Dick Tracy Meets Simon and Garfunkel
by Russell Shaw
Face it, you travel a lot for business and you think you are the state-of-the-art road warrior: trusty laptop for e-mail, a Palm Pilot for appointments and a printout with directions for driving from the airport to the office park where the appointment is.
How prepared! How quaint!
Quaint? This week, I traveled to Las Vegas to attend the Consumer Electronics Show, an annual exposition of brand new computing, high-end appliances and other stuff to help you live, work and play electronically. This year, the emphasis was on pushing the technological envelope in the gear that let's you keep in touch from a distance.
Take e-mail. When we travel, many of us have to wait until we check into our hotel to check our electronic inboxes. If you're like me, you have to remember to look up and then configure your Internet Service Provider's local number. A whole day can go by before you settle into your room, plug your laptop in and log on.
Well, say hello to a family of wireless e-mail access devices that are unlike any other products currently available. About the size of a small, hand-held calculator, devices such as the $299 AOL Mobile Communicator let you check your AOL e-mail from anywhere. It is easy to configure with your America Online password and user name.
If you don't use AOL, there's the $399 Blackberry Internet Edition Wireless Handheld. You can configure this device to receive and display text messages sent to you at your regular e-mail address.
Remember how Dick Tracy used to use his wristwatch for communication? Well, now life imitates art. Many of the new portable tools shown at the electronics show are wrist-based. Casio presented the GPS Pathfinder, a $500 wristwatch that lets you know where on the globe you are. No more need to fish for those written directions as you are stopped at a too-short red light in an unfamiliar city in a rental car with no collision damage waiver. An accident could drain you of more cash than the cost of this handy device.
No hands free? Samsung has a new Watch Phone that not only tells the time (duh), but also saves voice memos and is a mobile cell phone that you can dial by voice command. And Casio showed the $199, WQV-1 wristwatch that doubles as a wearable digital camera. You can take photos and then upload them to a portable Casio PDA, which you can then sync to a PC to store, or e-mail photos.
A wristwatch as a digital camera? Reminds me of America, that old Simon & Garfunkel song, where Paul Simon relates eyeing a suspicious fellow traveler: Better be careful, his bow tie is really a camera. Or, in this case, his wristwatch.
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