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April Fools’ Day Gifts Go High-Tech

March 29, 1999

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) _ Whoopee cushions, stink bombs and hand buzzers are passe this April Fools’ Day as gag gifts are going high-tech with an array of silly items ranging from joke e-mail to rearview mirrors for your monitor.

Philip Passantino, president of Cobis, Inc., a Clifton Park, N.Y., company, said that while the Year 2000 Millennium Bug and computer viruses are very serious matters, people must keep their sense of humor.

``We’re taking a tongue-in-cheek approach,″ he said.

He sells Bug Off 2000!!_a ``Computer Bug Spray and Virus Killer″ that’s actually a high-quality screen cleaner. They also sell ``computer bugs,″ suction-cupped plastic insects including Millie, the Millennium Bug and Vinnie, the Internet Virus.

Across the country in Bellingham, Wash., Silvana Clark has sold more than 100,000 little plastic keyboard keys with adhesive backing labeled ``Panic″ and ``Any Key.″

``Panic″ can be used at times of great stress, she said, while ``Any Key″ is handy when the software tells you, ``Push any key to continue.″

``They serve as a visual reminder to keep your sense of humor in the face of computer frustration,″ she said.

At several Web sites, users can sign up to get a joke e-mailed to them every day.

If you’re lucky, you might even get a high-tech joke like this:

A man walks into a Silicon Valley pet store looking to buy a monkey. The store owner points toward three identical monkeys in politically-correct, animal-friendly, natural mini-habitats. ``The one on the left cost $500,″ says the store owner. ``Why so much?″ asks the customer. ``Because it can program in C,″ answers the store owner. The customer inquires about the next monkey and is told, ``That one cost $1500, because it knows Visual C++ and Object-Relational technology.″

The startled man then asks about the third monkey. ``That one costs $3000,″ answers the store owner. ``3000 dollars!!″ exclaims the man. ``What can that one do?″ To which the owner replies, ``To be honest, I’ve never seen it do a single thing, but it calls itself a ‘Consultant’.″

Many of the people behind the gag gifts began as technocrats but just couldn’t take it.

Ellen Hendin of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, left her desk job to open Cybereyes Inc. about a year and a half ago.

``I was working in a cubicle and it was kind of annoying because I’d hear voices in the background and people were always alarming me when I was in the middle of doing something.″

Her $4.99 inconspicuous wedges stick to monitors and serve as a rearview mirror. She’s sold more than 100,000 of them.

``People spend so much time at their computers, they’re always looking for something amusing,″ she said.

Now she’s rolling out the spill.not, a beverage holder that mounts to either side of a computer monitor.

``It’s fun,″ she said. ``And a way to make money.″

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