The Harrow Technology Report

  http://www.TheHarrowGroup.com

Insight, analysis, and commentary on the 
innovations and trends of contemporary computing, 
and on its growing number of related technologies.

An ongoing journey towards understanding, 
and profiting from, a world of exponential 
technological growth!

Copyright © 2001-2005, Jeffrey R. Harrow.  All rights reserved.
Email: Jeff@TheHarrowGroup.com

 

Grand Challenges, Grand Opportunitie$.

May 10, 2004
  

  • Listen to this Issue.
       Give those eyes a rest.
  • Quote of the Week.
       A new 'competitive order?'
  • The 'Information Soufflé.'
       A soufflé appears larger than its actual contents.  Our information stores are the other way around.  But there's much commonality.
  • DO Bend, Fold, Spindle, And Mutilate.
       What used to be a no-no, now isn't.
  • There's MUCH More I Can Do For You!
       Find out how I can help your business to prosper during exponential technological growth!
  • Storage Update.
       Bigger, faster, & cheaper -- ever more-so!
  • R2D2 LIVES!
       The still-reigning king of display technology is challenged -- sort of.
  • Pictures of the Week.
       A new survival tool for the digital age?
  • About "The Harrow Technology Report.
  •  


    Listen to this Issue.

     

    Do you prefer to let your ears do the work of keeping you in-touch with, and thinking about where technology is taking us?  If so, "The Harrow Technology Report" is also available in an audio-on-demand, M-P-3 version. 

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    Also, find out how you can listen at whatever speed is most comfortable for you through the FAQ at http://www.theharrowgroup.com/help.htm .

    Here's where to listen to this week's issue!   http://www.theharrowgroup.com/articles/20040510/20040510.mp3    

     

    Back to Table of Contents


    Quote of the Week.

     

    Check out the newly-coined words, not to mention the words' depiction of a potential "new competitive order":

    "Need a neurocompetitive advantage? Pop a "neuroceutical!"

    Pundit Zack Lynch reckons we’re on the cusp of a major technosocial transformation. He predicts the convergence of Bits, Atoms, Neurons and Genes are accelerating us towards a neurosociety, where we’ll bust beyond the biological constraints of our evolutionary brain. It’s a brave new world of neuromarketing, neuroweapons and neuroethics.

    But who will have access to what’s on offer, and will your thoughts remain your own?"

    Zack Lynch
    Brain Waves: Neurons, Bits, & Genes.
    Corante Tech News
    http://www.corante.com/brainwaves/archives/002951.html

    A "Big BANG" of a much smaller order.  But this one may be in our not-too-distant future, rather than in our ancient past...

     

    Back to Table of Contents


    The 'Information Soufflé.'


    This is an article I've recently written for Future Brief (http://www.futurebrief.com/).  Future Brief is a new site from New Global Initiatives (http://www.ngiweb.com/) that offers brief summaries and other resources to help people, especially those on The Hill who form national policy, to keep up on technological innovations -- but with an added twist.  Future Brief "takes one step back and looks at the greater convergence of the accelerating changes in science and technology, with the equally rapidly accelerating changes in society and politics." (http://www.futurebrief.com/about.asp)

     

    When I was a kid the largest amount of information in a home might have been that "One volume FREE with each purchase over $25" grocery store encyclopedia set.  True, there were many other books and papers scattered around, plus the family picture shoebox and perhaps some 8mm (or 16mm) home movies, but that was the extent of data storage.  Since each book contains an average 0.75 megabytes of text, and estimating an average of 100 books per home, each home of that day might have been storing 75-100 megabytes of data, all of it in analog (paper or film or snapshot) form.

    And none of it was easy to copy -- if you didn't have (or couldn't locate) a negative, pictures could only be duplicated by taking a photo of the (typically degraded) picture and processing that.  Original sheets of paper could only be duplicated during their creation by using "carbon paper!"  And that was pretty much it, as there were no Xerox machines.  Duplicate a 45 RPM record?  Ha!  The first home tape recorders were still several years away. 

    Well, things have changed just a bit -- LOTS of bits, actually.  Oh, we still have many of those 0.75 megabyte paper books; probably far more than way-back-when.  And we still have file cabinets full of papers.  But no matter how fast those physical information collections grow, they are now but leaves blowing in a global information wind compared to the amount of information that we now keep in digital form.

     

    How MUCH Information?

    Doing a quick inventory of all my hard disk drives, I'm mildly surprised to realize that I can store more than one terabyte of data ready for instant access!  (One terabyte of storage is the paper-equivalent of 50,000 trees worth of paper - or over four billion sheets of paper!)  That amazing amount of storage just snuck-up on me through piecemeal acquisitions - I wasn't trying to amass as much storage as only the largest corporations could afford just a very few years ago...   

    I also have hundreds of CDs at 0.7 gigabytes each, and dozens of DVDs at between 4.7 to 17 gigabytes apiece.  And then there are blank CDs and DVDs, just waiting for me to write upon.  Plus, there's the inexhaustible fire hose of information from the Web which itself contains about 170 terabytes of surface information and 92 petabytes (that's PETAbytes, as in mega..., giga..., tera..., peta..., exa...!) of "deep information" contained within Web-accessible databases, etc.  Just the surface Web contains 17-times the amount of book content in the Library of Congress, and it's all just a keystroke or mouse click away. 

    In short -- and this is only an offhand estimate -- each household today may well contain more information than entire COUNTRIES held a hundred years ago!  And we haven't begun to talk about the amount of data that business and governments now hold...  And we haven't yet covered the breadth of information flows and live media, as outlined in a study I'll cite in a moment:

    "Newly created information is STORED in four physical media – print, film, magnetic and optical – and it's SEEN OR HEARD in four information flows through electronic channels – telephone, radio and TV, and the Internet."

    Then there's the additional tsunami of information captured from tens of thousands of private surveillance cameras, radar and sonar networks, and far more...

     

    The Data Explosion.

    We're producing more -- LOTS more information -- each and every year.

    Based on a fascinating study titled "How Much Information, 2003?" which is performed annually by the Berkeley School of Information Management and Systems (http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/research/
    projects/how-much-info-2003//)
    that was brought to my attention by reader Tony Harper, an Oct. 28 article in The Register (http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/63/33641.html) summarizes it this way:

    "Information production has increased by 30 percent each year between 1999 and 2002. Last year alone, the amount of data stored on paper, film, optical and magnetic media reached five exabytes - or 5 million terabytes...

    All of a sudden, almost every aspect of life around the world is being recorded and stored in some information format...  That's a real change in our human ecology."

    Looking at this in a bit more detail in the Executive Summary of the study itself (http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/research/projects/how-much-info-2003/execsum.htm),

    "How big is five exabytes? If digitized, the nineteen million books and other print collections in the Library of Congress would contain about ten terabytes of information; five exabytes of information is equivalent in size to the information contained in half a million new libraries, [each] the size of the Library of Congress print collections...

    Ninety-two percent of new information is stored on magnetic media, primarily hard disks. Film represents 7% of the total, paper 0.01%, and optical media 0.002%.

    ...

    We estimate that the amount of new information stored on paper, film, magnetic, and optical media has about doubled in the last three years...

    Paperless society? The amount of information printed on paper is still increasing, but the vast majority of original information on paper is produced by individuals in office documents and mail, not in formally published titles such as books, newspapers and journals.

    ...

    Information flows through electronic channels -- [including] telephone, radio, TV, and the Internet -- contained almost 18 exabytes of new information in 2002, three and a half times more than is recorded in storage media.

    Ninety eight percent of this total is the information sent and received in telephone calls - including both voice and data on both fixed lines and wireless.  [Those phone calls contained] 17.3 exabytes of new information if stored in digital form; this represents 98% of the total of all information transmitted in electronic information flows, most of it person to person.

    Most radio and TV broadcast content is not new information. [Only] about 70 million hours (3,500 terabytes [or 3.5 petabytes]) of the 320 million hours of radio broadcasting is original programming.  [Television] worldwide produces [another] 31 million hours of original programming (70,000 terabytes [or 70 petabytes]) out of 123 million total hours of broadcasting...

    Email generates about 400,000 terabytes [or 400 petabytes] of new information each year worldwide.

    How we use information: Published studies on media use say that the average American adult uses the telephone 16.17 hours a month, listens to radio 90 hours a month, and watches TV 131 hours a month – on average about a third of the time. About 53% of the U.S. population uses the Internet, averaging 25 hours and 25 minutes a month at home, and 74 hours and 26 minutes a month at work – about 13% of the time. In theory this adds up to accessing information media 46% of the time, but in practice most people only access two or three information flows on a regular basis."

     

    The Point?  And The Challenge!

    What's the point of this article, which itself is adding to the global volume of information by exploring the study's findings?  It's to help each of us recognize that one of the Grand Challenges we have in front of us, and hence one of the Great Opportunitie$, is to learn how to effectively deal with, and learn from, our incredible and constantly-growing information resources. 

    All of the techniques that we use today to glean some insights from our information pools, such as data mining, Web searches, and the like, are like pawing through a few grains of sand on a global beach.  For example, do a Google search for "recipes" and you get 12 million hits from just the surface Web.  Many sites, such as epicurious.com, contain thousands of additional recipes each, which don't show up in such a search (part of the "deep Web").  Search on a controversial topic, such as "politics," and 41 million hits are instantly ready for your perusal.

     

    TOO Big!

    That's just too much to deal with using today's tools.  There are gems of information out there that could make your day (and perhaps your fortune) if only you could glean the gestalt, the "big picture," of the information that exists AS IT RELATES TO YOUR SPECIFIC INTERESTS.  

    Let's explore a simple, home-oriented example (but which has numerous offshoots into the worlds of business and government and military and...) -- suppose you had company coming over for dinner and you wanted to prepare a particular dish, say a soufflé.  You type

    soufflé recipe

    into Google and you get 36,000 hits from just the surface Web.  These are useful, of course, although finding what might be the MOST useful recipes and tips, for you, is unlikely. 

    But suppose that your knowledge management system had kept track of your attempts to make soufflés in the past, watching as you prepared them and noting problems you may have had with certain types of recipes.  (If you do find yourself in this situation, remember that a flat soufflé can magically become a "pudding" for the unsuspecting guests - just don't discuss the menu in advance!).

    Along with keeping track of your culinary difficulties, your knowledge management system might also have been using its voice recognition and video systems to determine how your guests liked (or disliked) each soufflé you've attempted, and it is now applying all of its knowledge to more effectively winnow-down the recipes contained in those 36,000 hits.  It might (delicately) suggest that you watch a video tutorial it found on the Web; it might, knowing your tastes, offer a recipe for a new type of soufflé you might enjoy trying; or perhaps in extreme cases it might diplomatically point you to a source for gourmet frozen soufflés that could be delivered tomorrow prior to your dinner party!

     

    The Opportunities$.

    This is a simple example, of course, but it demonstrates the immense changes ahead once we eventually teach our computers to better UNDERSTAND the world around them.   But this isn't a "switch" that will be thrown; long before computers become "aware" enough to sift information at this extreme, we'll continue to come up with increasingly better ways to make use of the information at-hand.  And each new significant step towards more "information aware" computers will confer incredible advantages to those who make good use of them, similar to how some businesses profited from quickly adopting new technologies such as telephones, and even today's computers and software, before their competitors. 

    You could become a better cook.  Or a business might be able to better glean what its customers "really" want, and find better ways of satisfying those needs by constantly tying together disparate facts from information flows and sources that are far too voluminous for human input and analysis.  Or a military commander might make better decisions based upon enhanced knowledge of what's happening around her.  Or a government might become better at managing its economy through picking up faint trends long before they become apparent to today's information analysis techniques.

     

    The Bottom Line.

    The bottom line is all about increasing the quality of our knowledge in the face of what may be exponentially growing information. 

    We're increasingly living in an information-saturated and driven world, and our current tools for turning information into knowledge are pretty crude. But that suggests some dramatic opportunities for those who, incrementally, better tame the information tiger.

    Learn to cook (or consume) this "information soufflé" better, and lots of satisfied "diners" will beat a path to your table.

     

    Back to Table of Contents


    DO Bend, Fold, Spindle, And Mutilate.

     

    If you're old enough to remember when the "payment stub" sent with a bill was a punched card that you returned with your payment, then you're sure to remember that fateful warning of what you should not do to the punched card (since they machine-read the card when you returned it.)

    But now that the punched card is all but extinct, and as technology moves forward, Philips is demonstrating prototype thin, flexible displays that (to an extent) CAN be folded or spindled (although I'd be careful of the 'mutilate' part.)

    As shown at http://www.extra.research.philips.com/pressmedia/
    pictures/displays_rolldisp.html
    ,

    Image - Flexible display prototype - http://www.extra.research.philips.com/natlab/download/pictures/disp_roll_3_gelinck_et_al2_h.jpg
                             (Click here for a large version.)

    this display seems to offer much better resolution than prototypes of the past.  Details on how this works are at the spin-off company "PolymerVision's" Website at http://polymervision.nl/ under the "Technology" heading.  In essence, this technology causes pixels on the plastic to emit light when "active," rather than having LCD "shutters" block light when a pixel is "off," so no power-hungry backlight is required.  The film can also be used as a light source by turning every pixel on!  

    (I did once use my notebook for this purpose - years ago I was in a Paris hotel room, reading before going to sleep, when the power went out.  But I was at the "good part" of the book!  What to do?  "Ah" - saved by technology. 

    I displayed a blank white page on my multi-thousand dollar notebook and used the light to finish the book.  At that place and time and circumstance, it was a great use of technology!  I mean, computers are highly flexible information devices, but this...? J ).

    The bottom line, of course, is that as this and other new flexible display technologies mature, today's expectations of where we expect "displays" to be, and where we don't, are going to change radically.  With apologies to the famous quote, "All the world's a display" will likely come to pass, where the idea of static pages and pictures may (eventually) be just a curiosity.  (Come to think of it, didn't J. K. Rowling foretell this on the walls of Hogwarts?)

    No wizardry here though, other than the wizards who keep pushing technology.  And I can't wait to see their "final projects" in each year to come!

     

    Back to Table of Contents


    Begin Self-Serving Advertisement

    There's MUCH More I Can Do For You!

     

    You may not realize it, but there's much more to The Harrow Group than just "The Harrow Technology Report."

    For almost twenty years, as I've been sharing my research on the ever-faster-moving and converging technologies that are changing how we work, live, and play, I've also been working directly with businesses and organizations, large and small, to help them understand and address how these changes may affect them, their customers, and their customers' businesses, through a series of:

    ·    Presentations - Highly engaging, interactive, multimedia, constantly-updated presentations and keynote speeches to individual businesses, internal groups, and trade organizations, helping participants to viscerally understand and appreciate how technology has brought us to where we are today, and where it's likely to lead us tomorrow.
     

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    Please continue at http://www.theharrowgroup.com/consulting2.htm  for additional information.

    Then, contact me at Jeff@TheHarrowGroup.com with any additional questions, to discuss fees, and to schedule a consulting event.  I look forward to working with you!

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    Back to Table of Contents


    Storage Update.

     

    Since we were just talking about punched cards, the first most commonly used mass storage that, if I remember correctly, stored 80 columns of EBCDIC characters (or 120 bytes) of data each (http://www.cs.uiowa.edu/%7Ejones/cards/history.html), it's worth looking at the cost of storage today.

    But first a little trip down memory lane:  In 1984 I purchased the first commercially available hard disk drive for my Macintosh -- it had a capacity of 20 MEGAbytes, and cost $1,200.  That's $60 per MEGAbyte.

     

    Today.

    Now, 20 years later, the latest prices I see at TigerDirect.com (with whom I have no affiliation other than as an occasional customer) include an offer of a 200,000 MEGAbyte (200 GIGAbyte) disk drive for $99.99 after rebate!  That's -- $0.0005, or 5 one-hundredths of a penny -- per MEGAbyte (compared to $60 per MEGAbyte).  (http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools
    /item-details.asp?EdpNo=4497&Sku=THD-200A2%20P&CatId=134)

    That's a 120,000-times price reduction in 20 years.  Impressive!

     

    Even More!

    And if that's not capacity enough for you, consider that you can get a 300,000 MEGAbyte (300 GIGAbyte) drive for $279.99 (although in this case you're paying more -- $0.0009, or 9 hundredths of a penny -per MEGAbyte -- for this serious capacity).  (http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/SearchTools/
    item-details.asp?EdpNo=711488&Sku=THD-300M&CatId=134)

    That means that for $840, you can pack your PC with 3 disk drives that give you just under one-TERAbyte of storage.

     

    Just The Beginning.

    And of course this is just a very crude beginning, since we're still working with mechanically spinning media.  Just wait until the various solid state -- even atomic and molecular state -- techniques make it out of the lab and into our devices. 

    I stand by my earlier prediction that in just a few years, we won't see even budget PCs without at least a few TERAbytes of storage (just as today, they come with 20 or more GIGAbytes of storage...)

    Imagine the applications.

    Don't Blink!

     

    Back to Table of Contents


    R2D2 LIVES!

     

    Image - Hitachi prototype free-standing 3D display - http://www.mikeslist.com/80.htm 
and 
http://www.eetimes.com/sys/news/OEG20040226S0030

    "Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope."

     

    Well, it's not exactly R2D2 that lives, and although this picture from the March 13 Mike's List (http://www.mikeslist.com/80.htm) LOOKS like R2D2's holographic projection of Princess Leia, it's not.  (So much for 'Truth In Headlines!')  But it DOES result in a display similar to R2D2's "holographic projection," even though in this case it's all done with mirrors.

    Specifically, according to Hitachi research which developed this prototype (from the March 13 Mike's List and EETimes - http://www.mikeslist.com/80.htm and http://www.eetimes.com/sys/news/OEG20040226S0030)

    "...The Transport 3-D display system, built by the Hitachi Human Interaction Laboratory, is essentially a cylinder with a projector at the bottom and a mirror at the top, facing it. In between, 24 mirrors are arranged along the cylinder's circumference and a rotating screen sits at its center.

    After a proprietary camera captures moving or still images of an object from 24 directions, the projector projects them to the opposing top mirror. Images are then reflected at a certain angle to each of the 24 mirrors set along the cylinder's circumference. Those mirrors in turn reflect their views of the image onto the screen, which rotates 30 times a second.

    The screen shows each of the 24 reflected images one by one as it turns to squarely face the associated mirrors. Since the rotating screen is double-sided, viewers see images at 1/60 second from a particular angle, Hitachi said. The result, to the viewer's eye, is a 3-D image..."

    It only APPEARS to be a free-space 3D image.  Nevertheless, as the quality improves I can imagine a myriad of uses for such a device, ranging from medical and architectural imagine to, yes, "games" (which actually have been the driver of most of the graphic pizzazz we now take for granted.)

    So -- R2D2 does indeed still "live" as the undisputed 1977 champion of "display technologies we'd like to have."  It's a good thing that we have Science Fiction to whet our appetites and define some goals!

     

    Back to Table of Contents


    Pictures of the Week.

     

    Finally, who'd have guessed that this is the "one thing" that has been missing from the venerable Swiss Army Knife:

    Image - Victorinox's 'USB Swiss Army Knife' with 64-128 megabytes of memory - http://www.theregister.co.uk/media/1392.jpg

    It's true - a USB flash memory "disk drive," according to the March 10 The Register (http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/54/36148.html), with this 64 megabyte version weighing in at $68, and with higher capacity versions (up to 128 megabytes) to be priced later. 

    A 'new survival tool' for the digital world?

    Speaking of USB, I'm amazed at just how 'survivable' the genre of solid state USB pocket 'disk drives' are, as told by reader Ronald Sawyer:

    "Today an amazing thing happened, I purchased a 128 MB Thumbdrive a few months back and forgot I had it in my pocket. Well my pants were washed and dried with my Thumbdrive in them. Twelve minutes immersed in the wash and 90 minutes in the drier tumbling about in humid heat.

    To my surprise and delight it actually still works and there was no data loss. To think that in the mid-eighties when the $1000 5 MB Winchester hard disk drives came out, all you had to do was bump the desk the computer was on, and the drive was toast. I know this Thumbdrive is not the same mechanism as the old spinning drives, but it sure is refreshing to see that our data is safer on a transport device. It is amazing how rugged solid state devices are compared to their counterparts!"

    Of course the ability to carry relatively large amounts of data around is not limited to your pocket.  Cashncarrion offers a $147, USB 2.0 wristwatch with 256 megabytes of memory built in, and with the USB cable integrated into the watchband!  (http://www.cashncarrion.co.uk/?listPos=&op=
    catalogue-products-null&prodCategoryID=24)

    Image - Cashncarrion's USB2.0 Memory Watch - http://www.cashncarrion.co.uk/?imageID=360&op=imgLib-viewImage

    Speaking of "data," one beauty of digital data is that it can accommodate almost any form of information, including voice and pictures.  So why limit your wrist to simply storing a quarter-gigabyte of files?  India's "Reliance Mobile" (http://www.relianceinfo.com/) is looking to change this with the release of their Telson TWC1150 "Watch Phone."  (http://www.relianceinfo.com/Infocomm/html/
    whyrim/handsets_telson.html
      and
    http://www.cellular-news.com/story/10787.shtml)

    Image - Reliance Mobile's "Telson TWC1150" 'Watch Phone' - http://www.cellular-news.com/images/cellphones/Telson_TWC_1150.gif

    Although it looks cumbersome to me, this $529 CDMA2000 1x "phone" includes a 330,000 pixel plug-in digital camera, speakerphone, voice recording and recognition, and a "finger ring" earpiece that communicates with the phone via infrared (don't wear long sleeves!)  It even boasts "photo caller ID" so that the caller's picture pops up on the display when the phone rings.   Allegedly, the phone's battery will power it for 150 hours of standby time, or 100 minutes of talk time.  Overall, its specs. are impressive, indeed.

    The phone will initially be available in several cities in India, as well as through Reliance Mobile's Web site (http://www.relianceinfo.com/).

    (Speaking of sophisticated "wrist watches," they may soon be able to store far more data than your PC could just 2-3 years ago -- Toshiba plans to be producing a 0.85-inch -- that's less than one-inch in diameter -- disk drive that holds 4 gigabytes(!) -- by the end of 2004!

    Image - Toshiba's end-of-2004 .85-inch, 4-gigabyte Lilliputian disk drive - http://i.a.cnn.net/cnn/2004/TECH/ptech/03/16/toshiba.record.reut/story.toshiba.drive.cnn.jpg- (http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml;jsessionid=
    YX5ZXPK3QKXTUCRBAEZSFEY?type=
    technologyNews&storyID=
    4575033&section=news
      and
    http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/ptech/03/16/
    toshiba.record.reut/index.html )

     

    Your data -- just don't leave home without it...

     

    Back to Table of Contents


    About "The Harrow Technology Report.

      

    "The Harrow Technology Report" explores the innovations and trends of many contemporary and emerging technologies, and then draws some less than obvious connections between them, to help us each survive and prosper in the Knowledge Age. 

    "The Harrow Technology Report" is brought to you by Jeffrey R. Harrow, Principal of The Harrow Group. http://www.TheHarrowGroup.com .

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