Tech Tools 2000
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Calibrate your tricorders and set your phasers to stun. We're boldly going where no "Tech Know" has gone before. Engage warp drive into 2000. Our one-page mission is to seek out technology trends for the big triple 0.
What's on the go and what's going to grow? We were all supposed to be zooming around with jet packs and marrying androids by now. Well, wireless Internet PDAs are almost as exciting, right?
3Com introduced the Palm VII PDA to much applause and some grumbling about the high cost ($499 street) and beaming down only truncated Web information. At $9.99 per month for only 50KB of transfers or $24.99 for 150KB ($0.20 for each additional KB), it adds up fast. But there should be more wireless Palms coming out at better prices. Even Microsoft is grunting in that direction: Last summer, it announced the development of a Windows CE wireless communications kit that marries Palm-sized PCs with digital cell phones for Internet access for less than $100.
Windows CE handhelds will be trying to one-up 3Com all year long. What we're really holding our breath for is wireless that allows Web browsing and true e-mail access. It may not come from the 3Com Palms' relatively slow transfer methods, but through companies like GoAmerica and its made-for-Palms line of wireless Minstrel modems. The Minstrel III modem costs as little as $199 (street). But just 25KB ($0.10 to $0.30 for each additional) of transfers run $9.95 per month, while unlimited transfers cost a heady $59.95 per month.
On the Internet frontier, DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is coming soon to an office near you, if it hasn't already. Cheaper than ISDN, faster than a 56 Kbps modem, DSL looks like the happy medium. A prime example is Bell Atlantic's $64.95-per-month business DSL service featuring 640 Kbps downloads and 90 Kbps uploads. At press time, DSL Prime, a DSL information hub at www.dslprime.com, estimated about 700,000 DSL subscribers would be hooked up at the end of 1999, exploding to 2 million or 3 million by the end of 2000.
Good news for 2000: more free stuff online! Services like eFax e-mail faxing service, RocketTalk Internet voice mail and FreeMac can trim your budget. But somebody is making money by giving products and services away. It can be through such methods as eFax's relatively innocuous advertising banners or FreeMac's three-year Earthlink Internet access commitment.
Let's see . . . desktops will get faster, notebooks will get slimmer, but will 2000 be the year of the USB port? When we check our Magic 8 Ball, we see that "Signs Point to Yes." If you haven't bought a new computer in the past year, you probably don't have any USB ports for connecting peripherals. USB is a speed demon compared to serial ports and older Mac ADB ports. It isn't as fast as SCSI, but it's not as painful to deal with, either. If you're not already hooked up, USB cards are available to retrofit your computer for less than $50. Get plugged in to the movement at www.usb.org
Now that you're revving information into your computer at warp speed, where to store it all? On a floppy? Nope. The iMac might have been a little early in declaring the death of the floppy, but it was heading in the right direction. Never fear, SuperDisk and Zip are here. Holding up to 120MB on what looks suspiciously like a regular ol' floppy disk, SuperDisk drives can read standard floppies and are rapidly replacing the older technology in new computers.
CD-RW should be the storage of choice for 2000. With cheaper disks and cheaper and faster drives, it's finally affordable. Even more prevalent than SuperDisk are 100 and 120MB Zip drives. Expect them to share the limelight as floppies make a slow exit.
So plan for Palms, dial into DSL, free your eFax, use USB, store it on SuperDisk and see CD-RW. Watch out for Windows 2000 versus Linux, too. We'll find out what the true millennium operating system is by the end of the year.