A whole glove-box of nifty gadgets have arrived in time for your summer road trip. A watch with a built-in global positioning system, a small pager that plays back recorded messages, and a palm-sized car battery charger are just the devices to keep you oriented, connected and moving down the road.
Digital watch king Casio unveils a timepiece that tells you not just the date and hour, but also your exact location on the globe. The GPS watch gets its planetary fix from 27 satellites orbiting the Earth and spits out latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates at the touch of a button. Mountain climbers, fishermen and other outdoor enthusiasts are the target buyers for the 5-ounce watch.
As if that weren't enough to fix you in one place, the paper-making company Motorola makes it even harder for you to get lost with two new models: the PageWriter and the Tenor. Now it will be even easier for your employers and family to contact you when you're away. The PageWriter allows you to return phone messages without leaving the passenger seat of a moving car. It unfolds to reveal a small -- but complete -- keyboard, which allows you to type back an electronic mail message to the person who just paged you.
The Tenor also eliminates the need to go scrambling for a pay phone when you get a page. This handy hand-held
box plays back a recording of a voice-mail message from a small speaker.
You may have been so excited about that last message that you left your car's lights on all night in the parking lot. Never fear. Now comes the Polaroid company with StartMeUp, a palm-sized battery charger that plugs into your vehicle's cigarette lighter. The car's battery is re-juiced within five minutes without the need for jumper cables or another friendly motorist; in fact, the stranded motorist need not even leave his or her car to do the job. The unit is disposable after one use.
Notes the company: "There are no dangerous external connections to be made between the battery and the power source."
Keep in touch with Mom in the other vehicle with the Family Radio, a high-tech variation on the old walkie-talkie. The small units, manufactured by General Electric, have a clear range of about two miles and operate on a high FM frequency.
The move toward a paperless world took a step forward with the introduction of the SoftBook, a leather-bound portable computer screen that allows you to read nearly 2,000 entire novels on the same electronic "page." Newspapers, magazines, and best-sellers can be purchased for a discount of what the printed media would cost. Already available for sale are a condensed version of The New York Times, highlights from The Wall Street Journal's interactive edition, "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" by Mark Twain, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" by Lewis Carroll, and "The Clinton Enigma" by David Maraniss. Readers can download their choice of material from the online SoftBook data center or purchase it directly as software from the company. The technology allows readers to search for keywords or phrases, make annotations or highlight text. The backlit display becomes its own light source -- perfect for reading in bed or on a darkened red-eye airplane flight.
Finally, when you get to your destination, celebrate with a cool and frothy blended drink. You can make it on the hood of your car with the Waring Tailgater Blender, which runs off of -- you guessed it -- the handy cigarette lighter. The break-resistant carafe can hold 48 ounces of your favorite beverage, whether it be a fruit smoothie or a margarita. Cheers!