After Hours

'Tis the season when techies wish for toys

The technical leaders at TechRepublic like to be entertained by high-tech toys, and the holiday season is a great time to make a wish list and check it twice. Take a look at a few of our favorite things.


We have a holiday season gift guide on TechRepublic, but we thought it might be interesting to ask some of our coworkers at TechRepublic what they’d like to receive as a holiday gift—or what they plan on buying on sale after the holidays.

Like many of you, our TechRepublic techies weren’t looking for technology that would improve their productivity. Instead, techie toys are on the top of their lists, including:

From left, the Motorola V.Series V2397 cell phone, the Sony AIBO robotic dog on its charging stand, the Diamond Rio MP3 player, and the Sony PlayStation 2.


Sony PlayStation 2: Are you game?
TechRepublic’s Web development department is full of gamers. But Greg Gorman, our director of development in our Engineering Department, isn’t one of them.

“I’ve never owned a video game before, but [the Sony PlayStation 2] is winning me over by also being a DVD player,” Gorman said.


Gorman isn’t alone. His interest mirrors that of many who covet the PlayStation 2. With a suggested retail price of $299, the cost is not much more than a moderately featured DVD player alone. But for that price you get a game console that also plays DVD movies and music.

The trick is finding a PlayStation 2. Sony announced an initial shipment of 500,000 units to retailers and promised 100,000 units a week during the holiday buying season. But the units can be difficult to find. As a result, eBay prices before Christmas are in the $450 to $550 price range and PlayStation 2s can be found in newspaper classified ads selling for as much as $900.

Sony introduced 26 new games for the PlayStation 2, which also plays most PlayStation 1 games, bringing the total to more than 800 game titles.

Sony hints at things to come by including a bay for a hard drive, a number of connections for USB, and an expansion unit (North American only) for networking expandability of the PlayStation 2. The machine is capable of a drawing rate of 75 million polygons per second powered by its 128-bit Emotion Engine CPU.

Diamond Rio 800: Are you listening?
Steven Nygard, Web operations manager at an additional office in Minneapolis, is keeping his ears open for the Diamond Rio 800. But he will have to wait until after the holidays because the company hasn’t shipped any yet. He found it for sale, however, on CDW for $279.95 as a special order product.

The Diamond Rio 800 comes with 64 megs of memory, allowing users to capture, mix, and playback up to two hours of digital music. Nygard can also record notes to himself because the Diamond Rio 800 works as a voice recorder.


The Diamond Rio 800 is expandable to a maximum of 340 megs of memory and supports both MP3 and WMA digital content. It has no moving parts so the music is not subject to skips or bumps if you are listening while jogging or walking. It has built-in USB support for both PCs and Macintosh computers.

Motorola V.Series V2397 cell phone: Let’s communicate
Shari Heath, TechRepublic’s quality assurance manager, got a hint about what her husband wants after seeing that “Great Cheese” commercial for the Motorola V.Series V2397 cellular phone. In the ad, a man and a woman are sitting in the middle of a room packed with a noisy party crowd. When their attempt at conversation is thwarted by the noise in the room, the man solves his communication problem by using his Motorola phone to send the text message “Great cheese” to the woman sitting next to him.

“I asked my husband and he said he’d like one of those Motorola text messaging toys,” she said.


The “Great Cheese” commercial demonstrates a feature of the Motorola V.Series V2397 cell phone called mobile-originated short messaging service (MO-SMS). MO-SMS is a subscription service that allows the phone user to send short alphanumeric messages to other phones or e-mail addresses.

Along with typical cell phone attributes and features, the Motorola V2397 has a Quick Note memo feature and a dedicated message key for quick access to messages.

Sony AIBO robotic dog: Your computerized best friend
Bill Johnston is a user interface designer at TechRepublic, and he wants a new best friend who takes the user interface concept just a bit further than a page on the Web. He wants a Sony AIBO robotic dog.

”I don't know why, something about the process a designer would have to go through and the things you would have to learn to actually build the thing appeals to me,” Johnston said of the high-tech toy. At a suggested retail price of $1,500, the AIBO comes with everything but robotic fleas.

Johnston said he’s been interested in robotics since he learned you could hack a Furby. The high quality of the AIBO’s movements appeals to him also.

The Sony AIBO robotic dog


Still, $1,500 is about half the price of the original AIBO dogs and this new generation has expanded capabilities, such as voice recognition and autonomous application software.

AIBO has new touch sensors on its chin, back and head that are intended to increase its sensitivity to contact with its human companion.

The AIBO has 20 joints and 20 degrees of movement freedom in its robotics, according to Sony. Along with the microphone and speaker it needs for the voice recognition and response, AIBO also comes with an image sensor for taking pictures. Other sensors include:
  • A thermometer for reading the temperature
  • An infrared distance sensor for navigation
  • An acceleration sensor for navigation

AIBO will function independently and even do party tricks if you add programs available on memory sticks.

The AIBO matures from puppyhood through to older age and keeps a weekly photo diary of its life.
What is your heart’s desire? Do you see getting it in the near future? Share your list with everyone. Post a comment in the discussion below.

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