June 27, 1994


Your tape recorder is a miracle of miniaturized mechanization, but is it obsolete? Probably. The Flashback recorder from Norris Communications of Poway, California, dispenses with the machinery: All electronic and digital, it uses no tape and has no moving parts but instead records sound directly onto a flash-memory chip from Intel. Though the Flashback is only the size of a few credit cards stacked together, and weighs about as much, it has a microphone and speaker. You can pull out the even more portable PCMCIA unit that contains the chip--it's that little module in the picture--and download your recording onto a personal digital assistant or PC.

Flash-memory technology has other benefits. If you need to transcribe your recording at slow speed, you'll get voices at normal pitch, without growly, slurred distortion. Or if you want to skim through to that one key passage, the high-speed replay is also at normal pitch--no Donald Duck noises. And it allows you to insert comments anywhere without obliterating what's been recorded. The initial version of Flashback, coming to stores next month, gives only 30 minutes of recording time. But inventor Elwood Norris promises a 60-minute module, possibly by year's end. Suggested price: $249.95.


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