The gadget page describes the origins of this hobby and there are some stories in the gadgets category of the blog about gadgets. This page is an archive of things posted between roughly 1997 and 2002. I removed the links because many of them no longer are valid. Just use your favorite search engine if you want to find information about anything on the page.
The Garmin Street Pilot has been a great GPS device but I decided to experiment with the Magellan products. The SporTrak Color has excellent tracking and accuracy, showing your position to within 3 meters, even in difficult environments such as cities or mountains. It has a 10 MB North American mapping database built in. The main attraction to me was the high contrast, full color 240 x 160 pixel display. An additional 22 MB of memory enables an expansion of mapping capabilities by uploading detailed maps from an optional Magellan MapSend® CD. The SporTrak Color also has a built-in barometer and a 3-axis compass. It also is waterproof and rugged.The SporTrak can store up to 20 routes, 500 waypoints and 2,000 track-points. At a mere 6.8 oz. the SporTrak Color is compact and lightweight enough to slip into your pocket. It also fits nicely on motorcycle handlebars with the bracket which is available. The best part is the battery life. The StreetPilot uses six AA batteries and lasts about an hour or two at the most. The SporTrak uses just two AA batteries and goes for up to 14 hours of continuous use. This should be a very good device for hiking.
On an August 2002 trip to Alaska I acquired one of the Ulu Factory’s Legendary Knife of the Arctic. The ULU knife (pronounced ooloo) is the most renowned knife in Alaska. Native people of northern Alaska invented this knife centuries ago. It is used for hunting, fishing, skinning, filleting and every other imaginable domestic cutting need by the Inuit (Eskimo) people.
Christmas 2001 brought me a new favorite gadget — the SiPix Pocket Printer A6. The printer is only 4″ x 6″ by 1″ including the roll of paper inside. It is compact and lightweight and runs on four AAA batteries. It uses Infrared for communication (also has a USB connection) and can print easily from my Kyocera SmartPhone or my ThinkPad.
It wasn’t that long ago that I said that PDAs and Cell phones would not converge in a very practical way for a long time. Kyocera proved me wrong. The SmartPhone 6035 is a really nice device. It is a bit big for a cell phone and a bit small for a Palm Pilot but given that it includes both it is a resonable compromise. They did a really good job of integration. You can look up a name on the “Palm”, touch it, and the phone dials the number. Really well done. It also has a speaker phone built in. I really like it.
I love to wear the Oakley Shoetwo? Maybe a stretch to put shoes in the gadgets section but you have to admit that they are different. I wear them to work and often wear them when riding motorcycles. I like really like the design — raised outsole which attaches directly to the shoe upper. This protects the midsole with a vulcanized membrane while expanding surface area for traction. Moisture transport and shock absorption maintain comfort. The vulcanized outsole is rendered directly from 3D digital master. The company has introduced the Shoe2.1 which I will add to my wish list.
Normally I wouldn’t think of a hat as a gadget but the Nike Cool crown definitely qualifies in my book. I have been looking for the ultimate running hat for years. I have finally found it. This Nike cap has a built in cooling system. The Dri-FIT terry sweatband absorbs moisture, then the hydrophillic material pulls the moisture onto the entire cap and bill surface. As the air passes in and around the cap,moisture evaporates and the sweat-band feels dry. Unfortunately, I can’t find a link to this neat product anywhere..
The Nikon Super Coolscan® 2000 features great color accuracy and can even remove surface imperfections from your scans. I use it to scan 35mm slides with the goal of eventually creating a digital library of family history going back to the late 1940’s when my father first start taking 35mm pictures. The average scan takes 20 seconds at 2700 dpi optical resolution and there is an Auto slide feeder that allows unattended batch scanning of up to 50 slides at a time. I wrote a Reflection about the old media wearing out that you may want to read.
The Garmin GPS 40 Global Positioning System receiver was one of the first gadgets in this section. It has been a great sidekick for me on my travels for the past couple of years. Most of the entries in the “Where I have been lately” section (travels) of my Web site were captured with the GPS40. An IBMer in our microelectronics division is very much into GPS and when he showed me his new GPS III the urge began. I looked all over the Web to find the best deal and had a few false starts. Then I ran into the nice folks at Safe Trac. They rushed me the new receiver and it caught up to me at the Portland Regency Hotel in Portland, Maine where I was just starting a short vacation . The next several days of traveling around Maine gave me the opportunity to learn all the features and functions of the GPS III. It is an amazing little device. The difference in speed vs. the GPS40 is impressive. The display and user customization are more than I expected.
The Garmin GPS 40 was a great device. The GPS III was even better. Unfortunately, during an April 1999 train ride from Brussels to Luxembourg my GPS III was stolen. That is the bad news. The good news is that I replaced it with a GPS III Plus . I now have it mounted on the Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200. My latest is the Garmin Color Street Pilot. What a dream. It works great on the other motorcycle but also easily transfers to my car.
The other day I stopped into the local Mobil Gas station where I live and saw they had something new called Speedpass . It works like E-ZPass and other transponder based toll systems. I immediately knew it was something I must have. I took the literature home which contained a form to mail or an 800# to call but I thought instead I would give mobil.com a try. Sure enough I found a path to Speedpass. A very simple SSL enabled secure form was waiting for me and less than ten days later I had the transponders in hand. I installed one immediately and went to the station. Just as advertised I was able to just pull up to the pump and watch the Red Flying Horse light up. I got out of the car, took the pump nozzle in hand, filled up and off I drove. No credit card, no fuss. Very cool! Even the Public Sector is getting cool. With EZPass I can drive all around the New York area and soon an even much broader area with no fuss with tolls. I have one on each car and have just ordered another for my motorcycle. I hear that it will work from within my motorcycle jacket pocket!
Many people say that the Screwpull Lever Model by Le Creuset is the Best Corkscrew on the Market. I can’t say for sure but I am so far very impressed. I was pleasantly surprised when some dear friends presented me with this fine instrument as a Christmas gift. The Screwpull features a clamp-style hand grip to hold any bottle steady. You simply swing the lever handle to insert the Teflon coated spiral into the cork, lift the lever to extract the cork, and pump up and down again to extract the cork out of the machine. The Screwpull immediately strikes you as quite high-tech and appears to be made from the highest quality materials. The body is Zytel which is the same material found in the Stealth Aircraft. It features over 30 individual parts and it comes with a spare Teflon spiral and also a matching foil cutter. The best part is some fine print I found in the literature that came with the Screwpull. It says “After between 400/600 bottles, the Teflon coating on the screw/spiral may gradually wear off – and you will notice that the Lever Model is a little stiffer to operate. In this case, please replace the screw with the spare provided, following the instruction 8”. Sounds like it will last a while!
One of my most used gadgets is the Kodak Digital Science DC210 Zoom Camera. I have to say this is quite an extraordinary camera. I have been using the DC-50 for the last couple of years but the DC-210 enables me to capture even better digital pictures with ease. It has a 2X zoom lens to get close to the action but the most amazing part is the megapixel technology which provides pictures with vivid colors and dazzling detail. The camera comes with Picture Easy Software for downloading, manipulating and sharing images. I believe the DC210 is one of the first point-and-shoot cameras with a true megapixel CCD, meaning it captures one million (1152 864) pixels per image. Perhaps the neatest feature of all is the color LCD Display on the back of the camera. It lets you review and preview your pictures and also set preferences. It seems to use a lot of battery power but is well worth it. The DC210 comes with a 4 MB Picture Card, allowing you to store up to 59 pictures, depending on the format you choose. All image processing is done within the camera, so you can see your picture on-screen immediately and begin working with it in less than ten seconds so there’s no need to transfer pictures using an intermediary software application like the DC-50. You can actually drag and drop images from your camera right into your software application. The camera can also talk directly to your IrDA-enabled ThinkPad via infrared technology. I hear it is slow that way but haven’t tried it yet. The DC210 comes with video out capability so you can view your digital pictures on TV with ease through a standard PAL/NTSC interface cable. The built-in flash unit automatically fires whenever it’s needed, and has a red-eye reduction option and a focus-free lens.
Not my newest gadget, but acquired recently is the REX PC Companion by Franklin . The REX is definitely my smallest gadget to date. It has a very good on the fly compression technology which enables it to store a lot of information. I find it a good companion to my IBM WorkPad . The REX is read only so I just keep it in my pocket for quick reference to names, numbers, calendar, etc. I am hoping it will very soon have sync capability with Lotus Organizer 97 GS which is what I use for my all my personal productivity data.
Probably my second smallest gadget is the ICD-50 Voice File IC Recorder by Sony. (The link I am showing says ICD-30 and the specs are slightly different. I couldn’t find the ICD-50 on the Sony site.) This incredibly dense set of silicon goodies allows for the recording of up to 99 messages in each of two files. It weighs just 1.8 ounces. No moving parts. It can store 8 minutes in SP mode or 16 minutes in LP mode. The quality in LP mode is crystal clear. Great for dictating idle thoughts and ideas just as you would with a pen and pad but even when you don’t have a pen and pad. I’m still experimenting with it. I have often thought it would be neat to have something like this while running or exercising. I often get ideas and have no place to jot them down. I can’t say all my gadgets are instantly productive but I find them all exciting (at least for a while.) I got the ICD-50 at a bargain price from J&R Music World which is where I buy many of my electronic things.
A gadget that I find hard to be without is the WorkPad by IBM. I have to admit it is a pretty powerful mobile productivity tool. Sleek at just 4.7″ tall, 3.2″ wide and weighing only 6-ounces the WorkPad PC companion gives me instant access and update capability for my address book, calendar, call list and to do list. Data backup and synchronization is pretty simple. You just slip the WorkPad PC companion into its synchronization cradle, push the HotSync button data is quickly exchanged with my PC.
A gadget that is great to go running with is the Shockwave SL-SW202 Portable CD Player by Panasonic. (The link I am showing says SL-SW205 and the specs are slightly different. I couldn’t find the SL-SW205 on the Panasonic site.) The neat thing about the shockwave technology is that it can deliver outstanding audio quality in the toughest outdoor conditions. You literally can shake it and not notice a skip. It is also water resistant for running in the rain thanks to a rubber seal along the edges of the lid. Panasonic’s Anti-Shock Memory works by spinning the CD at a higher speed than normal, enabling it to store extra sound data in memory. When a bang or vibration causes a tracking error, the system plays back up to 3 seconds of music from memory until correct tracking resumes. This means the stream of data you hear is not interrupted, so you get high-quality sound with virtually no skipping. A Dual Lock System keeps the lid firmly closed even under the toughest conditions.
A gadget I enjoy every weekend is the freeSound RS6 Wireless Headphone System by Sennheiser. These headphones are great for walking around the house or working at my computer while listening to great classical music. I am wearing them right now. The transmitter and receiver operate at your choice of either 925.4, 926.15, or 926.5 MHz. In Germany, where the headphone system is manufactured, the frequencies are 433.4, 434.13, and 434.50 MHz. So much for global standards! The specs say the range is approximately 300 feet. I wore them outside and walked to the end of my 375 foot driveway and they were still playing with perfect fidelity! Modulation is FM stereo and Signal-to-noise ratio is 73dB. The headphone battery is rechargeable right from the transmitter base. The headphones have automatic on/off. They weigh just 160 grams (just under 6 ounces by my calculations). Sennheiser claims to have a RS8 model which additionally has noise cancellation with a SNR of 110dB. Unfortunately, they are not available anywhere that I could find. I am very pleased with the RS6.
A gadget I wear every day is the Data Link Model 150 Watch by Timex. It has a memory capacity of up to 150 entries which can include phone numbers, calendar reminders, etc. I use it to store my frequent flyer numbers. It displays a 31-character scrolling. To get the data into the watch you just hold your hand near the display of your PC and a photo eye reads bar codes from the screen. It can also download the latest time, alarms, chime tones, etc. I get the latest time on the PC to be accurate by using the Atomic Clock . In spite of all this function the Data Link watch claims a three year battery life!
A recent addition to my gadget collection is the Motorola TalkAbout Two-way Radio . I got two of them (the cobalt blue model) on the fourth of July. They use the new Family Radio Service (FRS) designated frequencies. This is a new license-free, short range, two-way radio service which was established specifically for family and individual recreational use. The range is supposed to be “up to two miles”. So far the best I have achieved is about one mile. I am anxious to try them out on the Lake during my summer vacation and see if I can get more range across the water. The TalkAbout has 14 channels between 462.5675 and 467.7125 MHz. There are 38 “Interference Eliminator Codes” available for each channel. The codes range from 67 to 250 Hz. The channels are 250 Hz apart and the 38 codes divide that space roughly equally in 3-4 Hz chunks. The net of all this is that you really get 532 channels (14 x 38). I guess they describe it as channels and codes just to make it simpler to use. You just select one of the 14 channels and then choose a code. I have been using mine on channel 4, code 18. Reminds me of CB radio which I used back in the 70’s .
I don’t know how I ever got along with out the DeLorme Earthmate . It connects to my ThinkPad 600 and allows me to see exactly where I am when driving. The only problem is to be very careful and not be watching the ThinkPad instead of the road! I have quite a few GPS and Mapping references in the GPS – Mapping – Ham Radio section of my Favorite Places.
Garmin GPS 40 Global Positioning System receiver. It is a small hand held receiver and I carry it in my briefcase wherever I go. When I get somewhere I haven’t been before I take the latitude/longitude from the GPS40 and put them in my Web site (Domino , of course) in my ThinkPad. You can see this in the “Where I have been lately” section of my Web site. The other thing I do with the GPS co-ordinates is send e-mail to my staff and friends and include a link to a Map of exactly where I am. Essential or even needed a little: no. Fun to do and talk about: yes. I guess you could say that about all my gadgets
One of my newest technology acquisitions (gadgets) is the Polar Accurex Plus Heart Rate Monitor . I have some commentary on it in the Races section of my Web site. It is linked from Running, which is one of my other hobbies. I upload the heart rate information from the Polar Accurex and then I can display various graphs and comparative information.
There are so many other gadgets I enjoy so much…. StarTAC, Pilot, CDPD modem, Connectix camera, DC-50 Camera, Lifeform software (I think of it as Quicken for the body), Atomic Clock (dials Government time server and adjusts your PC clock), and of course Kona (Lotus components), Domino , some experimental software from IBM Research that makes my right mouse button a scroll bar for Web pages, and the list goes on but I guess my all time favorite, most used gadget is my electric lighted peppermill. I happen to like pepper on food so it has a practical application but I think what I like most about it is that every time I use it, it makes my wife or kids or guests laugh and that makes me laugh. I always say, “I don’t know why everybody doesn’t have one of these”.
Footnote as of Christmas 1997: I never thought my lighted peppermill could be replaced but my family surprised me this year with “The Pepper Ball“.