Shopping: You can take it with you, after all

I Want To Own ... Pocketable Gadgets

Not too long ago, blue denim jeans were the epitome of masculinity. The art was squeezing into a pair two inches too small around the waist, after which retrieving a wallet, let alone loose change was near impossible. But what did that matter? Wasn't the whole point of them that we were just about to dig a ditch, or lasso some cows or something?

Now, of course, most of us have wised up and are walking round town in designer Desert Storm wear - combat trousers with enough pockets to hold Iraq's war machine. But what have we got in those huge, stitched-on, ripcord cotton handbag substitutes that have a nasty habit of getting snagged on door handles? Absolutely nothing.

So, for every self-respecting, pre-millennium, gadget-fixated psychotic, here's the checklist of all the things you should slip into your cargo pants before leaving the house each morning:


Name: Rio MP3 Player

Price: pounds 199

Stockist: 01189 444 477

Description: It fits in the palm of your hand, has simple buttons and promises jog-free portable music. The MP3 player marks the end of software as you know it (hence the somewhat hazy legality of their use). This music system has no moving parts, just a 32MB memory which stores around 30 minutes worth of music files which you've hot wired from the web using a PC. Unlike its rival, the more sharply dressed MPMan (pounds 300, 07050 607 078), it also has a slot for a flash memory card, meaning you needn't be restricted to the music you've installed on the machine - after all would you ever go on holiday with just one cassette?

Style: HHH

Anything else worth considering?

If music quality is your first priority rather than technological snob value, then several mini disc player/recorders outperform both. Kenwood's blue DMC-J7R(BL) (pounds 250, 01705 476 000) and Sharp's silver MD-MS722H (pounds 250, 0800 262 958) encapsulate sound and design vision and both come with impressive watch-style LCD remote controls as standard.


Name: Alinco DJ-C5

Price: pounds 189

Stockist: 01705 662 145

Description: They may be stopping you from frying your brain, but ear pieces are a sartorial disaster. Mobile phone users are increasingly looking like extras from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as they stroll down the street apparently talking loudly to nobody. Could this herald the return of an out-of-date communications medium, such as CB? Legality aside (you need an amateur radio licence to live out your Big Bird/Rubber Duck fantasies), this pocket-sized, trucker walkie-talkie has it all - a sleek silver body, bright yellow buttons and a five-mile range. Now you can check in with all of your mates around the city at the same time.

Style: HHH

Anything else worth considering?

Okay, so you really do want a mobile phone. In the midget microwave stakes, Sony's CSM-Z1 plus GSM (pounds 80 with connection, 0990 111 999) deserves special mention, combining minuscule size, short voice memo, calendar, clock and alarm.


Name: EFX Flashing Keyring

Price: pounds 8.50

Stockist: 01789 450 005

Description: This looks like a miniature version of a brake light tail fin on an old Cadillac. What it is, though, is the descendant of those key fobs you whistled at when you couldn't find them amid the rubble of your bachelor pad. Only this one flashes when your mobile is ringing. Just don't clip it to your trousers.

Style: HHH

Anything else worth considering?

If you would rather amuse yourself playing retro games, then Vivid Imagination and Nintendo have come up with a range of micro Gameboy key rings, which includes versions of old games such as Donkey Kong and Super Mario (pounds 8, 01702 200 660).


Name: Olympus D1000

Price: pounds 300

Stockist: 0800 072 0070

Description: This simple to use, silver, slimline message recorder is the latterday equivalent of the micro cassette recorders that no self- respecting FBI agent would once have been seen without. Instead of groovy little cassette tapes, however, the D1000 records around 30 minutes of material on to 2MB flash memory cards.

Style: HHHH

Anything else worth considering?

There are several other cheaper digital recorders, including the cartoon- voice, bubble-styled Sony Voice Balloon (pounds 60, 0990 111 999) - but the disadvantage is that it records only 10 minutes of material.


Name: Panasonic DVD-L10EB

Price: pounds 999

Stockist: 01344 862 444

Description: It would have to be a very big pocket, but it would be worth permanently stretching the fabric to squeeze in this silver dream machine, a portable laptop-style disc player for video CDs, audio CDs and, most importantly, digital versatile discs: CD-sized discs on which are crammed whole films plus lots of gimmicky extras such as biographies, trailers and subtitles. The quality of the small screen is breathtaking, but if you want to see the bigger picture, you can plug it into a larger screen when you get home. You need never be at the mercy of the inflight movie programme again.

Style: HHHHH

Anything else worth considering?

When it makes it to the marketplace, Sony's DVD Discman (pounds 700, 0990 111 999) promises to be marginally more compact but has no built-in screen which means you either have to plug it into a separate monitor or hightail it to Tokyo and buy Sony's Glasstron PLM-A55E, bizarre shades that sit directly in front of your eyes.


Name: Sony Ruvi

Price: pounds 550

Stockist: 0990 111 999

Description: It rhymes with groovy and for a good reason. This lightweight (380g), miniature digital still camera also doubles up as a camcorder, and can record up to 30 minutes' worth of wedding receptions. It has a zoom and an audio facility and runs on two AA batteries. Other than that, it is thankfully devoid of the gimmicky extras that often persuade you to buy a product that you'll rarely use. The downside is the high price of the video cartridge.

Style: HHHHH

Anything else worth considering?

For those wanting to record digitally, Sony also does a more chunky, complicated camcorder, the DCR-PC1 (pounds 1,399), which includes a handy pop- up, 5cm colour screen and a Carl Zeiss lens. Francis Ford Coppola, eat your heart out.

Shaun Phillips

Deputy Editor, ZM Magazine

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