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Friday, October 15, 1999 Published at 21:13 GMT 22:13 UK

Business: The Economy

Gadgets galore at telecom show

The telecom 99 show is the place to demonstrate gadgets

by the BBC's Richard Quest at Telecom 99 in Geneva

A mobile phone as small as a credit card ? No Problem.

The telecoms revolution
Notebook computers that use infra-red to talk to the world? Around the corner.

Or perhaps you really need software that talks and translates into several languages at once. It's already here.

John Moylan: "We are all road warriors now"
At Telecom 99 there is an interesting blend of the available, the possible and the probable.

The possible and the probable

Every stand has a combination of technology that is already in use and the so called 'concept' machines that are just around the corner or still lurking in somebody's mind.

[ image: The watch that is also a mobile phone]
The watch that is also a mobile phone
The big talking point has been the Motorola cellular watch. One that allows you to talk, while checking the time and running. But there are many other things here that also attract the imagination.

Sanyo offers a cellular telephone that is truly wafer thin. It is small enough to fit in your credit card holder, let alone your breast pocket.

Smaller and smaller

Then there is Siemens' Unifier. It looks like a small Psion or calculator. It is, instead, a powerful notebook, diary address book and offers Internet access with a keyboard.

The company extols the fact that you don't have to point and push with a pen. Instead you just use the normal keyboard.

It's not that easy, since the thing is only seven inches across and someone with large fingers and thumbs, like mine, will end up with wilrds tjat dnt muke snsde - if you get the idea.

But how about a computer programme that takes your video picture and turns it into a jigsaw?

It's a game from NEC where you break up the real time moving picture into Jigsaw shapes and then race another player to put your face back together again. Funky.

Favorite gadgets

Perhaps my favourite two gadgets (there have to be two) came from the low tech sector and those that simply try harder.

Firstly, a cheap ($140) way to record phone calls by simply placing the phone wire through an electronic coupler that looks like a magnet and starting to speak.

No complicated disconnecting the phone. Setting it up took seconds and all calls were recorded (although be careful of the legality of such a machine: wherever you might live, check the laws first).

And finally, there is the NEC language translator. Speak into the microphone and the computer offers you translation into Japanese, French and English.

But again be careful. It doesn't always get it right.

For instance "What a marvellous gadget" in Japanese came up with an English offering about "the Maid".

Apparently there is no such word as gadget in Japan.

And asking the computer "how does this work?" produced a translation of something even the Maid would disapprove.

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US dream scenario continues

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