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The zapper comes of age;Shop Window;Keyboards

The infra-red technology behind the TV remote control has developed to make printing, file transfer and screen operations as simple as I well, changing channels.

Argo's infra-red keyboard (pound;79.99 inc VAT) can be carried around, fixed to a wheelchair or passed from hand to hand. There's no cable - commands are beamed to a receiver attached to the computer. There's no mouse, the keyboard has a built-in tracker ball. Users can work from anywhere within sight of the screen.

The Concept Keyboard Company has produced a Universal Plus (pound;147 excl VAT) keyboard that can be operated in any position up to three metres away from the computer. It also allows up to eight keyboards to signal to one receiver, allowing children to work in a genuinely collaborative way.

For the severely disabled, SEMERC's infra-red head mouse (around pound;200) functions as a pointing device, controlling the computer by simply "looking" at the relevant parts of the screen. With suitable software, it can allow access to almost any program. SEMERC is so taken by the implications of infra-red that it wants its whole hardware range to be compatible.

The infra-red TV "zapper" has allowed couch potatoes to channel surf for years. But, after a meeting in 1993, the computer industry agreed a standard - called IrDA 1.1 - on the high-speed infra-red signalling required for data transfer between IT hardware. In 1995, Microsoft said that it would support this standard in Windows 95 and it's successors.

But it was Apple technology that thrilled the punters at the BETT show in January. Apple's eMate school laptop (pound;450) can communicate with any IrDA compatible device, including the latest Power Macs, PCs with Windows 95 and a receiver, some Psions and a range of Hewlett Packard printers. Psion's latest palmtops offer similar features.

Argo (via Powernet) 01243 815815

Concept Keyboard 01705 372233

Psion 0990 143050

SEMERC 0161 627 0519

Xemplar (eMate) 01223 724200

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