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Fortune Names Its ’88 Products of the Year

November 17, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ Everyone supposedly seeks a better mousetrap; Fortune magazine likes the idea of a better mouse.

For the first time, the business magazine has named an animal to its annual list of the nation’s hottest products. That fits well with an overall trend for this year’s list to the small and technologically advanced.

Fortune’s report, contained in the Dec. 5 issue, includes:

-Genetic mouse. Last April, Harvard University received the first patent for an artificially engineered higher form of life. The mouse, being sold to researchers at $50 apiece under the trademark OncoMouse, was created by injecting genes suspected of causing cancer into fertilized mouse eggs. The offspring carry the implanted gene.

-Video Walkman. For $1,300, video junkies no longer have to leave their favorite tape at home.

-″E.T.″ on video. Six years after the movie debuted, MCA has brought out a videotape of ″E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial″ and already has received orders for more than 11 million copies at $24.95 each.

-NEC Ultralite laptop computer. Small enough to fit into an interoffice envelope, NEC’s computer is powerful enough to run the Lotus 1-2-3 program and four times faster than IBM’s XT personal computers. It lists for $2,999.

-Rogaine. The first prescription hair-growth medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Upjohn Co.’s product sells for about $50 for a month’s supply. The minoxidil preparation must be used constantly or its effects stop, and only about 39 percent of the men in clinical tests experienced even moderate hair growth.

-Ricoh Mirai. The $795 camera has a short, adjustable handgrip that allows the user to adjust exposure settings, the zoom lens and shutter release with one finger.

-No-Color mascara. Max Factor brought this out in July, and the idea of not getting smudged circles under their eyes proved a hit with women. The cosmetic sold out within a week, and the Revlon subsidiary is estimated to have sold 5 million of the tubes for $12 million.

-Personal fax machines. They took off this year, zooming to a 30 percent share of the $1.9 billion fax market, offering features once contained in office versions.

-Erasable optical disk. The disks allow the electronic storage of data equivalent to 300,000 pages of type. Analysts predict sales will grow to $1 billion a year within a few years.

-Wilson Profile tennis racket. The extra-thick racket is changing tennis much as the first oversize Prince racket did a dozen years ago. The frame of a conventional racket bends back when hit by a ball, recovering after the ball already is headed back toward the opponent. The $225 Profile rebounds along with the ball, giving a player’s shot much more power.

-Debt swap. By exchanging some of its bank debt for special U.S. Treasury- backed bonds, Mexico was able to reduce its $60 billion debt load by more than $1 billion. In the ground-breaking plan it undertook with J.P. Morgan & Co., Mexico gave the banks the opportunity to swap existing loans at a discount for the special, new bonds, which carry a higher interest rate than the old debt.

-Ergon 2 chair. The latest version of a body-conscious chair that debuted in 1976, it features a knob that controls back angle and customizes the seat cushion to adjust for derrieres of all proportions. Its maker, Herman Miller, charges $350 to $600 per share, depending on fabric, model and quantity, and numbers among its customers corporate giants McDonald’s, McDonnell Douglas and Texas Instruments.

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