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The Goods | TECHNOWATCH

The Year's Highs in Tech, Lows in Taste

December 31, 1996|LYNN SIMROSS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Techie toy ware for toddlers, carry-out karaoke, double agent pens that record personal memos as well as write, and motion picture phones topped the list of this year's hot electronics gadgets.

And Cigar Savor, an unusual tube that snuffs out a lighted cigar and keeps it moist so it can be enjoyed later, cashed in on the re-popularization of stogies, even though it's not electronic.

Here are some of the techno-products that, in this year's mountain chains of consumer gunk, stood out as memorable, either for usefulness or sheer originality:

* My First Laptop, a reasonable $59.95, is a portable notebook-style computer educational toy for 3- to 6-year-olds. But it also can incorporate to parents' IBM-compatible PCs with a CD-ROM program. From Tiger Electronics, (800) TIGER-ED.

* Leadsinger is another portable device: a wireless microphone with instrumental music cartridges inside so you can sing along with your favorite crooners' music. From E.S. Electrosales Co., $199.95, (800) 531-LEAD.

* Pencorder 60 is a 007-style ballpoint pen that also serves as a personal memo recorder, using a microchip instead of a tape to record 60 seconds of memos or reminders. It costs $70. From Machina in San Francisco, (800) 223-4340.

* Motion Picture Phones show images in black and white or color, combining telephone and video through a home computer. Priced in the $220 to $270 range, the camera resembles a small, round electric eye that is placed on top of the computer monitor or on a flat surface nearby so it can draw power from the keyboard. You'll see more of these next year. From Vivitar, (800) 421-2381.

* Cigar Savor ($25) became the hottest cigar accessory since, perhaps, the humidor. Invented by a Miami cigar smoker, the clever device not only snuffs out the cigar but reforms the top when you put the cap on the tube. There's also a sterling silver model for $300. From Cigar Savor, (800) 372-2069.

The year also brought tons of products we'd call not so hot. But, maybe they're just the thing for you? Among those we didn't bring you:

* The Happy Massager, a round, palm-size massaging tool that sports a spherical happy face (enough, already!), is recommended by its manufacturer for adults, kids and pets. Made of either New England birch or rock maple trees, it comes in large ($12) or small ($10). From Tender Loving Things, (800) 486-2896.

* Razor Mate ($19.95 plus $3.50 shipping) is a magnetic device that sharpens disposable razors and cartridges so they'll keep their edge longer. Would you really take the time to do this instead of tossing the old razor and getting out a new disposable? Razor Mate, about the size of a remote control, has permanent ceramic magnets that create the magnetic field. From Razor Mate, (800) 337-5241.

* Just when you thought you'd seen all the wacky gadgets imaginable, along comes the Kissing Machine ($69.95), billed by its inventor as "the first kissing accessory ever." Run by a 9-volt battery ("enough to generate a stimulating, romantic tingle but not enough to shock you or your partner"), this black box connects through speaker wires to stereos and most boomboxes and creates a tingling sensation to the rhythm of the music. Partners must hold the Love Handles, two aluminum grips, and touch each other to experience feeling. From SWAK Ventures in Dallas, (800) 558-6779.

Hey, what's the matter with just plain lips?

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