For A New World Order, Try Electronic Labeling

Ghostwriter Donald Bain is a neatness fanatic. Churning out books supposedly authored by celebrities, he often works in his Port Washington (N.Y.) studio on several projects simultaneously--a feat possible "only because I'm compulsive about having order all around me," he says. So he was thrilled with his wife's choice of a birthday gift: an electronic gadget that prints identification labels on plastic strips. Bain has stuck them on filing cabinets, desk drawers, manila folders, and 500 cassettes of recorded interviews.

Available under such brands as Brother P-Touch and Casio EZ-Label, the battery-powered electronic devices are a far cry from the familiar Dymo label gun. That decidedly low-tech gizmo, priced at $15 and up, requires you to spin an alphabet wheel and squeeze a trigger to emboss letters on a plastic tape. Weighing just a pound, the new labelmakers have a keyboard on which you type names, numbers, descriptions, or special symbols such as a golfer or airplane. The typing shows up in a small display window, and at the touch of a button it appears in easy-to-read letters on a strip that unrolls from a cassette inside.

The labels can read horizontally or vertically in various type styles, including italic and bold. By switching cassettes, you can print in different colors, such as gold on black tape or black on white. Some models automatically print numbered labels consecutively. And you can store often-used names or phrases in memory to make duplicate labels without retyping.

SHIRTS 'N' SCANS. Discounted widely, Brother's basic model with a six-character display window lists for $249. A Dymo 4500 machine (also $249) from Esselte Pendaflex has a 15-character display and can print two-line labels and underline words for emphasis. At $299, Casio's EZ-Label makes labels with up to four lines of text. With an optional scanning pen, it will copy type or graphic images on tape--even an iron-on kind you can use to decorate T-shirts.

The labelmakers are handy for business. "People aren't just buying them to dress up a videotape collection or label the tool rack," says Brother's Sales Vice-President Dean Shulman. Hospitals use it to label items used by patients, labs to identify look-alike samples and drugs, and shops to keep track of small parts.

The devices are so convenient it's easy to go overboard. Bain admits to carrying his all over the house, "and when I see something that needs a label, I make it on the spot."

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