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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘95 Gift Guide Electronics Spark Interest

Dads, confess: One of the big reasons you secretly look forward to Christmas is so you can score an expensive gift for yourself and pass it off as a family present.

Like a big-screen television. With an 18-inch satellite dish. And, of course, surround sound.

Electronics are always big for Christmas. And the hottest thing this year is indeed a television, especially the big-screen version, say local and national people in the know. The giant ones are “the fastest selling part of television,” says Jim Barry of the Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association.

Next in line of 1995’s top electronic gifts are computers, cordless telephones and camcorders, Barry says.

At Huppin’s HiFi, Photo & Video in downtown Spokane, Murray Huppin expects to sell a bunch of 30-inch TVs now that the price has fallen to around $700. Plus, prices on the 35-inchers have dropped to $1,000 - “and that’s a big TV,” Huppin says.

Also popular are the Sony and RCA 18-inch digital satellite dishes, which start at $599. But buyers also should factor in the monthly service rate; for about $35 a month, you get 175 channels - 40 of which deliver professional and collegiate sports.

Another traditional big family gift, Huppin says, is the camcorder. Prices start at $399.

And what if your pockets aren’t that deep? Don’t despair. There’s plenty out there under $100.

Personal stereos are always popular and now offer more features for less money, Huppin says. One is the Sony Sports Walkman, an allweather cassette player that comes in at $49.95.

Here are some more suggestions in all price ranges. Products are widely available except where noted.

For CD, CD-ROM collectors: The new Easy Access storage box not only holds 24 discs, it also opens the clumsy jewel boxes when you slide one out on its carrier tray. And you can stack them. At The Bon Marche, it sells for $29.99.

Stocking stuffers: A VCR cleaner tape, which will increase your VCR’s lifespan when used once a month; EZ-CD, a cool 2-1/2-inch plastic gadget with a razor that frees up shrink wrap from a CD’s jewel box spine without damage, from MacTec Products; hand-held video games (a couple are based on Barbie for under $20); pagers for kids so parents can keep better track of them; software for the whole family.

For video game fans: Three new 32-bit video game players are out, but they are pricier than the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo 16-bit systems (which can now be found for under $100). The Sony Playstation, 3DO and Sega Saturn all shoot action from a CD-ROM disc onto your TV and sell for around $300 to $350.

Games, naturally, are extra. Some of the hot ones are: ESPN Extreme Games, Off World Interceptor Extreme, Total Eclipse Turbo, Battle Arena Toshinden, all for the Playstation; and Virtua Fighter 2, Virtua Cop and Sega Rally Championship, for the Saturn. Prices range from $50 to $80.

For bad spellers and crossword fans: Seiko has a new spelling calculator, based on the American Heritage Dictionary, that can check and correct the spelling for 80,000 words. Even if you get the first letter wrong, you’ll still find your word since the calculator is based on phonetic misspellings. And you can use wild cards. Suggested retail is $29, but you can generally find it on sale.

For another 10 bucks, you can get a Seiko Word Finder, which spell-checks 95,000 words and offers 660,000 synonyms and 55,000 definitions.

These two hand-held gadgets and the next one perform all the usual calculator number functions and are available at Best and Sears.

For Spanish language students/ travelers: Seiko also offers a Spanish/ English Translating Calculator, which can interpret more than 40,000 words, each displayed with accent marks, gender and parts of speech. It’s $29.

For electronic TV guide fans: StarSight is the latest gizmo that aims to make TV viewing easy. It puts a program guide on your screen at the touch of a button. Updated daily, it displays what’s on in the next hour or the next week. How’s this for easy recording? Touch one button, and your VCR is set to record in the future.

StarSight is built in to some TVs from Zenith and Mitsubishi and some VCRs from Samsung and Goldstar. But you can buy one as a separate unit under the Magnavox name.

It’s an unobtrusive box that sells for $150. But you also must subscribe to the service that updates the schedules, and that’s about $4 a month.

For organizing youngsters: Sharp has two small contraptions for kids and teens to keep all their school, work, home and social lives organized. Both the Sports Locker and Locker Mate feature telephone directories, a homework function that tracks assignments and due dates, a calculator, clock and calendar. Sports Locker ($49.95) also keeps stats on up to 90 players and offers a sports trivia game. Locker Mate ($29.95) reminds its owner of birthdays, anniversaries and other important dates.

For TV commercial haters: Want to tape “ER” and not have to fast forward through commercials? The new RCA VR678HF VCR will do it for you. How does it work? Upon playback, this $499 stereo hi-fi VCR detects the cues broadcasters use before an ad, and you pick whether the commercials fly by at high speed or a blank blue screen is shown. Sometimes, though, the system backfires and shows part of a commercial or skips some of your program. The unit also sports VCR Plus+.

For a family video card: This year’s Christmas card can be a video. BASF’s “Videoccasions” package includes a greeting card and 10-minute VHS videocassette for recording part of Thanksgiving dinner or a message to loved ones, plus a shipping box all for under $10.

For the sports junkie: Sports Tracks is a dedicated pager from Motorola that allows fans to keep up with all the teams. Now, only basketball scores are posted, but baseball will be next year. So while Dad can’t watch his 40 satellite sports channels while he’s on a business trip, he’ll still know the score if you fork over some $200 for this puppy.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 3 Photos (2 Color)

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