Put the bite on chocolate keyboard Holiday shopping for computer lovers


How did December roll around so quickly? If I'm ever to finish my shopping, I'll have to be a holiday guerrilla and do it in an assault pattern over one or two days. If you're looking for a few suggestions for gifts for a computer hound, here are a few:

On the inexpensive and unusual side are the goodies from The Chocolate Software Co. The Original Chocolate Byte ($12.95) is a tasty replica of a 5 1/4 -inch floppy disk, made with three ounces of Guittard milk chocolate. The Original Chocolate Keyboard ($11.95) shows 101 keys. You can also get a chocolate computer ($10.95) or two 3 1/2 -inch floppy disks ($14.95).

The Chocolate Software Co. takes credit card orders only. Call (800) 332-2983 for more information.

For the baby-boom generation in particular -- whose members spent many hours playing games when "Leave It to Beaver" wasn't on -- comes the deluxe computer edition of Scrabble ($59.99). The manufacturer has phased out the original computer edition for this new, improved edition. Its anagram and crossword features allow the user to make words from difficult letter combinations and use the computer to build words in tight places.

(In my day, we weren't allowed to use a dictionary for ideas, let alone use a computer for untwisting possibilities.)

The IBM-compatible game works with nearly every color graphics setup (CGA, EGA, Tandy or VGA). A hard disk and mouse are recommended. The company also has electronic versions of Monopoly, Risk and Clue.

Give a call if you want to find what games it has for Macintoshes or other computers. (Virgin Mastertronic, 18001 Cowan St., Irvine, Calif. 92714; [714] 833-8710.)

For you bards or potential bards, Michael Newman's Poetry Processor, a trio of software (processor, tutorial and rhyming dictionary) has been reduced in price to $89.95. Whether you want to write in such classic forms as the sonnet or want the freedom of free verse, this software assists by tracking the syllables and stresses. You can also pour your verse into pre-set forms. The state-of-the-art rhyming dictionary has caught on with those writing rap songs. (NewManWare, 84 Front St., New Haven, Conn. 06513; [203] 498-9346.)

A highly unusual program came my way called Plots Unlimited ($395) for novelists and scriptwriters who need some interactive help. The program is designed to aid the fiction writer in the integration of character, conflict and structure. If you heard of a book some years ago called "Plotto," it's similar, but electronic. One can create plots randomly or from various approaches (starting with character, for instance). I had my doubts, since I felt that any good story comes from within, and urgency and passion bring the vision.

Considering the program can generate about 200,000 combinations of theme, character and story, however, I can see it could be helpful to professional writers on deadline or those whose muse needs a little prodding. (I came up with a story about a midget with marital problems.) Plots Unlimited can be bought directly from Ashleywilde Publishers in Los Angeles, (800) 833-PLOT, or discounted from The Writers' Computer Store, also in Los Angeles, (213) 479-7774, which carries a number of other programs for writers.

As for books, I can recommend the recently released "TypestyleHow to Choose & Use Type on a Personal Computer" by Daniel Will-Harris ($24.95, Peachpit Press), a humorous and rich graduate course in one aspect of desktop publishing design: type. The book delves into how to use type as a communications tool and explores the psychology of what works and why.

I'm also quite fond of "A World of Ideas" (Volumes I and II; $22.95 each from Doubleday) by Bill Moyers. He offers one-on-one interviews with some of the greatest minds in America. For instance, philosopher Sam Keen discusses the need for an enemy. Since glasnost and warmer relations with the Soviet Union, we've found enemies elsewhere -- Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein, for instance. (OK, so there are no computers in the books -- but ideas are, for which computers are used.)

4( Have yourselves some happy holidays.

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