By John Avignone
DECEMBER 14, 1998: It's that time again. The holiday rush is upon us. There it is, clearly marked on the calendar, but somehow it always seems to take us by surprise. Too much to do and not enough time to do it is the standard holiday refrain.
Buying a gift for your pet geek can be a daunting task, especially for the technophobe contingent. But fear not, armed with our gift guide you are sure to find something to please even the pickiest technocrat. Even if your geek is more "Bah, humbleep" than "Ho, ho, ho," we can help. From six to 60, we have the gifts tech junkies want.
And this year you can save time and money by buying online. You can buy anything in this guide without leaving the house. While some think WWW stands for World Wide Wait, a few minutes of screen time is still more convenient than fighting traffic to the mall, searching for a parking space, elbowing your way through crowds and waiting in long lines, only to find they're out of what you're looking for.
Prices on many computers and accessories have once again plummeted. Top-quality desktop systems are available well under $2,000. Good basic systems can be found for as little as $500. For $1,300 you can get the new iMac, the new VW Bug of the computer world.
We've included gifts in all price ranges. From $10 to over $1,000, you'll find something here that fits your budget and your geek gift list. There are so many great products out there that we're not revisiting any of last year's features, except for games -- computer games are always popular.
Many of the products we featured last year are still available or have been replaced by similar new models. Many of the prices have dropped, too. (You can find last year's guide at http://www.auschron.com>.) This doesn't mean keyboards, mouses, and miscellaneous peripherals aren't a good gift buy. They are. But we only have so much room and we wanted to show you the latest and greatest. If you want to see even more great gift ideas, the Lycos list of Top 100 tech products at http://www.popsci.lycos.com/vote.html is a good place to start.
The easiest way to use this guide is to read it online at the Chronicle
Web site. So kick back, boot up, log on, and head over to http://www.auschron.com> for easy links. We're going cyber-shopping.
Win98 runs faster and smoother than 95. With more features and easier customization, any nerd still running Win95 will love this update. About $90.
Gizmos98 | http://www.play.com
A collection of cool add-ons and utility programs for Windows. $50.
GamesGames are always a popular gift. Here's some of the favorites this year. All games are $15 to $50. For more great gift ideas for gamers, check out http://www.gamecenter.com/Features/Exclusives/Gifts/?st.gc.fd.bb3.
As supercop Blade, you hunt down and destroy sexy supercriminal Elexis Sinclaire with the help of your hacker buddy J.C. Good first-person shooter with superior level design.
Unreal | http://www.unreal.com/
Unreal may eventually replace Quake II as the king of the 3-D first-person shooter. While Unreal is no better than Quake, the Unreal engine has become the industry standard for 3-D game development.
Half-Life | http://www.sierra.com/
A much-anticipated 3-D shooter. You're involved in a top secret project that goes awry. Fighting aliens and human commando squads, you attempt to reach the surface. Based on the Quake II engine, Half-Life differs from most shooters by using authentic weapons, not fantasy guns.
Tiger Woods 99 | http://www.easports.com/
Not your typical golf game, EA Sports' Tiger Woods 99 offers a unique 3-D engine, multiple play modes, and even tips on how to lower your score out on the real links.
Quake II Mission Pack: Ground Zero | http://www.activision.com/games/pub-index.html
This official Quake II add-on from Activision provides 14 all-new levels with new weapons, new enemies, and new power-ups. Give this one and you may not see your little hellraiser until after the new year.
Trivial Pursuit CD-ROM Edition | http://www.hasbrointeractive.com/
Some things seem so obvious you have to wonder what took so long. All new questions and lots of multimedia and 3-D effects make the update for this classic game a winner.
Microsoft Entertainment Pack for Windows CE | http://www.microsoft.com/windowsce/hpcpro/basics/entpack.asp
The perfect accompaniment to a personal digital assistant, this game pack will keep your nerd entertained for hours at a time. Several of the games offer multi-player play through infrared ports.
Lovegety claims to be "the World's First Interactive Match-Making Device." A cross between a beeper and a Tamagotchi toy, it can be set to meet, talk to, or date someone new. Blue for boys and pink for girls, when a member of the opposite sex with the same setting comes into range both Lovegetys will beep and flash. $20.
Iridium Satellite Phone System | http://www.iridium.com/
At $3,000, the Iridium satellite phone is at the top end of the nerd toys, but if your Dellionaire has been a good little nerd, you may want to cash in some of those stock options for the elite of cool nerd toys. With this phone you can call anyone anytime from literally anywhere on the face of the planet through a system of 66 low-orbit satellites. Great for when you get delayed on your final Everest assault and you want to call home to let them know you'll be late for dinner.
Clarion AutoPC | http://www.autopc.com/index2.html
Clarion has taken a voice-recognition PC with more capabilities than most personal digital assistants and combined it with a cell phone, car stereo, and global positioning system. Now when you get lost you can get directions, look up the phone number of your destination, call ahead to let them know you're running late, load up the new Nine Inch Nails CD, and check your e-mail, all by voice command. Around $1,300.
Panasonic KX-TGM240 GigaRange Wireless Telephone | http://www.panasonic.com/
With a range of well over a mile (7,700 feet) you can wander to your heart's content and never lose a call. This state-of-the-art wireless phone will set you back about $300.
NuvoMedia Rocket eBook | http://www.rocketbook.com/enter.html
About the size of a paperback, the Rocket eBook holds some 4,000 pages of words and images. That's about 10 novels. Weighing just 22 ounces, the Rocket eBook nestles easily in the curve of your palm. You can download books from the Net directly to the eBook. Hard to dog-ear those pages, though. $499.
Garmin's NavTalk | http://www.garmin.com/navTalk.html
Now you can call for help and know exactly where you are with this combination cell phone and GPS receiver. About $500.
Toshiba Libretto 100CT | http://www.toshiba.com/
Smallest full-function PC on earth. $2,500.
Nokia 9000il Communicator | http://www.nokia9000.com/
A combination PDA, GSM cell phone, fax, Web browser, and e-mail client that does currency conversions and plays music. Features speakerphone, call waiting, call forwarding, and voice mail. Geek chic for a cool grand. $999.
Panasonic PalmTheater | http://www.panasonic.com/
A 2-lb. portable DVD player with a built-in 5.8" screen, surround sound, and two-hour battery life lets you enjoy the near-theatre DVD experience anywhere. Doubles as a standard DVD player at home. $1,400.
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