The Pen Is Mightier

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Behold the noble highlighter, whose fluorescent colors have marked up important documents seemingly since the days of the first cave paintings. But just as other prehistoric office tools have gone by the wayside in favor of more advanced instruments--the mimeograph machine giving way to the color laser copier, the three-martini lunch replaced by the fruit-and-wheatgrass smoothie--perhaps the highlighter must now evolve.

That's the notion behind the new IrisPen II, coming this summer from Image Recognition Integrated Systems (800/ 447-4744). Roughly the size of a Magic Marker, the $129 IrisPen is an electronic highlighter--as you roll it across a document, the internal scanner captures text and enters it into your word processing application. Worried that IrisPen will turn your data into electronic gibberish? The company says new character-recognition technology has improved the accuracy rate to 99 percent on black-and-white, gray-scale, and color documents. Unlike earlier, serial-port versions of the IrisPen, this model sports a USB connection. True, the IrisPen's case is an undistinguished dark gray, not eye-catching yellow or hot pink. But that seems a small sacrifice for progress.

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