Not your father's backpack

New backpacks feature cordports, cell pockets, even solar panels to keep iPods, Gameboys and CD players - and their owners - happy.

Gone are the days when a student would go to school with a notebook and a few pencils stuffed in a backpack. Kids need room for CD players, flash drives, iPods and laptops. Retailers are answering the call with a new line of high-tech backpacks that come with built-in cellphone, microphones and remote iPod controls, reports The Washington Post.

"It's sort of like the cellphone," said Leon Nicholas, a principal at Global Insight, who focuses on consumer markets. "It used to be the cellphone was functional: You dialed. Now it's an accessory. It's something to reflect your style."

Retail backpack sales last year were about $100 million, with much of the sales during the back-to-school season. "Back to school in some ways is our Christmas," said Todd Yates, spokesman for JanSport, a leading backpack manufacturer.

JanSport's new LiveWire backpacks are designed to work with iPods. The backpack has a strap for plugging in iPod earbugs and a separate pocket for stowing your pod. It comes with a "cord management system" that prevents wires from getting caught in zippers or tangled in binders. Some model have a cellphone pocket that frees the wearer from having to take the phone out of the pocket. But by far the coolest is Voltaic Systems' backpack that has solar panels for charging those small electronics.

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