Here's my inaugural high-tech gift guide which represents products that I've found to be best in class or most novel, listed in no particular order.
Radio Your Way
This unique and attractive pocket-sized device is a TiVo-like AM/FM radio that lets you record programs automatically and play them back later. It has 10 built in timers to record up to 4 1/2 hours in its internal memory or 40 hours using an optional memory card.
Like its video counterpart, it's great for skipping by commercials and can be set to record at the same time every day. Sound quality and reception are excellent using the built-in speaker or earphones. The recorded files can be downloaded to a PC for playback. All in an attractive credit card sized package that fits in a shirt pocket.
A great gift for talk radio fans; $149 from the Web site (www.radioyourway.com).
Pentax Optio S4 Digital Camera
This is the latest version of Pentax's (www.pentax.com) incredibly small camera weighing just 3 1/2 ounces and small enough to fit into an Altoids tin.
The S4 has a four-megapixel sensor and a retractable 3x zoom lens. This take-everywhere camera takes images capable of enlarging to 11 by 14 inches, yet is small enough to disappear in your pocket or purse.
It has all of the features of most large cameras including full manual settings, scene selections, a movie mode, and sound recording -- $399. The original OptioS with a 3 megapixels is $299.
Plantronics M3000 Bluetooth headset
The best accessory for a Bluetooth enabled phone is a wireless Bluetooth headphone that lets you carry on a conversation unleashed from the phone.
This is the best of several Bluetooth headphones I've tried.
The Plantronics (www.plantronics.com) M3000 works really well and is extremely comfortable. Sound quality is excellent on both ends of the conversation -- $99.
Gateway 200X notebook
This is one of the best looking desktop replacement notebooks.
Less than one-inch thick and at 4.1 pounds it's light enough for travel. Sturdily constructed with an aluminum top, it has with a 14-inch screen, Intel (Nasdaq: INTC) Pentium M 1.4 GHz processor, built in CD RW/DVD drive, Wi-Fi, and an excellent keyboard; $1,399 from the Gateway (NYSE: GTW) Web site (www.gateway.com).
Treo 600 mobile phone
Reviewed in my Nov. 10 column, this is the best smart phone on the market combining a Palm OS PDA, an e-mail device, and an Internet browser. Most stores are selling it for $500-$600, but Amazon (Nasdaq: AMZN) is selling the Sprint (Nasdaq: FON) version for $249 with a 2-year contract (www.handspring.com).
Garmin 2610 GPS
A great gift for those doing lots of driving and one of my favorite products reviewed this year (Sept. 29 column). It's a color GPS unit that sits on your dashboard and provides many of the features of the built-in units in a compact package at half the price. And it can be carried car to car; $999 on numerous Web sites (www.garmin.com).
Sirius Satellite car radio
This subscription-based service provides 60 commercial-free radio channels plus another 40 news, sports and talk channels delivered by satellite.
The receiver can be moved from car to home using an optional cradle. My wife tried this for a month and liked the three classical music stations and the sports channels that broadcasted most of the World Series games. About $100 -$150 for the receiver and car cradle plus $12.95 per month (www.sirius.com).
Olympus DM-10 digital voice recorder
This new model records up to 22 hours in a small all-metal package with a backlit display. Unlike tape units, playback is instant and each recording is stored in an indexed file.
Plug it into its included USB cradle and the recordings are transferred to a computer for playback, storage or e-mailing. It's sensitive microphone works well for recording lectures, interviews and discussions; $199 (www.olympusamerica.com).
Logitech cordless optical mouse for notebooks
This is the recently introduced compact version of their full-featured desktop optical cordless mouse with scroll wheel.
Works equally well for lefties and righties. Plug the small USB receiver into your computer, switch on the mouse and it's ready to go. Eliminating the cord and the need for a mouse pad makes it easy to use and to travel with. It all fits into a small neoprene pouch provided; $39.95 (www.logitech.com).
Tapwave's Zodiac PDA game player
This Palm equipped PDA is the most innovative PDA yet. Geared to the young adult audience the Zodiac adds a game machine, photo viewer, MP3 player, and exceptional full-motion graphics. Encased in a curvaceous metal enclosure with the best color screen of any PDA.
Available on their Web site (www.tapwave.com) from $299.
And finally, something for your pet. It gets my vote for the most off-the-wall product of the year:
When I first learned of this high-tech version of the dog dish I thought it was a joke. And after trying it, well ... I still think it's a joke. The ISeePet is about the size of a coffeemaker. It contains compartments to hold and dispense dry pet food and connects to the Internet through your router. When away from home you can feed and check on your dog from their Web site (www.iseepet.com).
Sign on and remotely activate the tune "It's a Small World" on the feeder to attract your dog. (My Westie Chauncey could have cared less and ran the other way.) A "normal" dog is supposed run up and start eating the food that you also remotely dispense. And while he is eating you can observe your dog with the built-in camera.
An ad on their Web site shows how you can use the ISeePet while stuck at work late at night and not neglect your dog. Maybe they're working on a follow-on product to deal with the other problem of leaving your dog alone at home; $500.
Happy holidays to all.
Baker has developed and marketed consumer and computer products for Polaroid, Apple, Seiko and others. He is the holder of 30 patents and was named San Diego's Ernst & Young Consumer Products Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.