News and Information

Comdex Fall Las Vegas, November 1999

What better way to start the new year than with the annual recap of the monster computer show known as Comdex Fall 1999. As shows go, it wasn't all that bad considering that it was smaller than in years past and there were a few notable missing companies like Compaq, IBM, Dell, Lotus and the like. But what was there was, was worth taking a look at. USB technologies that might actually start working, digital cameras that get better every year, voice recognition that just might come out of the closet, and finally, PDA technology that just might make me go out and buy one.

As in years past, there were new products, new people, and many things worth taking a look at. Also as in years past, there is no better way to meet old friends and see some of the new technologies that are probably best left for another year. I saw that in some of the new digital cameras, beta releases of software, and of course, some really strange things that companies drag to their booths.

Neat Stuff

Business cards will never be the same from what we see at the show. A number of companies are giving their promotional information and business cards out in the form of tiny CDs. From about 3 1/8 inches by 2 3/8 inch in size. The one problem I see so far is that some older cd rom drives will not read them. Also make sure they don't fall through the hole in the center of the tray.

Brother has come up with a tool every small retail business should look at. The Brother Cool Laminator Multi finishing system. Primarily it is an automated laminator with a twist. As the others, you simply put in the document to be laminated and it does it automatically including the auto cutting. But you can also change the back to make a double sided laminate, a magnetic back laminate, and an adhesive backed laminate. Around $199 and you don't need a computer to use it.

Acer has come out with two new telephones; one is a video phone and the other is an internet phone. The internet phone allows you to receive and store phone messages while you are away but also capture email. With the built in keyboard, you can surf the internet, reply to messages, or even use the touch screen to navigate.

Several years ago I saw several computing tablets that were basically touch tablets with a computer attached to them. QBE has kicked the technology up about three levels with the new Celeron and Pentium III models with memory up to 512MB, 600Mhz processors, up to 12GB disk drives, DVD or CD-RW, and a built in camera, sound, IC Card reader, PCMCIA slots, and a host of other accessories. This was PC Magazines neatest product of the show. Look to spend around $5000 at

Paragon Software, has come up with a technology that will allow you to connect your PC to your phone and download PIM information down to your telephone hand set. Just think about taking your ACT database with you. With the Nokia 7100 series phones, you can download up to 100 to do lists, 1000 phone numbers, and up to 500 calendar entries. Around $79.

Intel setup a pavilion area to showcase a number of new designs in computers. Kind of a worlds fair type of exhibit of the computer of the future where design was actually the primary reason for these computers and some of them are quite impressive and would certainly be a conversation piece and fun to show off. You can catch some of these designs at the following web sites: and and and

New and Improved

I have never been fond of the all in one units that had a printer, scanner, and copier, and fax built in but I think Epson has done an excellent job with their Epson Stylus Scan 2000. 300x600 36bit scanning and 1440 dpi printing bring the capabilities up to good working order. While no fax capability, it still would be a good all around choice for the cramped office. About $349

Digital Cameras where everywhere this year from the show floor to all the people taking pictures. The new standard is the 2+ Megapixel range with offerings from Epson's PhotoPC800, to Olympus C2000Z to offerings from Ricoh and Minolta and others, all in the $700-$900 range.

Hauppauge has been generating some terrific TV tuners for the computer for years and they have a couple of new ones to take a look at. The first new card is the WinTV-D model which is a Digital TV model that comes with Dolby Digital surround sound allowing you to view both digital and conventional analog television on your computer. What is neat is that the card does all the work of finding out which signals are which and allowing you to surf and view any with out any conversion efforts and do it all remotely. If you want to find out where the digital broadcast stations are, go to The other unit is a USB based TV tuner for the computer. With both you can capture videos and images and even do videoconferencing. WinTV USB is around $99.

ATI Technologies has been the leader in high performance video cards and the new Rage Fury Maxx keeps them in the lead. A 64MB AGP card is powered by dual ATI Rage 128 Pro graphics engines to deliver a stunning 500 megapixels/sec fill rate. What it means is super high performance for game players. The ATI card that I like is the Xpert2000 which is a 32MB card that includes hardware DVD video playback and it looks great. Top pick for DVD computer systems, unless you want a TV tuner included, and if so, look at the ATI All-In Wonder 128 Pro. Should be available now for around $299.

You really shouldn't ask the price

For years, we have talked about laser, dot matrix, and ink jet printers but there is a class of printer that simply gets better with time. The Dye Sublimation printers are the ones to get if you really want to make a lasting impression. With a printed pixel resolution of over 3,000 and 16.7 million colors available, Mitsubishi Electronics has come up with some incredible printers. For letter sized output, look at the CP-2000UA. Best printing I have seen in a long time.

When you see more than one example of a product, it becomes a growing trend and this is a digital microscope. While I saw the Intel version for home entertainment, the PCScope Model PCS-81X is an optical microscope with a built in digital recorder (camera) supporting megapixel technology. You use a 2 inch LCD monitor to view objects and it has magnification optically up to 40X and enhanced to 1630X. Record your images on a SmartMedia memory card for transfer to your computer or use the provided serial data transfer cable. Around $3,800 from IKInabata & Co., Japan.

IBM has released the next level in hard drives, the 73GB 10,000RPM Ultrastar drive.

How would you like to print an image on a piece of plywood, masonite, plasterboard, and a number of other materials that are up to 43 X 89 inches in size. With the specially designed coatings, you can not only print on most any surface, including glass, but also protect it from outdoor and UV exposure. The Mammoth Direct Inkjet Printer model MMP9001R. From Gradco at

One of the neatest products we saw was a reproduction of Thomas Edison's Universal Stock Ticker. A museum quality 1870s era replica that works and is incredible to look at. Check it out at Handcrafted pedestal, 42 pound cast iron base, an actually working ticker that will only set you back $35,000.

Networking and the Internet

Dxshop from is an internet based shopping system for small and medium retail businesses. Build your own internet retail presence for as little as $100 per month with this software that looks easy to use and maintain.

Internet security will be a real issue for most people next year and there were a lot of products to be seen at Comdex. One that is worth taking a second look at is from SonicWALL, their internet security appliance. It provides firewall security, hacker attack prevention, internet content filtering, and a host of other features. If you plan to have a permanent connection to the internet through devices such as cable modems, ISDN, or direct connection, check out the SonicWALL SOHO/10. Around $400.

Quantum has probably the easiest way of adding a file server to your local area network. Called the Snap Server, you can quickly add 20GB to 40GB of storage to your network by simply plugging it into the network and turning it on. It really only takes just minutes. It comes preconfigured for either Windows NT, NetWare, Linux, or Unix networks. Around $999 for 20GB at

Tools you can use

The Bus is a universal port replicator from CNF, that allows you to use any notebook computer that has a PCMCIA card slot. What you do is to connect all your peripherals like monitor, keyboard, mouse, LAN cable, and printer to the Bus and then connect the Bus to your notebook via the PCMCIA connector. Easy and simple. $299 with the Ethernet connection.

For a similar product that connects via USB, take a look at Xircom's PortStation. It has a number of individual modules that you snap together in a single unit to connect via USB a printer, Ethernet, modem, PS/2 mouse, serial device, digital camera, and more all through a single USB port on your computer.

For PDA users looking for new add ons, take a look at the Xircom CompactCards. These cards use the same interface as a CompactFlash memory card for your PDA but also gives you some new features. Xircom has come up with a Modem card, GSM Modem card, and a LAN card. With a card caddy, you can use the same cards with WindowsCE devices that will take a PCMCIA type II card slot.

Printing on the road has been a real pain but here comes along the portable printer, fax, scanner, and copier all bundled into one very small device called the Chameleon. From DocuPort, it is a thermal based printer so you don't have to worry about ink getting all over the unit when traveling. You can send and receive faxes directly from the Chameleon, scan at 200x400 dpi mode (Monochrome), and even scan when offline using the charged battery pack. Around $299 from DocuPort 973-882-3177.

Archos has collected a number of products that make any road warrior happy. How about a slim line DVD drive. Or better yet, a portable CD-RW the size of a portable CD player that connects to either USB, FireWire, or PCMCIA slot. The MiniCDRW reads at 24X and writes at up to 4X. Around $279 from They have a wide range of very useful products for the portable computer.

Another tool for the traveler is a good surge protector that can not only protect your computer, but your phone line and also tell you if you have a digital line with excess current that many hotels have. All this is available in the new APC SurgeArrest Notebook Pro surge protector. Small and compact and easy to setup it is definitely worth the $40 or so.

Close but ??

Sony has a bunch of new digital cameras out and the one that I liked the best was the DSC-D770. I love it because it is an SLR type of camera with all the pro features that you want when taking pictures from slow and fast shutter speeds, a 5X optical zoom lens, manual or auto white balance and exposure value compensation settings, a pro style through the lens view finder, a 2.5 inch LCD for image viewing, multiple metering for exposure control, multiple ISO settings and a host of other features. It's a great camera, but, 1.5 megapixel is on the low end, a non standard Memory Stick or PC Card data storage, Parallel port interface for data transfer and a very pro price of $1999.

And a host of others

Best looking press kit comes from with their new web site that is selling hand crafted art and products from around the world. With several regions and a number of artists in tow, they intend to be the alternative to mass produced art, crafts, and other such wares. All items are reputed to be authentic.

Security is a big issue this year with everything from retinal scanners to thumb printers to palm scanners to software designed to tell who you are when you sit at a keyboard. CompuLink has a BioLink mouse that has a thumbprint scanner built into the mouse. Keytronic showed off a thumbprint scanner in a keyboard. Cyber-Sign relies on your signature, and FaceIt was the big hit last year with a face scanner.

MP3 music systems are big as well and I really don?t know why but then I don?t have teenagers running around. All sorts of Rio type clones and the new WindowsCE systems have sound capabilities and MP3 music built in. Texas Instruments is now making music chips for 20 different music devices on the market and the list will grow.

One of the most promising technologies we saw at Comdex is a new technology called Bluetooth at which is a short range wireless network designed to communicate wirelessly between devices such as a telephone and a computer, palm type PDAs, desktops, and a host of future devices. This really takes off where infrared communications ended as it doesn?t need a line of sight, will be faster, and hopefully, easier to develop and deploy. While nothing is available yet, the possibilities shown off by companies like Ericsson, Acer, Toshiba, Intel, Nokia and a host of others is impressive.

Finally, according to PC Week, the best of Comdex comes from Wireless Mountain Laboratory Inc.?s Spider Reader and Spider Tags tracking system. You can check it out at but it is a very interesting and unique way of tracking people, animals, objects, and the like at a range of up to 300 feet with the Spider Readers. One example of an application is wheel chairs in a hospital. With the Spider system, administration can keep track of where they are so when one is needed, they can determine which ones are moving and which are not and where they are.

Other News and Products of Interest

Nikon has upped the level for digital cameras with the new 2.7 megapixel Professional Digital SLR D1 Camera. For ultra high definition at 2012x1324 pixels, this camera is a true SLR as it accepts over 80 current Nikon F mount Nikkor lenses. It interfaces with the outside world with a Compact Flash memory card and the Fire Wire IEEE 1394 interface. While no flash is built in, there is a hot shoe and the shutter will auto sync up to 1/500 seconds. Users of the other high end Nikon SLRs will feel right at home with this camera. Images are stored in a JPEG or uncompressed format An incredible camera for $5580.

For the mobile professional, Port Inc. has introduced the Port Universal Auto/Air Power adapter for your notebook computer. Very light weight and compact in size, it comes with a variety of power tips to allow a large number of notebooks to connect to it.

Another neat tool for the mobile computer traveler is the Targas USB Mobile Mini Hub. Measuring just 4.5 x 1.5 inches and 1 inch thick, it is a four port hub for USB. A great way to plug in an external keyboard, mouse, speakers, monitor and more. Another winner Targas has come out with is the universal Power Supply. Imagine carrying one power supply unit for your notebook, printer, cellular phone, and PDA or Camcorder? It is made by ChargeSource and you can find them at expect to pay around $110.

Fujitsu has come out with a ultra lightweight notebook, the Lifebook B Series computer at only 2.6 pounds. A Celeron 300mhz processor, 32MB RAM expandable to 160, 6.4GB hard drive, and build in 56K modem makes this a very powerful computer for $1799. The display is an 8.4 inch TFT active matrix and it looks bright. 2 USB ports make it very expandable. The Floppy and CD ROM drives are external.

Sony has hit the high end of notebooks with a 15 inch screen available in the high end F290 notebook. It also weighs in at a hefty 7 plus pounds but does include everything in the computer such as a 400mhz Pentium 2 processor, DVD, V.90 modem, and so on. At $3500, not cheap but you do get to take everything with you.

Sony has also come out with three Trinitron flat screen displays at an excellent price as well. The 17 inch model (16 viewable inches) is a .24+ dot pitch and capable of 1600x1200 resolution at 75hz. Available now, street priced at $499.

Short Takes

Want some really good inkjet paper. Pictorico produces some of the best paper I have seen in a long time. They really have an interesting line up. As you would expect, they have the usual premium glossy paper and transparency for presentations. What is interesting are the other lines. A White Opaque film for use with images, calendars, certificates and awards. Pastel Colored papers for greeting cards, invitations, and illustrations. An Adhesive film for creating photo stickers, bumper stickers, and presentation covers. And finally, my favorite, a Premium Canvas for creating your own works of art.

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This Page Last Updated: January 24, 2001.