Have a techno Christmas and a wired New Year

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The Independent Culture
As families gather round the Christmas tree this Yuletide, spare a thought for our faithful silicon friends. Stephen Pritchard selects the best hi-tech gifts for 1997.

Nokia 9000

pounds 230

The Nokia 9000 palmtop, which integrates a computer and a mobile phone, is not new. This year, though, competition between mobile operators has forced the price down to highly affordable levels. If you are prepared to sign up for a mobile phone subscription, the Communicator costs pounds 230 on Cellnet, via Carphone Warehouse or Orange. It offers e-mail, web browsing , and limited word processing, as well as all the functions of a mobile phone.

Logitech MouseMan+

pounds 39.99

If your computer is tired, treat it to a new mouse. Windows 95 means that mice are springing extra buttons, and Logitech's MouseMan+ is no exception. The extra button is a "thumb button" and a middle wheel. Together, these let users zoom and scroll around documents or, especially, Web pages, without resorting to the keyboard. The extra functions now work in most non-Microsoft software, too.

Olympus 1 C-1400L

pounds 1,300

If you are the sort of camera owner whose films have a beach in the middle and a Christmas tree at each end, a digital camera is the solution. This year has seen prices fall and specifications improve. The best of the bunch is Olympus1 C-1400L. It's a digital SLR camera, with a fast zoom lens and a colour LCD for framing and viewing pictures. The Olympus has a resolution usually found only in professional SLRs, at a fraction of the price.

20th Anniversary Macintosh

pounds 5,000

The idea of a collectable computer may sound bizarre, but Apple predicts that its 20th Anniversary Mac will actually increase in value. The computer includes a flat screen, built-in TV and radio tuners, a hi-fi sound system, a 250mhz RISC processor, and an infrared keyboard, housed in a specially designed, slimline casing. The 12,000 lucky - or rich - buyers will pay around pounds 4,900 plus VAT, and Apple provides a "concierge" service to set up the machine at home. If money is no object, find out more at http://twentiethanniversary.apple.com.

Sharp MDX8H

pounds 1,000

If you want to spice up your life, there are plenty of Web sites with CD-quality sound. Not everyone wants to listen to music on a PC, and Sharp offers the solution. Its MDX8H stereo system has all the usual functions, including a MiniDisc recorder. The clever part is an optional PCMCIA card that links the hi-fi to a laptop PC. This makes recording and editing sound from the Internet easy, and you can listen to it anywhere on a Minidisk. Sharp recommends a price of pounds 699.99 for the MDX8H and pounds 199.99 for the interface.

Pace 56K Voice Modem

pounds 199

Communicators could do worse than look at Pace's 56K modem. Fast modems are a competitive market, but Pace has redesigned its range and come up with a solid external modem, designed and built in the UK. As well as all the usual Internet features, it works as an answering machine or a fax, and has a hands-free speakerphone function that works even when the computer is turned off. The modem supports BT's caller identification, and comes in Mac and PC versions.

Apple Emate

pounds 450

This year has been a good one for the mobile worker. The show-stealer has been Apple's Emate. This low-cost laptop is based on Apple's Newton technology, combined with a keyboard and a robust casing. Aimed at schools, the Emate has word-processing, drawing and spreadsheet functions, as well as Internet utilities. But the most attractive element is surely the casing, a semi-transparent green. The Emate is such a desirable style accessory that parents who purchase one for their children may find themselves wanting one of their own.

Xircom CEM56 modem

pounds 265

If your laptop is feeling isolated, treat it to a Xircom credit card modem and Ethernet adaptor. This PCMCIA card works on either 10baseT or 100baseT Ethernet in the office - as fast as most networks go - and as a 56K modem on a phone line. There's also support for mobile phones via an additional cable. Xircom's modem comes with software that adapts automatically to overseas phone networks, and it draws no power when it is not in use, saving notebook battery life.

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