HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

January 8, 2007, Herald Journal

Looking at some new gadgets

By MARK OLLIG

The origin of the word “gadget” is in dispute. One source says the word “gadget” first showed up around 1886, and may have come originally from the French “gachette” meaning a trigger’s firing mechanism or a tumbler . . . referencing a small piece of a lock or hooking mechanism.

While it is not clear exactly where the word “gadget” came from, one thing that it is clear is that we use them.

What are some of the new techno-gadgets out there? Here is an interesting one I looked at called a USBCell. This is a rechargeable AA battery that reveals a USB port once you flip the cap off the positive end of the battery itself.

This battery is designed so that you do not need to use a battery charger. You only need to plug it into any open USB port on your computer and the USBCell battery will recharge itself from the power from the USB port. USBCell is made by Moxia Energy and costs $19.99 for two batteries. You can go to http://www.usbcell.com and read more information about it and also see some photographs.

Here’s another gadget that would make James Bond proud: instead of having to take out your cellphone to see who is calling, you can look at your wristwatch instead for the caller ID display. Using Bluetooth wireless technology, this watch will connect currently with a limited selection of cellphones made by Sony Ericcison. The photo of the wristwatch I saw has the caller name displayed on the watch face just above six o’clock.

The watch also enables incoming calls to be rejected by the push of a button. It is a novelty for sure, but makes an interesting topic for discussion at that next party. You can see and learn more about it by going to http://abacuswatches.com.

For those of you out there that like to build your own unusual gadgets, here is an example of some ingenuity demonstrated by some students at the University of Cambridge in England. These students used a helium-filled balloon and a payload about the size of a lunch box, containing a data transmission system, a parachute and also a 5-mega pixel camera.

The camera snapped 800 pictures of the Earth’s upper atmospheric curvature from an altitude of 20 miles up.

The Cambridge students also deployed a parachute and the balloon safely landed back to Earth.

I saw some of these photographs that were published and they were spectacular. The students called this experiment “Project Nova” which is also part of the Cambridge University Spaceflight department.

Project Nova is a student-run organization dedicated to spaceflight development and is supported by the Cambridge-MIT Institute.

Now that the students were able to achieve this height with a balloon and payload, their next goal is to carry up a small rocket that will be fired from the balloon at the 20 mile altitude range. They hope to obtain an altitude of 60 miles with the rocket.

The internationally designated altitude commonly used to define the edge of outer space is 62 miles and is called the “Karman Line,” so the students will be literally at the edge of outer space with their payload if they are successful.

Still photographs taken from the balloon along with the students’ story of this adventure are located at http://www.eng.cam.ac.uk/news/stories/2006/project_nova on the Internet.

Another new gadget or device that we will read more about this year (2007 in case you’re still writing 2006 on your checks) is called the “Walletex Wallet MP3 Player” and like the name says, this MP3 player will fit in your wallet.

This is the world’s slimmest MP3 player, which is about the size of a credit card and has storage capacities starting at 128MB and goes up to 2GB. The headphones attach to a USB adapter and it looks as though you can plug this player directly into your PC to transfer music.

The Walletex Wallet MP3 player is water and dust proof, along with being temperature resistant. Look for this new MP3 player to be available in June.

The Walletex is today sold as a USB Flash Drive Memory card that you can use to store your PC’s data on. By comparison, today we use USB “thumb-sized” types of storage drives, but they can easily break or be misplaced – plus they can’t be stored in your wallet.

Other advantages of this particular credit card sized flash hard-drive is that it is easier to store and transport plus it’s less prone to breakage.

For those of us out there that remember the old days of PC computing, we would use those 5.25” floppy-disks and 3.5” diskettes to transfer our data from one PC to another. Those “removable media” devices had the normal user limited memory storage capacity of 640K and 1.5MB. The amazing thing about this new slim Walletex flash-drive is that it’s the size of a credit card and can hold up to 2GB’s worth of data and it weighs only 12 grams.

Costs range from $94.95 for a 128MB memory flash-drive to $85.00 for 2GB. For more information visit their website at http://www.walletex.com.

The Walletex Wallet Flash drive is also waterproof, so hopefully it might make it through the wash cycle on laundry day.