Welcome to Reviews OnLine: Comdex Fall 1999 Opening Days
Product Finds
by Rick Smith (November 1999)

Sara demonstrates the VIA wearable display.
This SRD001 display weighs 14.5 ounces in your hand and features a sunlight readable display, a 640x480 resolution and a touch screen / passive stylus interface. It operates at a 32 to 122 F (0-50 C) temperature range. It connects to the Via "belt-PC" and attaches via a coiled cord with enough "spring" to keep the display from hitting the floor if dropped.

The Via II computer is based on the Cyrix MediaGX processor, weighs 22 ounces, has 64 Mb of RAM, a 3.2 Gb hard drive, USB port, serial port and 2 Type II PCMCIA/PC Card slots for further expansion. It runs from 3.5 to 6 hours per lithium ion battery and a 2 battery option is available. Since it is 9.75" long, 3" high and 1.25" thick it can easily be attached to your belt to be used as a wearable pen tablet system or a voice based computer or both! While this model isn't as futuristic looking as the Xybernaut (the other "wearable PC" at Comdex), this wearable computer couples the power of a desktop computer in such a small portable package, that I believe, coupled with the right software, it has the capability to change the lives of knowledge workers and information users in their day to day activities.

Dennis Dion uses Ergo Notebrick
Dennis Dion, CEO of Ergo Computing, checks out his laptop (Ergo Computing 5100) in the Reviews OnLine Astro van, running the Sony Etak GPS software.

Smart & Friendly's high speed 12x CDR
Touted as the world's fastest CD-R drive at Comdex this plain looking package is a real smoker ("burning" CDs that is). This is faster than most media I have seen at stores. Currently we are examining the Plextor 8x CD-R drive that was the fastest at PC Expo in New York a few months ago.

Smart & Friendly's CD Pocket RW
This portable (about one pound) device can write CDs at 4X, ReWrite them at 4X and play CDs at 20X. The CD Pocket RW has a TWO megabyte buffer, interfaces to a laptop via a PCMCIA Type II connector and includes a rechargeable battery pack. Some of the software included with the CD Pocket RW is Adaptec's CD Creator and Direct CD, Powerquest's Drive Image, Sonic Foundry's CD Architect and Sound Forge XP along with Diamond Cut's Audio Restoration Tools 32. It looks like a great way to directly cut CDs from a laptop without having to remove the laptop hard drive or connecting the laptop to a docking station or LAN or cable.

Interior of Boca ST2001 "Information Appliance"
This "set top box" from Boca Research (yes the same company that made memory boards, video cards and modems in Florida) features a 181 channel cable ready tuner, IGST CyberPro 5050 multimedia video accelerator, smartcard reader, a 56K modem and an ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) broadband option. It has been selected by AOL and Philips for the AOL TV device and is the first set top box to feature ADSL capability.

One of the product buzzwords at Comdex was the "information appliance" - a small device that contains a computer, but is used for a more specialized task than a general purpose computer.

National Semiconductor banner
National drove this point home with their banner "Beyond the PC - The Age of Information Appliances".

Another National Semiconductor banner
This banner states "Go beyond the PC. Go National."

National Semiconductor's "screen man"
This Comdex creature talked to the crowd in the main foyer hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center to help entice people to see their technology and the "Device Girls" demo.

A "Device Girls" (play on "Spice Girls") poster
These "girls" rapped their way through a demonstration of National Semiconductor's Geode processor technology. The crowd loved it and the event was always packed. They threw out foam "geodes" to the crowd - I managed to get one (actually they look more like grey lumps of coal). I thought geodes were round and had crystals, water and even crude oil inside.) By the way, geodes can be found around the Mississippi River area in Illinois (in the Quad Cities area), the home state of Reviews OnLine.

Here are two of these "information appliances" at the National booth, from VTech:

VTech e-Mail Express
This "information appliance" from Vtech (the Midwestern division of the same company that brought you the Helio).is an easy to use, low cost e-mail device. It uses the National Semiconductor NSC1028 processor with a 40 character, 5 line display. It features one button e-mail sending and receiving, stores 500 messages and has address book, calendar, and two games (golf and arcade classics).

VTech e-Mail Traveler with docking station/keyboard
Another one of Vtech's information appliances also sends and receives email, but is in a PDA style form factor. It looks quite similar to the Helio. This model also sports a National Semiconductor NSC1028 processor along with a touch screen, 160x160 pixel screen and can store 400 e-mail messages. The docking station provides a full sized keyboard and parallel printer port.

Panasonic ToughBook CF-27 ruggedized laptop
The Panasonic Toughbook series are specialized laptop computers that are shock, dust, vibration and water resistant. This is "Hummer" of laptops.

Mag Innovision LAS10E monitor
This 18" flat screen monitor features super high contrast, 1280x1024, digital interface and speakers.

Lava Briefcase prototype
This product is an easy to attach hard drive and interfaces to the computer via a USB or FireWire interface. When I discussed this product with them, I felt that it should also include a parallel port interface as well. Having all 3 interfaces would allow corporate technicians, or anyone with several laptops, to easily transfer data between different systems. (This is a problem that I have every time I upgrade mobile systems or mobile hard drives.) As I begin to use new models of laptops for review purposes on a day-in / day-out basis, easy transfer and backup becomes a HUGE problem. Since people use NT laptops, Windows 95 or don't have USB ports on their laptops, having the Lava Briefcase with multiple interfaces would allow users to EASILY transfer data between different systems at the fastest possible speed for currently connected device.

Sharp laptop and battery
What looks like a mounting plate on the left side is really an ultrathin battery that adds an extra hour of computing time. Great idea - there are many times I could use one of these for my ThinkPad.

Aiptek HyperPen 8000

The HyperPen 8000 has an active area of 8" x 6" with a resolution of 3,048 lines per inch (120 lines per mm). To make it useful for graphics it has 512 levels of pressure sensitivity, and can be used up to 10mm away from the tablet. This is useful for tracing through a magazine or even a book. It even works through my finger! Not only does it come with the stylus, but a cordless mouse as well. The HyperPen 8000 uses a serial connection for data and a PS/2 pass-through connection for power from the keyboard plug. A USB version will be available in January. Runs with Windows 95, 98, and NT.

The bundled software includes Art Dabbler, Cadix Signature verification software (this can be used as a security measure for your computer which requires a signature for access) and CyberSign SmART Writer / SmART scribble. SmART scribble is drawing pad that can be used on top of any windows application. SmART writer actually converts your handwriting into digital type - a low cost "pen computer". Recently Pen Office SE has been included to allow you to sign and annotate all of your Microsoft Office documents instead of having to import a graphic of your signature into each document. Now you can sign directly into the program just like real paper.

Copyright 1999 Rick Smith All rights reserved.

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Product Briefs
Desktop PCs & Servers
  Ergo Thunder Brick 2
Eizo FlexScan Displays
Future Power epower
HP NetServer LXr 8500
Meridian Snap! Server
Digital Cameras
  3Com HomeConnect
Agfa ePhoto 780c
Canon A5 Zoom
Kodak DC265
Minolta 3D 1500
Nikon D1
Olympus C2000
Toshiba PDR-M4 & M5
Notebooks & Mobile
  3Com Palm VII
Fosa Mini Notebook
Pionex Elite
Quantex Celeron Laptop
Sharp Actius PC-A250
Sony F250/F290 Notebooks
Talontek MPC-2000
Mobile/Wireless Communications
  3Com 56K GSM Modem
Novatel Merlin Modem
Xircom Ethernet CompactCard
Mobile Software
  Etak Traffic Touch
DataViz Documents To Go
Softbook E-book System
  Agfa SnapScan Touch
Visioneer Strobe Pro
  Brother MP-21 C Portable
Tektronix Phaser 780
Xerox 480cx
Software & Books
  Avid Cinema for Windows
Caere PageKeeper Pro
Corex Area Code Fix
Docent Outliner
Macmillan Office 2K Books
Paragon FoneSync
Symantec pcAnywhere 9.0
Sybari Antigen 5.5
V-Communications AutoSave
  InFocus 330
Mitsubishi S120
  Club Photo
Intelliquis Traffic Builder
NETSilicon NET+Works
Panasite Web Builder
  Calluna 250 Mb PCCard
Castlewood 2.2Gb ORB
Iomega Clik!
Teac CD-W 54E
Batteries & Power
  Duracell Ultra Battery
Electrofuel PowerPad
Eveready Energizer ACCU
Graphics & Video
  Belkin USB Video Bus
Daeyang VR Headset
Kodak/Intel Picture CD
Nogatech USB TV
Number Nine SR9
  Logitech Cordless mouse
Raritan Switchman
Targus USB MiniMouse
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