As for speech recognition, we had several pieces of kit delivered to ZDNet UK News; none of them, frankly, even deserve a mention. They're time consuming, take up an inordinate amount of hard disk space and about as accurate as a Scud missile... Hot tip: Mavis Beacon's typing CD.
Top award for gadget of `98 has to go to that remarkable piece of kit, the RIO MP3 player from the David-like Diamond Multimedia. Armed only with a credit card sized Walkman-type thingy, Diamond strutted its stuff in court this year when the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) slapped a writ on the Rio, claiming it threatened the livelihood of recording artists all over the world.
A judge thought otherwise, gave Diamond permission to launch the little box of magic and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Rio really is a cutting edge development. OK, so it's clunky -- to record Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette took nearly an hour and only recorded 10 tracks -- cutting edge stuff.
There are no moving parts, and you can show off the Rio in the dodgiest parts of the world, safe in the knowledge that if anyone stole it from you they wouldn't have a clue how it worked!
So there it is, just a few of our favourite bits and bobs from the year, which, let's face it, has been quite a busy one. If you'd like to hear what we thought of the News itself, read ZDNet UK News in `98 piece.
Our Favourite Kit
ATI's All-In-Wonder Pro
ATI 3D PRO TURBO graphics chips AGP or PCI bus 8 MB Memory MPEG-2/DVD decoding with AGP2X version TV out TV in with over 1.2 million colour graphics bi-linear filtering fog effects
2D and 3D acceleration
Outstanding piece of kit that records TV progRAMmes in full screen and does it very well indeed. Full channel previews, still capture -- it's all here.
3D Blaster Voodoo II -- RRP of £99 but you are advised to shop around.
Diamond's Monster Voodoo II - about the same price and again shop around.
Creative's SB Live!
Very impressive sound card particularly good in games written for Creative's Environmental Audio specification in mind. 256 voices (64 HW voices, 192 SW voices), 32 MIDI channels, 2 speaker lineouts. Environmental Audio support for up to 8 speakers.
£149.99 plus an extra £69 for 4 speaker system. It should be said that these are not the best speakers in the world, but for really immersive gaming, don't listen to the 2 speaker brigade, four speakers are a must.
Believe the hype. Used with four speakers this system really completes the gaming experience.
Phillips CDD 3610
Once we had a working model -- it worked beautifully. Easy CD Creator software from Adaptec put the icing on the cake. If any friends do ask about writers, this will be the only the News Desk will recommend.
£250, but they are available more cheaply if you shop around.
Logitech QuickCam Home
USB does work, and with this little gadget it works very well. We spoke to people in South Africa and Australia using the QuickCam at both ends and were impressed with the quality of video. Over a 56k connection adding sound to the equation slowed things down significantly but was still perfectly acceptable.
Easy to install and a cinch to use.
The Rio from Diamond Multimedia
Most controversial gadget of the year. A Walkman device just a tiny bit bigger than a credit card that can store about 60 minutes of sound recorded in the MP3 format. Great gadget for all you early adopters. However, be aware, this is by no means perfect and requires a lot of fiddling when it comes to changing the music on disk.
About £185 if you can find them.
Not for the faint hearted, the Rio is still a very cool piece of kit. That said, if you have time to download albums and record them to the Rio in MP3 format, you probably need a Rio to take up the slack in your life.