You can take it with you

Remember when the term "portables" brought to mind notebook computers? Next came mini-notebooks and handheld organizers such as 3Com Corp.'s PalmPilot.

Now the list of gadgets seems endless. Vendors also are constantly improving existing products to make them more functional, durable and mobile.

A Show Highlight

Among the array of portable products at the Comdex show in Las Vegas last week was WizCom Technologies Inc.'s QuickLink Pen, a handheld device that scans printed text at 50 characters per second. The QuickLink Pen works a lot like a highlighter marker: Swipe the scanner across the text as if you are highlighting the line.

The QuickLink Pen can store up to 1,000 pages of data, which can be edited and retained in separate files. The data can then be transferred to a PC, notebook, PalmPilot or text-enabled cellular phone. You can use additional flash memory cards to increase the storage capacity.

Because text must be scanned one line at a time, the QuickLink Pen may not be the best solution for large documents that can be captured using methods such as photocopying or flatbed scanning. However, it provides a portable and convenient solution for people gathering information while traveling, researchers needing information from volumes too large to photocopy, or anyone needing to extract information from long documents or many different sources.

The QuickLink Pen includes a desktop application similar to the Palm Organizer software. It features an address book, notes and data functions, and an Internet link-collecting function that transfers URLs directly to your browser's bookmarks. You can even transfer printed tables and charts directly into a spreadsheet using the table and chart builder.

Speak Easy

Just speak at a normal pace into Dragon Systems Inc.'s palm-sized Dragon NaturallySpeaking Mobile device, and you can transfer your dictation as text to your PC using the included software package. The recorder holds up to 40 minutes of speech in its built-in memory and up to 80 additional minutes on removable memory cards. The software includes editing features that enable you to use voice commands to insert links to other documents and insert and remove text.

Rugged Individualism

Panasonic Personal Computer Co. has released the industry's first ultra-portable, fully ruggedized notebook. The Toughbook 17 is one of the latest in Panasonic's popular ruggedized series, and it's the smallest. Despite its light 3.8 pounds, the Toughbook 17 sports a full-strength magnesium case, shock-mounted hard drive, reinforced hinges and spill-resistant keyboard and touchpad.

It contains a 300 MHz Intel Corp. Celeron processor, wireless capability and a full feature set.

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