Advanced gadgeteers evidently cannot rest until all technology combines into a single useful tool - the Swiss Army Knifing of the digital world.

And now, along with phones that make movies and Blackberries that navigate better than Columbus, come weapons that sing.

More specifically, Tasers are being paired with MP3 players - and marketed to women as fashionable safety devices.

Scheduled to hit the market in early March, the Taser MPH is the bizarre coupling of a gunlike device capable of delivering a 50,000-volt jolt, and its holster, which contains a 1-gigabyte-capacity handheld music player.

Tasers are abhorred by critics who say that the weapons are unsafe, and that nearly anyone could own one and zap whomever the owner pleases. Many police officers across America carry Tasers - in Philadelphia, they are restricted to police supervisors only - and more than 200 deaths have been linked to police-related Taser incidents since 2001.

This pairing of a weapon with an entertainment device appears, in the eyes of Taser detractors, to soften a dangerous instrument.

At $349.95 per unit - available in "fashion pink," "electric blue" and leopard - the devices are being marketed to women, especially joggers who may feel unsafe as they exercise. Overall, 60 percent of Tasers are sold to women, says Taser International of Scottsdale, Ariz.

"It won't do you any good if you leave it on the nightstand," said company spokesman Stephen Tuttle. "We're making it convenient for joggers, who listen to music anyway, to be safe."

Unlike a stun gun that requires the user to press the device against an assailant, the Taser can be used from distances of up to 15 feet.

Shaped like a pistol, the Taser fires two darts that have electrical cables attached. The charge flows from the gun, through the cables and into the darts, slamming the voltage into a person and causing his muscles to contract uncontrollably for 30 seconds.

"It's very uncomfortable but not painful," said Tuttle, who has voluntarily been "tased" several times. "It feels like a funny bone going off 19 times per second in your whole body."

The company has long said the weapon is a nonlethal instrument of self-protection for citizens. And, the company says, the Taser allows police to control unruly suspects without injury.

But research by the U.S. Army in 2005 showed that Tasers can cause ventricular fibrillation, a lethal disturbance of heart rhythm.

Other scientists have said a shot from a Taser can also cause acidosis, described as a dangerous change in blood chemistry.

Experts say the science on Tasers is incomplete, and it isn't clear why some people who are hit with a Taser charge die. The U.S. Justice Department is currently studying the question.

Company spokesmen have consistently said over the years that Tasers don't produce enough current to cause fatal heart problems.

CEO Rick Smith recently said in a news conference that the use of a Taser is statistically less likely to cause a heart-related death than a pickup basketball game.

Organizations like Amnesty International are skeptical.

"The Taser is a really serious weapon raising grave concerns," said Dalia Hashad, director of the USA Program at the human rights organization.

"Pairing a Taser with an MP3 player downplays its seriousness. And it will become attractive to teens, who shouldn't be carrying it."

Tasers are legal in Pennsylvania and all but seven states: New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Michigan, Wisconsin and Hawaii.

People with a felony criminal record are prohibited from buying them. But any enterprising bad guy could always have a friend do it, Hashad said.

"This terrifies me more than a gun purchase because anybody can get their hands on it," she said.

Hashad and others are concerned that, rather than help women, a Taser could be used by an assailant to incapacitate her.

The possibility of abuse is apparent. Two years ago, an Albany, Ore., man used a Taser on an 18-month-old.

And in 2005, a man in Palm City, Fla., fired a Taser at his 14-year-old son to discipline the boy.

The Philadelphia police have no official policy on citizen use of Tasers. There have been no known local deaths caused by Tasers by police or citizens, said Lt. Frank Vanore, the department spokesman.

"We're not against people having them, but you have to be aware that if you carry a weapon like that, it could be used by an attacker against you," Vanore said. "And be cognizant that if you use a Taser, we will be investigating you."

The Taser became something of an Internet phenomenon in September. Andrew Meyer, a young journalist, was asking questions of former Sen. John Kerry, who was giving a speech at the University of Florida. Police tried to lead Meyer away after they thought he was becoming unruly, and one of the officers shot a Taser at him.

"Don't tase me, bro," Meyer yelled. The event was videotaped and placed on YouTube, where millions of viewers saw it.

The clip became so popular that the Yale Book of Quotations made Meyer's remark its most memorable quote of 2007.

Asked whether she would be buying the MPH, Susan Billbrough, a 38-year-old Havertown nursery school teacher, said, "I couldn't imagine tasing anybody," she said. "And the MPH sounds weird. I wouldn't want it."

Carolyn Marvin, 60, a Center City resident and a communications professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, was of a similar mind.

"I will not be buying it," she said. "I've been running here since 1995, and Philadelphia is a safe city for joggers.

"This is just a marketing strategy to get Tasers into women's hands. The concept preys on women's fears, and it's not for me."

Contact staff writer Alfred Lubrano at 215-854-4969 or alubrano@phillynews.com.