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Technology Today

July 2000         

I hope that you were at the June ICS meeting because if you missed it, you missed some very interesting trends in computer hardware. People have for years longed for a tiny computer to take with them and for years, companies have been struggling to give us products that we quickly embrace and just as quickly, give up on. I have also been playing this game since 1984 when I purchased a NEC 8201A computer, it was a clone of the Radio Shack Model 100 and was a true laptop computer with probably the best keyboard I have ever seen on a laptop since. Naturally, it was not IBM PC compatible, was great for note taking, playing simple games, and keeping a calendar, and you kept track of how many pages it could store. It traveled wonderfully, was instantly on when you hit the button, and sold for around $600. Sounds kind of like the PDA (Personal Digital Assistants) we see today. They are not IBM compatible, use a different operating system, require strange cables to transfer data to your computers, and typically, run on AA batteries. Great for note taking and calendars, some games, and sells for around $600. Have we really traveled that little in 16 years, and I wonder if I could have played music on my NEC?

But all is not as it seems. For one thing, that $600 back in 1984 would have been worth over $1300 today, secondly, today’s machines can connect you online from no matter where you are if you are so inclined, and lastly, the amount of content available today is incredible. I still marvel over seeing how Ed Metzler takes news articles from internet pages, downloads them to his PDA (Palm Pilot) and spends his spare time catching up with the news of the world. Some of these new machines will connect directly to the internet either via land line or cellular/digital system directly to keep you abreast of your email and news. For those of us who struggle keeping track of appointments, notes, people, and places, these are great tools to look into.

As you look for that smaller device to take on the road, you really have a lot of options. Notebooks today are getting larger and smaller all the time. My new ThinkPad has a wonderfully bright screen but the darn thing does weigh in quite a bit when you include the ac adapter and my road warrior kit for traveling. There are a lot of very small notebook computers like the new Sony Viao’s and they are quite a change but if you plan on doing a lot of computing on the road, you will quickly find with these that you still bring a lot of accessories with you. Many of these smaller units don’t include things like a CD ROM or floppy drive and so the accessory bag gets heavier all the time.  While the above are all still Windows98 computers, the Windows CE computers that look like a notebook are something to see. Casio came out with their Cassiopeia and Sharp the Mobilion really reduce the weight and accessories that you carry around but you quickly find you can’t just load your applications. Like the small Pocket PCs of above, you pretty much stick with the bundled versions of the desktop applications and make do and in fact you can but you really need to think about what you want these computers to do. A couple of years ago, I had a chance to work with the Cassiopeia at Comdex and found I had a real difficult time with both the screen and the keyboard. You really need to check out the new models. As to the new Pocket PCs that we saw at the June ICS meeting, you really need to get a closer look at them. Best place to start would be the June issue of Pocket PC Magazine. They do a pretty good write-up of the latest round of Pocket PCs and you might just find one suited for what you need.

Short Takes

Is there more to life with DVD? Well, it seems that the industry, or at least a part of them including Hitachi, Toshiba, and Panasonic, will be getting together to support one of the writeable DVD standards called DVD-RAM. This technology allows you to create your own DVD discs and store up to 4.7 gigabytes of data. In fact, if you get the flip type media, you can store another 4.7GB on the back side for a total of 9.4GB on one disc. Don’t look for one of these soon for less than $1000 as the prices are still quite high.

A lot of new and interesting content and CDs are coming out. Here are a couple that I have taken a look at recently. 

Graham Nash, well known to many of us from the group Crosby, Stills, and Nash, is also a very talented photographer who has opened a studio called Nash Editions out of Manhattan Beach, CA. He was in town with a couple of friends recently (months before the concert) at the Indianapolis Art League showing off what they have done with digital imaging, printers, and cameras and it was quite a show to see. As part of that, they have issued a multimedia CD called “Digital Frontiers, Photography’s Future at Nash Editions” that takes you on a tour of the studio as well as gives you insight and commentary on several of the photographs and digital images that they have created. Wonderful art work that is a combination of digital imagery, photographs, and other art mediums, all created and printed with a digital ink jet printer. No ordinary ink jet printer, the very large format Iris 3047 Graphics Printer is costing over $50,000 dollars but the output is something to see.  The CD uses QuickTime movies to show the images and movies and Macromedia to put the story together. Done very well despite the fact it did not install properly and in fact, when I was showing one movie, locked up my computer. Not sure if that was because of the QuickTime or a corrupted file. For an update to what they are doing, visit their web site at www.nasheditions.com

Another interesting CD I picked up was from the Art Gallery of Toronto. I had gone there to see a traveling exhibit from the Courtauld Gallery, London UK and they had produced a multimedia CD to go with the show. In fact, I have seen this type of CD at several other shows as well. The CD is both music and multimedia. There is about 46 minutes of music and a multimedia section that takes you through the exhibit with 60 images on the CD from the exhibit. Put together very well.

Robert Sanborn
Robert Sanborn is an Independent Personal Computer Consultant, General Manager for That Computer Store in Indianapolis, IN, and the Program Chairman for the Indianapolis Computer Society. Reach him through the net at sansoft@in.net

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