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CES REPORT: Compaq shows off kiddie PCs

Compaq and Fisher-Price unveiled a set of software and hardware peripherals aimed at 3- to 7-year-olds. Due next summer, the products in the Wonder Tools line, which include a keyboard and mini dashboard, will each sell for about $125.

LAS VEGAS--In a bid to move home PCs out of the den and into the playroom, Compaq Computer and Fisher-Price last night unveiled software along with brightly colored plastic peripherals aimed at preschoolers.

Due out next summer, Wonder Tools will include a keyboard and mini dashboard. Company officials said they plan to introduce eight additional titles during '96.

According to Mike Heil, general manager of Compaq's consumer division, the time is right to get tykes interested in PCs and software. "Over 30 percent of households with multimedia PCs have preschool children," said Heil. "But up until now products haven't been created for the specific needs of kids," he added.

Priced at $150, the kiddie navagational console, called Cruiser, lets kids drive through onscreen terrain using a spaceship, offroad buggy, or submarine. The Windows software includes tiered activities for kids based on their age.

The kiddie keyboard can be used with other software and can be swapped for a standard keyboard. Function keys familiar to PC users are hidden in a sliding tray on the kiddie version to avoid confusion. The keyboard will be priced at $130. Individual software titles will be priced at $39.95.

Running either the Wonder Tools keyboard or Cruiser will require a 486/66-MHz PC with 8MB of RAM and a double-speed CD-ROM drive. Versions for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95 will be available initially.

The companies will sell the Wonder Tools line in both toy and computer stores. Plans call for Compaq to offer a developers' toolkit for those interested in creating software for the system, officials said.