This Week in Consumer Electronics
April 1994


In recent months, Norris Communications, Voice It and Voice Power Technologies have introduced digital voice note takers, each playing to a distinctly different niche of the market.

Of the three, Norris's $199-suggested Flashback is most directly positioned against the tape recorder segment (see related story below). Voice It, at $79 suggested list, is viewed as more of an audible post-it note pad. And VPT's Voice Organizer ($199 suggested) is billed as an audible electronic organizer with memo-taking capability.

But microcassette makers don't perceive  a threat, so far, pointing to high price points and brief maximum recording times as significant first-generation limitations. Eventually, however, most believe digital recording products will replace those based on magnetic tape.

"I think digital technology is going to bring about a revival of voice-recording products as a complement to personal computers, says Woody Norris, Norris Communications president. "Portable magnetic recorders have been standalone products, and the world has sort of passed them by."


Microcassette recorders such as Sony's BM-540 (left) and the Olympus L400 (bottom, right), will be facing competition from Norris's Flashback (top), a 2-ounce digital voice recorder with up to 60 minutes of recording time using a flash chip.

The biggest breakthrough in 100 years of voice recording is smaller than this ad.

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Call 1-800-905-2225.

Flashback Recorder Weighs Three Oz. - by James K. Willcox

Weighing in at less than 3 ounces and taking up approximately the same amount of space as three stacked credit cards, the Flashback digital personal recorder from Norris Communications is nonetheless capable of storing up to 30 minutes of speech in flash memory, making it suitable for a number of applications beyond storing personal memos.

Flashback uses a proprietary storage technology called SoundClips, which are removable solid-state, non-volatile flash memory chips that allow up to 30 minutes of recording to be randomly accessed. Unlike magnetic tape, SoundClips can be reused repeatedly without sound degradation and are virtually impervious to extreme temperatures.

Because the removable SoundClips use a PCMCIA-compatible interface, Flashback can be used to communicate with other electronic devices, such as personal computers, electronic organizers or PDAs.

Woody Norris, president of Norris Communications, which developed the product, says he expects to have 60- and 120-minute SoundClips available within the next year.

Flashback carries a suggested retail price of $199.95, including a 30-minute SoundClip, batteries and accessories. Additional 30-minute SoundClips are priced at $69.95, although Norris expects street prices to hit $30 later this year.

Down the road, Norris says, will be a more advanced Flashback model that will feature infrared wireless capability and an LCD screen. He also expects to have an OEM client that will market the original Flashback under its brand name.

While Flashback is initially being positioned as a voice recorder, Norris admits the device--particularly the advanced model--will surely be capable of more ambitious undertakings, though he declines to be specific.

"The mircoprocessor can do much more than what we're using it for," he states. "We went for overkill on the processor."



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