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2008 Gift Guide

Technology

It is the year 2008. The future. Imagine a world under the thrall of rechargeable gizmos, its zombified pop ulation feeding on the invisible rays of instant interconnectivity. A world of robots that control the vast means of communicating, commerce, entertainment, making friends and falling in love. The price to thrive in this world is a devotion to the networked hive mind that forces the proletariat into a shameless struggle to balance the need for food and shelter against the need for the latest-generation iPhone or rabbit-eared “smart object.”

Don’t worry, proles, that balance isn’t an impossible one to strike. To help, we have gathered together a short holiday shopping list of reasonably priced, useful equipment your loved ones will need, if and when they find themselves thrust into the future.

Computing power meets mobility in the Asus EEE series. Asus is leading the pack in the sub-notebook market, engineering diminutive “netbooks” that max out at a 10-inch screen. They come packed with the many tools the harried future-dweller needs, including a Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and numerous USB ports for printers, scanners, or jump drives. Expect these tiny monsters to be a hit as second computers for business travelers and college kids. Plus, they are perfect starter computers for any super-small humans beings trying to monopolize your more adult-sized notebook or home computer. The EEE 901, weighing only 2.3 lbs with an 8.9 inch screen, trades storage and memory for portability with a small 4 GB solid state drive and the slight 512 MB RAM inside. It comes loaded with Linux ($299.99) or Windows XP ($349.99).

As the hype settled on Apple’s game-changer, the iPhone, Google broke onto the scene of hot-sex smart phones with its long-anticipated G1. Since Google is the gatekeeper to the Internet, it only makes sense that they release a product that offers tethered access to their domain (and therefore, ads. There is a direct correlation between your online presence and their bottom line). What makes us so willing to play along, and to crave the G1, is the ease and accessibility of the phone’s interface. Plus, Google has released a development kit for the phone’s software, Android, available to any developer who wants it. What does that mean for the average user? That an entire world of brilliant developers will be competing to fill your phone with the coolest, most innovative apps. G1 can be bought with a contract through T-Mobile ($179).

As the future will indeed inspire awe (and probably dread) in the loved ones on your shopping list, you may want to help them to save and share the images they capture of humanity’s final days. And the easier, the better. The Eye-Fi series memory cards are the answer. Simply put one of these in a digital camera, and not only will the card store your precious artifacts, it will also automatically upload the pictures wirelessly to a designated computer. The Eye-Fi has made a big splash this year with its 4 GB model, topping many high-tech gift lists, including the one at digitaljournal.com. The 4 GB “anniversary” model is now available ($129) at eye.fi.

The geeks at Digital Journal also included the Swann ADW-300 Digital Wireless Security Camera ($199) in their Top 5 list, and we couldn’t agree more. “For the clearest picture,” the geeks wrote, “of that intruder sneaking around the home, seek out Swann’s wireless security camera juiced with a 2.4GHz transmission.” This camera system is so easy to set up—essentially plug and play—that in no time a surveillance novice can be spying on the back-alley activity, or the cat napping in the living room. Give this gift, and you can watch as your loved ones’ paranoia grows.

As familiarity can lead to contempt, interconnectivity can, ironically, lead to isolation. If you have a nephew or brother on your list who is always available online to chat, but who hasn’t been seen on a date or in the painful light of the sun since the Clinton administration, then Sega Toys’ Eternal Maiden Actualization ($280, including shipping from Japan) is the perfect gift. Standing nearly 15 inches tall, the lovely robot lady E.M.A. (as she is known), promises to be a playful, passionate, if limited, partner: Play music and she will dance; give her a business card and she will hand it out; pucker your lips close to her head and, yes, she will kiss them. She is surely the little ancestor of a larger, more womanly model we will be suggesting in our 2020 Gift Guide, waiting for us further on in the dark mystery of the future.

—Chet Hardin

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