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Fisher-Price, with 65 years in the toy biz, and Compaq Computer, maker of toys for bigger kids, have joined forces to launch a smart offensive on the kidware front.

Their Wonder Tools line, expected in stores later this summer, will include the Cruiser, a driving console with a real horn and plastic coins for tolls, at $149; the Keyboard, a colorful object with a touchpad mouse and number pad, at $129; and CD software tailored to work with each of these controllers.Wonder Tools are designed to give children ages 3 to 7 a thoroughly interactive computing experience. Toot the horn on the Cruiser and the on-screen cars will get out of the way. Make a call on the Cruiser's plastic phone and talk to digital characters. Kids will get a kick out of the software's immediate response to their actions, and parents will be pleased that the plastic peripherals are child-safe.

Naturally the companies claim lofty goals for these high-tech toys. But beware of quasi-educational claims.

I'm not convinced, for instance, that what the company calls "grow-with-me" features, which include letting kids drive faster as they get older, really teach them anything. Still, Wonder Tools signal a new, safer era for kids in interactive computing.

Available for Windows 95 and Windows 3.x in August. For more information, call Fisher-Price at (800) 432-5437 or Compaq at (800) 345-1518. c. 1996 Computer Life