereo audio and color video reception.

The new gadget--actually two gadgets, a receiver and a transmitter--works with any audio or video components you have and can transmit signals up to 250 feet, through walls, ceilings or floors. One caveat: A microwave oven located between the transmitter and receiver can cause interference.

The vendor suggests that in addition to expanding home entertainment options, such as watching a movie in your bedroom without moving the VCR from the den, Wavecom can become part of a surveillance system when used with a strategically placed camcorder. RF-Link Technology also makes a Wavecom Senior, which includes a built-in remote-control extender that allows users to take advantage of remote-control devices they already have. Wavecom Junior sells for about $200, Senior for about $250.

E-Mail for the Timid If your mom still doesn't have a personal computer, here's a relatively inexpensive way for her to plug into the Internet: the Intelifone 2000, a telephone-cum-computer that has memory, a modem, display screen and keyboard. Herndon, Va.-based U.S. Order makes the phone, which allows users to send e-mail to any address on the Net by just dialing the supplied Internet service and typing away.

The $300 phone is also set up to receive e-mail messages, but that won't be possible until early next year, when U.S. Order upgrades its software. For now, in addition to its e-mail capabilities, Intelifone can send text messages to pagers without calling an operator; find stock quotes, sports scores, horoscopes and winning lottery numbers; and utilize any caller ID services available from your local phone company.

Unlimited e-mail, as well as access to sports scores and other information, costs about $8 a month. Other jazzed-up telephones provide similar features, but Intelifone is the cheapest for such a broad range of services.

Access Sans Modem If you want yet another way to turn your Windows 95-based PC into a 24-hour information machine, try the NewsCatcher from Global Village Communication in Sunnyvale, Calif. The small, pyramid-shaped receiver hooks directly to your serial port and dishes out news to your computer screen 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The $150 device picks up radio transmissions from the AirMedia Live Internet Broadcast Network, which utilizes a proprietary paging network to send signals. For $6 a month, users can stay on top of the headlines, sports scores, stock market updates and e-mail notifications--without the live Internet hookup required by Pointcast and other Internet news services.

AirMedia Live delivers news in real time from a smorgasbord of online and Internet information services, including CompuServe, Reuters NewMedia and Ziff-Davis Wire Highlights. Though AirMedia Live broadcasts arrive wirelessly and directly to your PC, you'll need a modem if you want to take advantage of the service's "hot links"--single-click accesses to the full, original information source on the Internet.

Tiny Radios Here's a novelty for Walkman fans: a tiny, self-contained radio that fits inside the ear. Available in both AM and FM models, the radios, made by American Technology Corp. of Poway, Calif., weigh about a quarter of an ounce and are smaller than a large paper clip.

To tune AM Sounds, you zero in on the station by turning a small dial for the best reception. FM Sounds, on the other hand, has a digital scan feature--touch-button tuning that scans the whole FM band to find the next station with the best reception.

The system automatically "center tunes" your favorite station without drifting. A conventional watch battery powers AM Sounds for about 300 hours, whereas FM Sounds peters out after about three hours of listening. The radios sell for less than $30.

More Tiny Sony's impressive track record in making electronics devices ever smaller continues with the new Handycam Camcorder. Weighing in at just a bit over a pound without a tape or battery, the machine is about the size of a passport. Sony executives say the DCR-PC7 is the world's smallest digital camcorder with a color screen.

A digital video interface allows users to digitally dub and edit, as well as transmit still images directly to personal computers via the company's DVBK-1000 Still-Image Capture Board. Its small size belies its recording time: The LP mode feature offers a maximum recording time of 90 minutes on a mini-DV cassette (DVM-60)--50% more than other models offer.

But a tiny camcorder plus neat features equals a rather daunting price: The unit sells for about $3,200.

Freelance writers Mary Purpura and Paolo Pontoniere can be reached at PMPurPont@aol.com

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