This week’s column…

Here’s this week’s science column…


Edward Willett

CES 2004: A Gadget Odyssey

I’ve always been a gadget guy, so I would have been in heaven at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where gadgets from the way cool to the way weird were on display.

Alas, I didn’t get to attend, but here are some of the highlights, gleaned from the extensive coverage at

If you like to download or copy music to your computer, but you don’t like to listen to it on your little PC speakers, you’d love one of the many devices demonstrated at CES that allows you to stream music from a PC to a stereo, using home networking. Use your computer to program hours of your favorite music, and never have to change a CD.

If, on the other hand, you like having your downloaded music on CDs, but hate the hassle of labeling them, you might like LightScribe, a cool new technology from Hewlett Packard that lets you use your existing CD or DVD burner to print images and text right onto specially made discs.

Or perhaps you prefer radio. In that case, you might be intrigued by the RadioShark from Griffin Technology, which is an AM/FM radio tuner that plugs into your computer and allows you to use record radio programs onto your hard drive when you’re not around for later listening.

If TV is more your thing, I think the coolest gadget by far has to be the wireless TV. Sony, Sharp and Samsung all demonstrated these: they’re battery-powered, flat-panel TVs that communicate wirelessly with a base station (into which you plug your cable, VCR, DVD player, etc.) You can carry the TV to wherever you want to watch it, from the kitchen to the patio.

Of course, when it comes to TVs, for some people the most important thing is size. Samsung showed the biggest, a whopping 80-inch plasma TV. But you can get an even bigger picture with a digital projector. Top-notch professional ones are available for only $23,000 (U.S.), but excellent home digital projectors are also becoming more affordable–Optomo showed one priced at “only” $1,395 U.S.

Still, a TV is just a TV. Wouldn’t it be cool if were also…a printer? That’s what Epson thought; each of the company’s new big-screen LCD TVs include a CD-RW burner and a dye-sublimation photo printer. You can plug all of the memory storage devices commonly used by digital cameras into the TVs to view the images, then print the ones you want. The TVs can also let you freeze video and print from that.

Perhaps you’d rather take video than watch it. Then you need Philips’s upcoming Key019 Camcorder Key Ring. It will capture 80 minutes of continuous MPEG4 video, also functions as a 2-megapixel digital camera, and will cost just $249 U.S.

If you’re more of a video game player, but worried about not getting enough exercise, you might want one of XaviX’s new game consoles. In XaviX’s baseball game, you swing a bat at the video image of a ball coming at you; an infrared transmitter in the bat tells the console whether you connected or not. In the bowling game, you have an infrared-enabled ball (just don’t let go of it).

Not all the new gadgets are entertainment-oriented. AutoExRay’s EZ-Scan automotive scanners can connect to most current models of automobiles, and let you do your own diagnosing of problems. Also in the automobile field, most car-audio manufacturers are now offering DVD-playing LCD panels that pop out of the dashboard. (And you thought talking on the cell phone was distracting…)

In the kitchen, you can find Salton’s Countertop Kitchen Entertainment Center, which includes an LCD display, TV, radio, DVD player, speakers, washable keyboard, and video-monitoring feature (so you can see what the kids are up to while you cook). It can also network with other “smart” appliances, including a bread maker, microwave and coffeemaker. (The microwave comes complete with 4000 bar-coded recipes–the microwave scans the bar code on your package of, say, popcorn, and programs itself.)

But the weirdest kitchen appliance is TMIO’s oven/refrigerator: you stick supper in it when you go out to work in the morning, and it’s kept cold until it’s time for it to start cooking–then the refrigerator turns into an oven. The oven can be activated by a timer, or over the Internet (using your cell phone, if it has Internet capability).

It’s the world’s first “Internet-ready refrigerated oven,” and I can’t think of a single phrase that better sums up the wild and wacky wired world of today’s consumer electronics.


Edward Willett is a Regina freelance writer. E-mail comments or questions to; visit Ed on the Web at

Permanent link to this article:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Easy AdSense Pro by Unreal