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The Perfect Gadget for Dad

For some, getting dad a big Father's Day gift is about recognition. For others, Father's Day is an attempt to give dad a gift that isn't a sweater, tie or shoe tree. Choosing gifts for Dad might not be easy, but since most men like tools — anything new, bright and shiny — getting a gadget for Father's Day may be the best way to go. Of course since some of the best gadgets may be found only on the Net or in a catalog, getting started early is important.

Brookstone, which has locations in Tysons, Reston and Springfield, sells a particularly nice gadget: the Grill-Alert Talking Remote Thermometer. "You program it for the type of meat you are cooking and how much you want it cooked, whether you want it medium-rare or well-done," said Brookstone assistant manager, Joel Gilley. "Stick the probe inside the meat, and it will let you know when it's done. It's a perfect thing for not having to stand at the grill. We have been selling out of them. Like crazy." The price is $75. Another nice gadget Brookstone has is a voice-activated universal remote control.

An item great for any dad with a computer is an optical-mouse computer control. While many optical mice are more eye-pleasing than a traditional mouse, the real attraction of optical mice is their smooth movement, low wear and tear, and there is no need for a mouse pad.

HANDY GADGETS FOR THE CAR abound. Many revolve around increased safety, including a blind-spot detector; a vehicle compass with ice alert; a clip-on, wireless, hands-free car kit; or a hands-free mirror phone. Another interesting car gadget is the interactive navigation system that gives directions in a human-sounding voice. In addition to providing directions to street addresses, the system can direct a user to a nearby restaurant, gas station or police station.

Some gadgets are toys, pure and simple. The Vectron Blackhawk is a hovering, UFO Frisbee-like toy that could as easily be given as a gift to a 15-year-old as a 50-year-old. Other more frivolous gadgets include programmable Robot Dogs or Robot Cats. Or instead of a boring horizontal toy, you can get a wall-climbing robot, which uses powerful suction cups to climb up windows, mirrors and Plexiglas.

Tyrone Qualls of Spencer Gifts in Springfield Mall says for the people who come into his store, "the goal is just to be funny." The gadget he can sell them is a fart machine (a high-tech version of a whoopee cushion).

The category of gee-whiz gadgets includes the Watch Me portable laser-show projector unit, which can display about 40 different spinning laser patterns that can be projected onto walls or ceilings.

Gadgets of course don't have to be expensive. Money grips/credit-card holders, laser pointers and a solar-powered car ventilator are affordable but still have gizmo-chic.

OTHER ITEMS TO CONSIDER are a vacuum-brewing coffee device, a mini data bank PDA-like device that fits on a key chain, six- or 10-language talking translators, a digital wrist blood-pressure monitor, six-In-one hidden camera detector or portable lie detector.

An Infrared Thermometer Gun is a particularly nice gadget for curious or burn-prone dads. Point the "gun" at an object, pull the trigger, and a second later it will give you the temperature up to 572 degrees.

Other cool gadgets include mosquito repeller watches, levitating world globes, shower shaving mirrors, GPS including special systems packaged for fisherman and pilots, and radio band scanners.

In the price-is-no-object category is the Atlantis Diver’s SportsCam. This underwater camera allows you to see 25 feet, even _ according to its claims — in pitch-black water and at a depth of 100 feet. In this same category, put the new Imac ($1,400 and up).