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Wang touts spy-proof portable

It's not your Daddy's laptop: The 14.5-pound computers are designed to limit leaks to electronic eavesdroppers.

Wang Global has introduced a new portable computer, but it's not going to be winning any svelteness contests.

Wang's Tempest Mobile Workstation, 3 inches thick and weighting 14.5 pounds, is designed for government officials who need spy-proof computers that don't leak any telltale signals to electronic eavesdroppers.

The boxes are designed to meet the U.S. government's "Tempest" specification, which requires a computer to release extremely low amounts of electromagnetic emissions that could reveal what information the computer is processing.

To protect against such emissions, Tempest-compliant machines must be encased in a lot of metal. Wang's portable looks like a thick laptop, said Wang spokeswoman Loretta Day, "but it's really so heavy, you can't really call it a laptop"--all that metal would make it quite a burden for your lap.

As an added bonus, all that metal shields the computer from the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) generated by an exploding nuclear bomb that wreaks havoc with anything electronic.

When it's running, the machine can withstand a shock of five Gs--that's five times the acceleration caused by the Earth's gravity. But when it's switched off, it can take a 60-G shock.

Aside from being spy-proof, the new Wang system has some features that are familiar to ordinary buyers: a 15.1-inch LCD screen, a 233-MHz or 266-MHz Pentium II processor, a CD-ROM drive, and your choice of a 4GB, 6GB, or 8GB removable hard disk.

Wang also makes Tempest-compliant desktop computers, printers, routers, switches, and servers. It's one of a handful of such companies that supply the equipment to the government. Day said the chief customers are the State Department and intelligence agencies. Wang also makes computer equipment that complies with the Zone standard, similar to but less stringent than the Tempest standard.

Pricing on the Wang portable wasn't available, but a competitor's Tempest portable computer with more lesser features was listed at one government Web site as costing more than $10,000.