Bits & Bytes
A Wee Keyboard for Smaller Hands
Sure, it's cute when junior dresses up in grown-up clothes. But if they begin computing on an adult-size keyboard, kids may pick up the bad habit of hunt-and-peck typing that's hard to break later. Datadesk Technologies of Bainbridge Island, Wash., has a solution: a keyboard 20% smaller than the standard.
Dubbed LittleFingers, Datadesk's keyboard has the usual keys, but with smaller buttons and smaller gaps between them. "It's physically impossible for small children to touch-type" on a regular board, says William Frankel, Datadesk's sales and marketing vice-president.
The $99 product comes with typing-instruction software from Learning Co. An adult-size keyboard can be plugged into LittleFingers, letting adults share a PC with a child--or use the PC alone without disconnecting one keyboard to hook up another.
Frankel says Datadesk is mostly selling LittleFingers directly as it seeks retail partners. A patent means no direct competition for now. "Hopefully," Frankel says, "we won't see any for some time."Edited by Timothy J. MullaneyReturn to top
"Aw, Jeez. Mom Found Out About My Homework Online"
If your child has ever whined, "I didn't know there was going to be a test," take heart. Thanks to the Internet, parents have a new way to keep tabs on their kids' school assignments.
The service, called Cram Jam (www.cramjam.com), comes from Kaetron Software of Spring, Tex. Using Cram Jam's Web site, teachers can post lesson plans, homework, and class schedules up to a year in advance. Parents and students can access the info from any browser-enabled PC, and the site lets parents, teachers, and students swap E-mail. Teachers can discuss professional issues with one another in private electronic conference areas.
Cram Jam is going live just as school starts this fall. It's free for parents and students. Schools pay $500 each to use the service. About 21 have signed up so far, including all 11 schools in the Hempstead (N.Y.) public school district. "Kids will no longer have an excuse not to know about tests or homework assignments," says district technology coordinator Mark Prevatt. Well, that only leaves one way to ditch: Bon appetit, Fido.By Andy Reinhardt; Edited by Timothy J. MullaneyReturn to top
This Pager Lets You Sneak out of the Office
Count for a second the number of ways you get messages. There's the home phone, work phone, fax machine, and E-mail. Some people have a mobile phone and multiple E-mail addresses. You can spend more time chasing your messages than answering them.
That's where Message Center, a new product from SkyTel Communications Inc., comes in. The service collects messages from phones, faxes, and the Net and zaps them to an oversize pager small enough to toss into a purse or briefcase. After testing in Atlanta and Chicago, Message Center rolls out nationwide this month.
Want to sneak out of the office? Message Center will let you know if your boss calls or E-mails. Hate calling your home answering machine to find you have no messages? You'll never do it again. This convenience doesn't come cheaply, though: The two-way pager costs $395, while the service is $34.95 for 500 messages a month. But for the chance to leave the office for an afternoon jog, it's well worth it.By Peter Elstrom; Edited by Timothy J. MullaneyReturn to top