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Such illicit classroom pastimes as passing love notes, cribbing the answers on tests, and secretly playing games may get an upgrade this fall, thanks to a new gizmo that may already be in some students' pockets.

Called the Cybiko Inter-tainment System, it looks like a cartoonist's riff on the staid Palm Pilot handheld computer. The plastic housing—in a choice of Cyber Sea Blue, Electric Shock Yellow, Magic Clear, or Backstreet Black— surrounds a matchbook-size screen and pinhead-size keys.

Cool enough, but unfold the pen-shaped antenna and Cybiko's key function is revealed: It's a wireless communications tool.

The device can exchange messages with any other Cybiko within 150 feet inside a building, or 300 feet outdoors. Or, if one is in range of a specially outfitted personal computer, it can send and receive missives across the Internet.

Cybiko is being marketed as serving both teenage and grown-up priorities—although it clearly has the potential to disrupt classrooms.

Not mentioned on the manufacturer's Web site——but hard to overlook, is the device's potential as the best tool since the ink-stained palm for cribbing on tests.

Melissa R. Gibson, a teacher at Mitchell Middle School, in Mitchell, S. D., says she will experiment with a classroom set of Cybikos that the Bloomburg, Ill.-based Cybiko Inc. provided.

She plans to issue the devices to her journalism students. "I have to make sure their teachers know they have them. And they can't lend them to other students," Ms. Gibson said.

Only the holiday season will tell whether enough parents will fork out the $120 purchase price to make the devices popular. But other wireless communicators are soon to follow.

-Andrew Trotter

Vol. 20, Issue 2, Page 3

Published in Print: September 13, 2000, as Take Note

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