Too Many Devices?

The average home in 1960 had a television set, probably black and white, and a radio. The number of electronic in the home today is, by comparison, absurd.

Hereâ''s a simple quiz, which we wonâ''t bother scoring.

How many outlets do you have in use today?

How many have extension cords?

Have you ever plugged an extension cord into an extension cord?

I quickly lost count of the number of products here at the Consumer Electronics Show that attempt to manage cable clutter and complexity.

Philips, which came out with its â''Squidâ'' extension cord a couple of years ago, now has a â''mini-Squid.â''

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But more interesting to me was its â''travel strip,â'' which folds into itself two different ways.

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Allsop has a nice little case for managing USB cords and the like.

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Belkin had at least five devices for plugging multiple things into one thing. Not all of them are extension cords.

A high-def multimedia device called â''Flywireâ'' that can throw a signal to a HDTV wirelessly, even if its 30 meters away. You can plug 6 devices into the Flywire transmitter, such as a Blu-Ray or DVD player, a set-top box, or a Playstation. The receiver is the only thing that has to be plugged into the television itself. The Flywire will come out this summer at about $500 list price.

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A KVM hub that lets you plug 4 computers into a single keyboard, video monitor, and mouse set, and switch between them with a press of a button. You can also plug a USB thumb drive into the hub to move files between the computers.

A Plug for USB devices that swivels.

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A bizarre starfish-shaped hub called the Rock Star that lets five people plug in their earbuds and headsets to listen to a single MP3 player. (Set up with five headsets on a round coffee table, it looked like a shared hookah.) Iâ''m not sure why five people would want to listen at once privatelyâ''just play it on a stereo!â''but I can picture three kids in the back seat of a minivan listening to the same iPod. You can even plug in a second music player and switch between them.

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A new â''greeen-friendlyâ'' (my term, not Belkinâ''s) extension cord. Two outlets are always on, the other six (!) are controlled separately. You can optionally control them, by the way, with a wall-mounted wireless switch. The idea is that you can turn your offâ''really off, so not drawing standby powerâ''your television, set-top box, and DVD player, without turning off your broadband modem and your Wi-Fi router. Of course, if youâ''re using a Flywire, those might not even be in the same room, much less on the same extension cord.

The Flywire is an interesting device, by the way, in that it illustrates another, more disturbing trend in consumer electronics. It cannot send an HD signal to two receivers on two televisions because the company believes it would violate copyright law. You can, of course, do that in the wired world with a simple coax splitter. Belkin thinks, however, that â''Hollywoodâ'' would object to â''broadcastingâ'' the signal to more than one television.

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