Whimsical gifts for computer users

A HOLIDAY FOR HACKERS

December 16, 1991|By Craig Crossman | Craig Crossman,Knight-Ridder News Service

Oh no! Christmas is less than two weeks away, and your loved one's computer passions demand you purchase something related to the infernal machine. However, since you know little or nothing about computers, walking into a wall probably would be preferable to walking into a computer store.

And besides, aren't these things expensive? Here are some inexpensive yet novel stocking stuffers that are sure to please almost any computer user.

* The Hyper Pad mouse pad. First, let me say that many people have unsuccessfully tried to make mouse pads interesting. A mouse pad is a little mat that provides an ideal friction surface for a computer mouse.

I've seen them shaped like slices of cheese, and with every kind of picture imaginable printed on them, such as pinup girls, landscape photos and useless "helpful" hints. Mouse pads have always been boring, until now.

Do you remember something called a mood ring? This was a ring whose stone was filled with a liquid crystal sensitive to body heat. Supposedly, the ring's color would tell you what mood you were in. Dark blue meant you were peaceful and serene. Differ

ent shades of green, amber, orange and red depicted different stages of tension and anxiety.

Well, the same liquid crystal technology has made its way to a computer mouse pad. That's right, a mood mouse pad. The Hyper Pad is a hard-surface mouse pad that contains the same type of heat-sensitive liquid crystals.

At first glance, Hyper Pad appears jet black. But touch it for a moment, and it responds with a rainbow of colors. Place your palm on it and see your hand print shift from one color to another. Spend mindless minutes doodling pictures with your fingertip as a drawing implement.

Although its mood-detecting capabilities are as dubious as its mood-ring counterpart, it's a lot of fun.

* MacPinUp. It was bound to happen sooner or later. Pinup calendars always sell well, so someone has taken the plain old computer calendar and added pictures of beautiful pinup girls in bathing suits.

Each MacPinUp calendar comes with 16 images to select from for each month. In case you can't make up your mind which girl to choose, you can put MacPinUp in the "auto-cycle" mode, which cycles through the whole collection of girls on the beach over and over again.

MacPinUp is also a screen saver. Screen savers darken the screen to prevent burn-in, which causes the screen to become permanently etched with an image that has been displayed too long.

When in this mode, the screen goes black and the calendar slowly floats around the screen.

Currently, four different calendars are available: Surfer Babes, Beach Babes, Blondes and Brunettes. To be fair, Beach Dudes will be available soon.

* After Dark "Flying Toaster" Tie. After Dark is one of the most popular screen savers around and is found on both Macintosh and IBM computers. One of the most famous screen-saver scenes is the flying toasters display.

These are little toasters with wings that fly in formation across your computer screen. They've become so popular in the computer world that the program's publisher, Berkeley Systems, has made available the Flying Toaster Tie.

This handsome tie, which comes in blue, red, forest green and burgundy, is decorated with the little flying toasters that computer aficionados everywhere have come to know and love.

Hey, it might not be GQ, but at least his tie won't suffer from screen burn-in.

* Office Survival Kit. For those with a sweet spot for computers, how about a chocolate computer or chocolate disks?

The Office Survival Kit is a delicious 2-pound, 14-ounce chocolate assortment of two 5 1/4 -inch and two 3 1/2 -inch floppy disks, two small computers, 12 "byte-size" computers, one typewriter, one telephone and a box of chocolate aspirin.

The Deluxe Office Survival Kit includes the above plus a larger, 18-ounce computer for a total net weight of 4 pounds.

The box may be personalized with any name, and any of the items may be purchased separately.

* Tristan. Christmas wouldn't be complete without a computer game, and if you like pinball, you're going to like Tristan.

Tristan is an excellent computer simulation of one of the newer electronic arcade pinball machines. The motion of the little ball is true to the real thing. In fact, you can "shake" the machine by pressing the space bar, but too much shaking can cause Tristan to tilt.

Tristan is loaded with pinball surprises, such as extra balls and hidden bonus points. The colors, sound effects and ball motion are so realistic, you can easily forget

you are playing on a computer.

Prices and sources:

Hyper Pad, $19.95.

Silicon Sports

(800) 243-2972 or (415) 854-1456

MacPinUp, $19.95 per calendar set. Apple Macintosh color models only.

R & R Computer Solutions

(800) 323-6545 or (714) 996-6545

Flying Toaster Tie, $17.95.

Berkeley Systems

(415) 540-5535

Office Survival Kit, $45.

Deluxe Office Survival Kit, $59.95.

The Chocolate Gallery

(800) 426-4796 or (805) 967-4688

Tristan, $69.95. Apple Macintosh color models only; IBM version is due out soon.

Amtex Software Corp.

(613) 967-7900

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