Viva Los Gizmos! Even though they were performing for a much smaller crowd this year, the rock stars of the tech world all turned out at Comdex
By Mark Borden; Peter Lewis

(FORTUNE Magazine) – In Las Vegas. Headliners like Gates, Ellison, Chambers, and Whitman argued that despite the downturn, technology is by no means dead. It wasn't just lip-synching, either. New products and platforms--the tablet PC and wireless technologies like Bluetooth and 802.11 were the big buzz--backed up the idea that tech is alive and jamming. Fear and loathing? More like rattle and hum.

--Mark Borden

Safety net Security was tight outside the convention center, ranging from low-tech guard dogs to high-tech metal detectors. Inside, a different kind of security was the focus of debate--namely, how to protect wireless networks.

Thumbing it The RIM BlackBerry keyboard made thumbing friends and colleagues way easy. Now phones and PDAs are getting in on the action with keyboard peripherals like this one from Ericsson ($19.95, from

Swiss misses DVD recorders (and these booth girls) got a lot of attention at the show. Swiss-based Vivastar announced the launch of its PC-based devices capable of recording 120 minutes of high-quality video onto a 4.7GB DVD-R disk.

Take two tablets (and call us next year) Bill Gates pushed Microsoft's Tablet PC in his keynote, but how many hardware companies will be interested in producing a PDA-meets-laptop? Toshiba's prototype was the smallest, and quite rad. Expect tablets to cost around $2,000.

Wireless-a-go-go USB adapters for 802.11b wireless radio connections, like this one from EinterEpoc, promise to allow easy roaming from office to conference room to bathroom, if necessary, with minimal hassles.

Samsung says At 63 inches measured diagonally, Samsung's high-definition plasma video monitor could be the world's largest flat-panel TV when it arrives in the second half of 2002. Still, it weighs just 130 pounds. Perfect for any couch potato with $25,000 to spare.

Card tricks Storage capacity for SD (Secure Digital) memory cards will rise to 512 MB next year, offering yet another option for fast data transfer and storage for PDAs, laptops, phones, digital cameras, and MP3 audio players. This one is by Panasonic.

Speed metal Sony's new NetMD digital music recorder features a Quick Rip dubbing application that's very cool. It means you can download five hours of CD music to a $2 minidisk in just minutes.

Talk about convergence National Semiconductor CEO Brian Halla holds the Origami personal communicator, a concept device that combines a digital video and still camera, a video conference terminal, an MP3 player, and a smart phone. It's also Internet and e-mail ready.

Eye spy LG Electronics' Iris Access 3000 (about $5,000 for one terminal, $10,000 for four) employs biometrics to capture the image of the iris, useful for identification purposes. It works through eyeglasses, contacts, and even bloodshot eyes (which was important at Comdex).

Pretty dense Toshiba claims that its new 1.8-inch, 20G hard drive is 20% smaller than any drive currently on the market, which will allow portable data devices to shrink even more.

Airhead The smallest Bluetooth-enabled wireless headset (currently $500, aiming for $150 by next year) from Next Link uses hearing-aid technology and weighs less than ten grams. The Bluetooth addict shown here wears a tattoo of Next Link's logo.