Every family has one -- an uncle, a cousin, a brother, a sister -- someone with gadget fever who seems to be attracted to every fancy doodad that comes on the market. The obvious Christmas gift for that relative may be a gadget, but the challenge is to find one that is useful, appropriate, well-designed -- and works.
Not all the items here are new to the market, but all have clean lines and a purpose.
Probably the most popular place for gadgets is the kitchen, where more and more Washingtonians are spending their hours at home. Aside from the food processor, the pasta maker and the microwave or convection oven, there are a number of useful items that a cook would welcome -- from a propane-powered tabletop burner to a battery-operated whisk for winter souffles.
The next most popular area for gadgets is probably the office -- and IBM's new cassette recorder for dictation takes the prize for fine design there. The Olivetti hand-held calculator solves problems for those of us who have trouble remembering which funny green numbers were up on the display panel of our calculator last. The light, hand-held phones (in both wired and wireless models) offer a gadget nut such wonderful options as a memory which allows you to redial the last number you called without looking it up again. And with the wireless model, you can carry your phone wherever you are in your house.
Here, then, is a selection of gifts that whirr, snap, pop and ring -- and for good reasons. CAPTION: Picture 1, Lucite salt and pepper grinders, imported by Raymor from Denmark, $14.99. Picture 2, Portable froth is always available when you carry your $12 battery-operated Kenwood drink or egg whisk; Picture 3, For the audiophile who is willing to risk vertigo watching his records spin sideways, there's the space saving, upright Mitsubishi LT-5V turntable with Signet TK5E cartridge, $531.; Picture 4, Honeywell's new energy-saving computer-controlled T800 thermostat can be programmed with different temperatures for every day and hour of the week, while displaying time and temperature. $195 plus installation.; Picture 5, If you like convection ovens, you'll love the Salton convection toaster, $45.; Picture 6, This $250 Lake cordless phone works up to 500 feet from its base station and includes a pager should you not care to take your call from the White House while out by the pool.; Picture 7, The Flamatable high-tech-styled electronic-ignition gas burner is made in France, and cooks at the table, replacing the chafing dish for $74.95.; Picture 8, This light-weight Osrow steam machine replaces the travel iron, taking wrinkles out of all fabrics. It can even steam garments that are hanging up, requiring no ironing board. $25.; Picture 9, You know how tacky it is to scrape aside table crumbs with the back of your butter knife. Now you can use a battery powered Hitachi table vacuum. $15.; Picture 10, For the serious breadbraker who doesn't own a pair of millstones, the Magic Mill II uses surgical-quality "micronizers" to mill any grain. According to the instructions, in case of permanent power outages, shifting to whole-grain recipes beats trying to crank it by hand. $280.; Picture 11, This dangerous-looking little baby is called a De-Corker. After you screw it into the wine cork, a spring mechanism silently extends and attacks the stopper, mercilessly wrenching it from the vintage. $10. ; Picture 12, Olivetti has produced a calculator slightly taller than a pack of cigarettes, which prints out a paper-tape record of your calculations. Handy for the checkbook balancer who suffers from fumble fingers or memory loss. $69.95; Picture 13, Nordica's new design in knee-high boots is a back-opening rigid outer shell with a "constant leverage buckle" adjusting the angle of your ankle. The instep also adjusts to your foot. $240.; Picture 14, Hanson's Slalom downhill racer boot has screws that adjust the fit so your feet don't hurt as you plow into a tree. $250.; Picture 15, Teleconcepts' Gabbifone plugs into a clip phone outlet, hangs up when placed face down, memorizes the last number called should it be busy and you want to automatically redial, and has a mute switch that beats a hand over the mouthpiece. $60.; Picture 16, The IBM miniature executive tape recorder comes with all sorts of foot pedals and earphones and stuff and Industrial Design Magazine has cited it for its fine looks, which helps one forget the fact that it only records 15 minutes per side of cassette. $189.; Picture 17, Forget that your home thermostat right now is set low enough to keep lettuce crisp and remember that you won't be able to afford air-conditioning in August. Now, doesn't this $30 Salton personal fan that won't muss your hair or stir your papers sound wonderful?; Picture 18, A certain gossip columnist of our acquaintance thinks this Asahi Pentax 7 x 21 monocular which can be hidden in the palm of your hand, is the greatest thing since Liz Ray. $72.50.; Picture 19, If you're making holiday cookies for your favorite energy conservation lobbyist, here's your basic Harper-Lee International battery-operated flour sifter. $13.; Picture 20, And for the person who's got all these gadgets, but no place to put them, well, here's a handsome hard plastic $17 Bey lerian black and white cylinder which can also be used as an umbrella stand.; Picture 21, The final solution to the problem of the hook on your tape measure slipping off the edge of the credenza to which you've attached it, whiplashing the tape into your eye. The ENM tapeless measure. $13.; Picture 22, Carve your niche in life with this Russell hunting knife, the elliptical blade of which has received praise from designers who presumably have not forgotten how to play mumbletypeg. $24.; Picture 23, If you consider the idea of a whirlpool machine with a cord shocking, here's the Gillette self-contained model, $100.; Picture 24, This long brass straw, called a blow-poke, enables you to stir up a fire with the poke and a little of your own hot air. $18.; Picture 25, For your many pairs of cowboy boots -- the ones that became so expensive after the lizard from which they are made was put on the endangered species list -- the Scarpiere Italian-made polyurethane shoe rack, $865 to $995.Photographs by Bill Snead