Is That a Printer in Your Pocket?
In the airplane, you made a bunch of changes to a client report. But how can you print them out? You could borrow your client's printer or fax the document to yourself at the hotel. Or you could use your own portable printer. Well, maybe. Most portable printers stretch the definition of "portability" and offer quality levels that rival the worst faxing has to offer. The Pentax PocketJet is changing all that. The quality of its thermal-paper output, users say, can almost pass for laser printing. Plus, the Pentax is one-fifth the size and weight of its two closest rivals. It's almost small enough (10 inches by 2 inches) and light enough (just more than 1 pound, including battery) to slip into your suit pocket. The PocketJet retails for $449. It prints up to three pages per minute and can handle 35 pages before the battery needs a recharge.
Coordinates: Pentax Technologies; 800-543-6144.
Most personal digital assistants (PDAs) promise the sun, the moon, and the Internet — and deliver a jumble of frustrating, hard-to-use compromises. The Pilot electronic organizer from Palm Computing, a division of giant modem-maker U.S. Robotics, is the first ready-for-prime-time PDA.
Pilot's "killer app" is HotSync, a one-touch system that transfers data seamlessly to and from a personal computer. Pilot's information-management software runs both on the device and your desktop computer. Its docking station (called a cradle) connects to your PC. Want to update Pilot with details of upcoming meetings? Just put Pilot in the cradle, press the HotSync button, and stand aside — no expensive add-on hardware to buy, no tricky software routines to master.
Today, Pilot's information-management software runs on Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 platforms. The company promises Macintosh compatibility by September. Meanwhile, developers of several popular software products (Now Software's Up-to-Date, Starfish Software's Sidekick, Franklin Quest's Ascend) are designing synchronization modules to transfer data between Pilot and desktop computers.
The Pilot 1000 costs $299 and stores 1,000 records. A $70 upgrade supports 5,000 records; a $149 dollar upgrade supports 10,000 records.
Coordinates: Palm Computing; http://www.usr.com/palm; 800-881-7256.
What's the strangest place you've ever checked e-mail? If your answer is an airport or hotel room, you're still using e-mail of the past — services that tether you to phone jacks. If your answer is a taxi or an elevator, you're on to the future — you use wireless e-mail.
RadioMail, based in San Mateo, California, is the industry leader. Its service runs on a variety of platforms — Windows and Macintosh laptops, palmtop devices from Hewlett-Packard and Motorola — and allows users anywhere in the United States to send and receive messages around the world.
RadioMail is surprisingly affordable: $39 a month for roughly 100 messages, 32¢ for each additional message. Of course, you can't use wireless e-mail without a wireless data modem, which gets expensive. (The Motorola Personal Messenger goes for $499.) To help users avoid sticker shock, RadioMail will bundle a modem with its service for 12 additional monthly payments of $49.
Coordinates: RadioMail; http://www.radiomail.net; 800-597-6245.
A version of this article appeared in the August/September 1996 issue of Fast Company magazine.