DIGITAL L.A. : BORN TO BE WIRED; PAIR UP GAME BOY WITH THIS $50 CAMERA FOR A REAL SHOOTIN' MATCH.
Shooting those who annoy you is really bad manners, but Nintendo has come up with a fun and socially acceptable way to do it. And nobody gets hurt.
Buy their Game Boy Camera, attach the $50 gizmo to a Game Boy, and voila, you can shoot like mad.
Take up to 30 pictures, decorate them, print them out on a special $60 printer, even paste the faces of your ``victims'' into any of four simple games that come with it.
Then at lunch time, paste a picture of that aggravating boss over the image of the bad guy in the Space Invaders-like Space Fever II and start blasting away. This is revenge.
The camera itself is tiny, like an undersize QuickCam attached to a PCMCIA card, but laden with features. Once a picture is snapped, the gadget allows you to doodle on it, use ``rubber stamps'' to decorate it, flip it, stretch it, choose the frame of your choice and print it on thermal transfer paper or stickers.
The camera has time-lapse and slide-show modes, swivels 180 degrees so you can take pictures of yourself or others, and even has a simple animation mode capable of stowing 47 shots.
The many functions and cheap price of the Game Boy Camera remind me of the little black-and-white video cameras that Fisher-Price sold a decade ago that went on to become prized tools for adult video artists who loved the low-res look and lower cost.
In something of the same way, the surprising talents of the Game Boy Camera might actually unlock the creativity not only of kids but adults with great imaginations. And that's what makes a great gadget.
A fresh spin
It's hard to believe but 50 years ago this summer, Columbia Records debuted the first long-playing vinyl record, changing forever the way the public and artists thought about music.
For the first time, there was enough space on a record to hold a series of songs, not just one on each side.
A great interview of two pioneers from that time, George Avakian and Howard ``Scotty'' Scott, ran in a recent issue of Classic Records' in-house publication, the Audio File. Classic is a small label specializing in high-end recordings on vinyl and CD for serious audio buffs.
In the interview, the two detailed the bitter rivalry between Columbia owner William Paley and RCA owner David Sarnoff, which resulted in the same kind of format war that since has bedeviled everything from computers to DVDs.
In the LP's case, Columbia researchers worked under strict secrecy for months to perfect a new, high-quality format that would revolve 33-1/3 times per minute, rather than the old-style 78 rpm records then available.
Finally, in June 1948, Columbia announced its creation, debuting with 100 titles and Philco record players.
According to Avakian and Scott, three weeks before the big announcement, Paley showed the equipment to Sarnoff, trying to persuade him to get RCA's many top-selling artists on the format.
But Sarnoff, furious at being upstaged, refused to participate. He set his researchers to creating another record format, eventually resulting in 45 rpm records.
Though it would be years and millions of dollars in losses before RCA gave in, Columbia soon cashed in when the Broadway cast recording of ``South Pacific'' sold 1 million copies.
In an amusing aside, Avakian said when he later went to work for RCA, he was told the company had settled on the 45-rpm speed because it was the difference when 33 was subtracted from 78.
And though CDs now reign triumphant, LPs aren't dead. Hard-core audio fans still swear by the warmer, fuller sound of vinyl and will snap up an estimated 3.5 million vinyl records this year.
Toe-tappin' bug zappin' from Sony
Like its namesake, the new Sony PlayStation game Nitrous Oxide will leave you a little lightheaded - but definitely feeling good.
The game combines a pulsing soundtrack by techno band the Crystal Method, including a rare DJ remix of its hit ``Busy Child,'' with a stunning lightshow of a game that feels like a post-millennial version of the classic arcade game Tempest.
Players fly in nap-of-the-Earth fashion through tunnels filled with lethal bugs and pulsing lights, skimming along the tunnel's edge in three dimensions. Visually, the game is gorgeous and remarkably fluid. And like its namesake, it has a certain addictive quality that's hard to escape.
And though the game involves shooting lots of bugs at very high speeds, parents will be glad to know it doesn't feel particularly violent.
The bugs are stylized, and they cartwheel into the horizon when shot rather than exploding in Doom-like gore. I felt comfortable letting my 6- and 7-year-old play the game, which they did with great gusto. The game quickly had my 6-year-old son whooping and talking trash as he whipped through the first couple of levels.
Speaking of the Crystal Method, the band's fall tour will be sponsored by Nitrous Oxide publisher Fox Interactive, which plans to put kiosks running the game at each concert venue on the tour.
For those whose lusts tend more toward gear than girls, Ziff-Davis has come out with a new magazine for the techno-insatiable called Equip.
The magazine is sleek and attractive, but its coverage is so wide-ranging, looking at a couple of dozen different categories of equipment, that any individual article seems rather superficial.
Most features spotlight a handful of contenders in a category such as digital video disc players. It picks the best overall model, best design and best value, along with some simple advice on how best to choose the tech of your dreams.
Personally, I'd prefer Ziff-Davis give its frequently touted product-testing labs more of a workout in each category by looking at a broader number of products. Between the gorgeous photos of sleek equipment and the text-light stories, this is about as close to porn for the technological elite as it gets.
But then again, there's always Consumer Reports if I want to gorge on product comparisons. Check it out. If nothing else, it will reward companies with an eye toward great industrial design, which is always a good thing.
For a quick peek at Activision's terrific new first-person shooter computer game, start checking around the Net, where a demo of the first two solo and multiplayer levels of Sin are available free.
The game is based on the Quake engine but has been gussied up in a number of ways with terrific graphics, a variety of weapons and, wonder of wonders, levels that don't just reward blasting everything that moves. In some cases, stealth and using one's ``hands'' is smarter and more successful than pulling out the street-sweeper shotgun and yanking the trigger like mad.
Despite such radical concepts, the game should find favor among the twitchy-fingered teens who love the genre. The full game debuts in early September.
Photo: (1--2) no caption (Game Boy, camera)
(3) no caption (Nitrous Oxide Sony Playstation game)