Miniature cars stall in their role as computer mice


May 23, 2002|By MIKE HIMOWITZ

Your dad is probably a fantasy driver. In real life, he chugs around in something absolutely sensible, like a minivan or Camry. In his fantasy life, he drives something really cool, like a Dodge Viper or Chrysler PT Cruiser.

You may not be able to get him the real car of his dreams for Father's Day, but you can certainly hook up a miniature version to Dad's computer. NKOK, the Hong Kong company that makes radio-controlled racers, is releasing a series of computer mice built into scale models of cars that will bring out the Mario Andretti in every middle-aged dad (and maybe a few younger ones).

I only wish that these $19.95 gadgets were as good at being mice as they are model cars.

The red Viper and silver PT Cruiser are nicely detailed replicas of the real thing, with the addition of a long "exhaust" cord with a PS/2 connector (they won't work with Macs or other computers that have only USB mouse ports). The rear windows of the cars are split into two buttons that perform the usual mouse tasks. Unfortunately, there's no scroll wheel, popular on most of today's mice.

The mechanical ball mechanism on both models worked well, without skips. The buttons were a bit harder to push than those on most standard mice, but they provided positive control. The problem is that cars and mice are designed for different purposes, and both miniatures are difficult to grip. The buttons on the sleek Viper are much too close - right-clicking is particularly awkward.

But not every dad may have these problems. If nothing else, one of these tiny cars will look great on his desk and serve as a backup.

The Viper is available at Gamestop, Babbages, FuncoLand and Software Etc. stores, or online at The PT Cruiser mouse is only available at www.ptgoo

Information: 888-656-5869 or

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