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Dymo LetraTag

Dynamic Labels Go High Tech

Those little label makers of days gone by are making the leap into the 21st century.

And it's nice to see companies managing the transition from the mechanical to the digital ages.

For instance, when digital cameras came along, Polaroid bundled a little scanner with their instant camera so you could turn those instant prints into digital pictures. It was convoluted, but at least they were thinking.

So it is with Dymo, the company that makes those little label maker things. Time was, you had to turn a wheel to find a particular letter, then squeeze the trigger to emboss it into a plastic strip, then cut it off, peel, and attach it to whatever you were labelling.

Well, hasn't that annoying but handy little gadget made a nifty transition!

Dymo has a new line of products that are true to the original concept but which, thanks to the great silicon God, make you wonder how you ever used one of those old, crank-type ones.

We've been playing with one called the LetraTag, which looks kind of like a Star Trek phaser and comes with a little keyboard and an LCD screen where you can preview your handiwork before wasting the label material.

The keyboard isn't laid out like a typewriter's, so it takes a bit of getting used to, but that's okay. And you also get a range of symbols besides the usual letters – in both cases – and you can even print onto two lines. The built-in memory saves the last label you made, in case you're keeping track.

You can highlight text, and you can change the text size to a certain extent, which comes in handy if you need really small labels. You only get one face with this model, alas, which might limit its sales in law or political offices where it's common to find two faces.

The Letratag prints on paper, plastic or metallic tape which, in the tradition of maximizing consumables' sales, is available in many versions.

It also needs 6 AA batteries to power it up, and I didn't see an AC adapter connector for it, so be prepared to keep that old Eveready Bunny hopping if you get one.

This is just one of a whole line of new generation of label makers that, while they probably won't change the course of history, at least show the company can adapt to new technologies.

Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by The TechnoFILE Syndicate . Copyright Jim Bray.


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November 16, 2005