The writing is on the electron: Writing by hand is a human endeavor that technology has not yet spelled the end of, but it is working at it. Ever since the humble typewriter changed the office, the art of penmanship has been in retreat. In recent times, a slew of gadgets have tried to turn the rivals into allies, allowing you to write your words and have them converted into digital form. Princeton, with its range of laptop accessories, is very much in the tech camp. On its new PTB-DIP1, the user simply places an ordinary sheet of paper on top of the tablet and pens away using. The device “reads” the handwriting with Myscript Note Basic software and converts it into either text files or images in the GIF or JPEG formats. The equivalent of 100 A4-size written pages can be stored in its 32 megabytes of memory. An SD card slot allows for extra storage. The USB-connectable unit weighs 650 grams and measures 250×350×12 mm. Costing ¥19,800, the device hits the market this month with details at: www.princeton.co.jp

Exciting penmanship: A writing aid that stands as a small example of conspicuous consumption is the Pen Mawashi. The teched-up pen is intended for the specialist art of twirling in your fingers. World champion pen-twirler Hideki — the “God of Pen” goes by one name — has concocted the accessory, with the pens decked out in a range of LED lights for visual impact. The pens come in six combinations of color and style (cyber, sonic, metal, science, beat and sport) and cost the princely sum of ¥924. The product’s Web site includes a video to show you the correct technique. See www.megahouse.co.jp/penmawashi

Encoding the afterlife: Luddites can’t even find peace in death. Yamanashi Prefecture-based gravestone maker Ishi no Koe is putting technology into the afterlife thanks to headstones containing QR (“quick response”) codes. These are the Japanese-developed square matrix codes that allow information to be decoded quickly, like by scanning with a camera-equipped cell phone. With the ability to store more than 1,800 kanji and kana characters in a single QR, more information than is usually etched into stone can be stored about the departed, allowing one to be remembered at length. Progress is not always personal, but it might suit the high-tech/low-time lifestyles of the future. In the long run, the company hopes the technology will provide a new way of paying your respects to the dead. More information is available at www.ishinokoe.co.jp

Blu-ray has the touch: The dust has barely settled in Blu-ray’s victory over HD DVD, but Mitsubishi Electric is wasting little time getting consumer-priced Blu-ray recorders onto the market. The DVR-BZ200 packs a 500-gigabyte hard drive; its new little brother, the DVR-BZ100, includes a 250-gigabyte hard drive. Both are equipped with multiple tuners for terrestrial digital, BS and CS satellite broadcasts — allowing them to simultaneously record two programs in high definition — as well as an analog tuner. An interesting twist is that they each come with two remote controls: a regular model and one that incorporates a touch-screen LCD panel. Both new recorders hit the shelves on May 24, with the DVR-BZ200 priced at ¥198,000 and the DVR-BZ100 at ¥158,000. More info at www.mitsubishielectric.co.jp

Add-on speakers: Catering to more than just the Apple acolytes is Audio-Technica, with some new external speakers for use with digital-audio players. The AT-SP250 speaker pair also goes with any breed of iPod, including the iTouch, and provides 1.5W×2ch of sound. The ¥5,040 speakers come in a choice of colors, including white, black and red, and when married with an iPod the square speakers look like a small stereo. The second set, the AT-SP230, works with any digital-audio player and can create a decent impersonation of a boom box with its 160mW×2ch of output. The speakers cost ¥3,780 and have a wide range of color choices: white, silver, black, red, pink and light blue. Details at www.audio-technica.co.jp

iPod fashion: Factron sticks to style with its Quattro iPod Nano jackets. The ubersmart-looking aluminum products, in a range of bright color choices, owe their looks to artist Mizumori Ado and will go on sale as a strictly limited-edition product, with a ¥14,800 price tag. Check it out at factron.net/quattro_sp.html

Shirts a cut above: The ability to withstand acts of violence is not a selling point for most items of clothing. But Nihon Uni, an Osaka-based uniform maker, sees a new market thanks to a rash of such violent crime. It has crafted a T-shirt that helps protect against knife attacks. The company used a special kind of polyethylene, a fiber that is three times as strong as cotton, and which is considered to be as tough as the fiber used in body armor. The garments are machine-washable and can withstand slashing attacks, although a straight stab with a sharp point can still endanger you. The short-sleeved version will sell for between ¥19,000 and ¥52,000, depending on the style or order preference, while the long-sleeved varieties will cost ¥22,000 to ¥59,000 when they go on sale in June: www.nihon-uni.co.jp


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