Toys, toys, toys—they are the favorite part of my job in the Windows NT Magazine Lab. I get all the latest technology toys before you can buy them, and I put them through the paces as if they were my own. Surrounded by the world's best products, I find it a daunting task to pick the coolest hardware and software.

After sifting through my memories of 1998's favorite toys, I realized that the one device I really want isn't a straight IS device but a digital video camcorder. The Sony Handycam DCR-PC1 is one of a new generation's first convergence products that increasingly blur the line between where computers stop and the rest of our lives begin.

Unlike its analog cousins, the DCR-PC1 can apply a slew of digital effects and enhancements in realtime to recordings (i.e., it doesn't have to film what it sees). If you combine that feature with standard video, S-Video, and an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) 1394 (100Mbps to 400Mbps FireWire) PC connection, you have one versatile device.

The DCR-PC1 fits in the palm of your hand, has a 10:1 optical zoom, 120:1 digital zoom, stereo audio recording, and two display screens (a small screen in the viewfinder for saving power and a larger LCD screen). Other options are also available for the DCR-PC1: a wireless remote control, a watertight sport case for filming underwater, a flash for still photos (a single tape can hold more than 500 photographic images), and a remote-control tripod.

I took this device with me on vacation, and I couldn't have been happier with its performance. Whenever I wasn't using the camera, I dropped it in my coat pocket. Although I bumped it around and squished it during crowded train rides, it always worked like a champ. My affection for this device is contagious. After seeing the DCR-PC1, my father plans to purchase it when the new-technology price drops.

Handycam DCR-PC1
Contact: Sony * 800-352-7669
Web: http://www.sony.com