Typical, just when you’ve come up with a charming game about the Plague (ring-a-ring-a-roses), some scientist comes along and eliminates the virus. It seems that they’re even after the old childhood favourite “Paper, Scissors, Stone”. Yet the much awaited global takeover of plastic “paper” is still, it has to be admitted, very much awaited. The technology to end all rainforest destruction is still in its early days but gradual advances are being made. |
Back in the 1940s Alan Turing, one of the UK’s most innovative mathematical (if hunted) geniuses, predicted that one day not so very far off in the future everybody would be wandering around with their own little hand-held computer. He even predicted that these little handy helpers would become our best friends. Since the 1990s there has been a mad dash on the part of computer and phone manufacturers to make Turing’s dream a reality and today, we’re all tooled up with our Smart phones, laptops, tablet computers and even our desktop PCs. Somewhere in all this rush, a small detail seems to have been missed. Small is a good word for it.
Small is not Always Beautiful
There’s an imperative in the science and technology world to make great inventions smaller. It’s an imperative that misses the point, with some technology. The grandparents of our current flat screen TVs were indeed hernia-inducing behemoths, while those wonderful desktop PCs of the late eighties and early nineties were similarly difficult to relocate should the need arise. Mobile phones doubled up as offensive weapons and, if you wanted to get a document to the other side of the world quickly, you had to hope that somebody was standing by the fax and there was some paper in it. Today, when we answer our phones, check our email and watch some inspiring TED documentary, often at all the same time, we can be grateful that this urge to “go-small” on the technology front has been fruitful. However, in creating the smallest solutions, science has not made the most easy to read screens in history.
E-paper – the Missing Link?
Enter e-paper. Or at least, allow e-paper to lurk in the wings. A number of companies have e-paper well and truly under development and it is commercially available. Yet it’s taking its time getting onto the wider market. When, however, it does make a widespread debut, it’s likely to become the must have gadget that we will all wonder how we lived without. The smart phone is great and it allows us to carry everything that we need for both work and pleasure. The only problem is that the screen is too small to be practical. In the rush to minimise the great tech of today, manufacturers have overlooked the simple fact that small is not always perfectly formed; especially when you’re trying to read a long, complex document.
Biopic or Myopic
That’s the problem, ultimately with these small screen productions. While you can comfortably download a copy of War and Peace to your smart phone, the reading experience is anything but comfortable. Enter the Tablet you might say, and also the Kindle. In fact you can bring on a whole cast of alternative bits of kit to synchronise, download to integrate and generally fiddle with. E-paper offers a solution like no other. As yet its take up for the most obvious market – the newspaper – is slow, although two French publications have started to issue an e-paper version. The rest of the old media will, hopefully have the sense to follow suit quickly. As all of us who work in the media know, but don’t want to admit, the Newspaper is dead, or nearly. The e-paper option could give them just the electronic shock treatment that they need.
Simon writes about plastic electronics and technology, covering everything from flexible Plastic displays to smart phones
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