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CeBIT 2004: Gadgets galore

Punter-pleasing penphones plus paper PCs

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Wander the 27 halls of CeBIT this week and you will be able to enjoy hundreds of unique gadgets that you may never see again - simply because they are surely too odd to gain a foothold in the market.

Of course, we've already introduced to the world the USB Swiss Army Knife, a device which - as many Reg readers pointed out - is not a gadget that you would like to be caught with when boarding a plane, especially when drunk and dressed like Osama bin Laden.

Well, CeBIT can offer you somewhat safer - though no less ingenious - alternatives to the data-carrying bottle-opener. One example is the Click Senior-Tel, developed by German company Vitaphone. It's a full-blown GSM phone for the elderly and confused - with just three buttons. Two buttons can be programmed to call a specific number, the third one is used to call emergency services. All well and good as long as long as you aren't so far gone that three buttons is simply two too many.

Siemens has come up with an alternative telecommunications line of attack with its new PenPhone - the world's first (and last?) tri-band mobile phone housed in a pen-shaped ergo-enclosure. The 140mm long PenPhone apparently recognises handwriting for dialling numbers and writing text messages directly into the mobile phone, no matter what surface you write on. And when no writing surface is readily available - inside the International Space Station, for example - built-in voice recognition means you can still activate the device. One question: is anyone really interested in talking to a pen?

Some of the gadgets on show at CeBIT

Last up we have Swedish company Cypak and its disposable paper computer. Well, it's not really a PC, but it still fulfils the basic computer criterion since it can collect, process and exchange several pages of encrypted data.

The technology is based on a small chip-based electronic module and printable sensors which can be integrated into a range of materials and products, such as packaging and plastic cards.

Useless? Not according to Cypak. The device may have a future in lottery cards or voting systems. Whether the punters vote with their feet on this one remains to be seen. ®

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