by September 5, 2000 0 comments

Chips that’ll shrink cellphones to wristwatch size
Japan’s Mitsubishi Electric announced the development of new IC processing
technology that will combine digital and analog technologies–including logic
and memory functions–onto a single system chip. The company predicted that ICs
built around this technology would enable companies to make cellular telephones
small enough to be packaged as a wristwatch.

Mitsubishi said it hopes to introduce wrist-band cellphones
as early as next spring. The company believes the units would be popular among
younger consumers. Other products that could benefit from single-chip circuits–in
terms of shrinking the size and weight of onboard electronics systems–are
digital cameras, televisions, cars, and household appliances.

Integrating analog and high-level digital circuits onto a
single chip has proven difficult due to the electronic signal “noise”
created by the two different technologies. The signals easily interfere with
each other’s functions, causing system errors and crashes. However, Mitsubishi
said that its latest process technology reduces noise levels enough for the
system functions to operate normally.


Intel’s Pocket PC Camera
Intel announced it’s now selling the Intel Pocket PC Camera–a compact,
digital, still and video camera that’ll allow consumers to take Internet-ready
photos and short video clips, to post on a Website or send as e-mail

The Intel Pocket PC Camera weighs 8 ounces with four AAA
batteries, and can be shoved into most pockets. It will retail for $149. It has
8 MB of flash memory, and is capable of taking 128 pictures or two minutes of
video in 640×480 pixel mode. Though much lower in resolution than regular
digital cameras–which have 1,028×960 pixels, the images are ideal for
transmission over the bandwidth-sensitive Internet, where most consumers use 33K
or 56K modems.

The camera includes software that allows for downloading
images to a computer. You can then use the software to adjust quality or crop
the images, before e-mailing them or posting them to personal Web pages.

IBM builds functional five-atom quantum computer
IBM announced that it’s built the world’s first prototype computer based on
quantum mechanics. The system uses five atoms to work as its processor and
memory. Researchers were able to use the “system” to solve a typical
mathematical problem used in cryptography–finding the period of a function.
Unlike conventional systems that would require multiple cycles to solve the
simple problem, the quantum machine accomplished the task almost instantly, in a
single step.

Unlike regular transistors which have an “on” and
“off” state, the quantum-based transistor has a third state that can
be described as “both” or “neither”.  The state of the
quantum transistor is dependent on the spin of an electron. When the spin of a
particle is up, the atom can be read as a one, and the spin down can be read as
a zero. In the quantum computer, quantum particles can also be in a state of
“superposition”–spinning simultaneously up and down. This state
would represent both zero and one and everything in between. So, instead of
solving the problem by adding all the numbers in order, a quantum computer would
add all the numbers at the same time.

This phenomenon permits a quantum computer to have enormous
power. For certain types of calculations, like complex algorithms for
cryptography or searches, a quantum computer using several hundred more atoms in
tandem would be able to perform billions of calculations at the same time.

For IBM, the next phase will be to build a machine with seven
to ten atoms working in tandem. This would take another two years. The first
commercial versions of the machine won’t be available for another 15-20 years.
A quantum computer could eventually be used for practical purposes such as
database searches–for example, searching the Web could be made a great deal
faster–but probably not for more mundane tasks such as word processing.

Linux-based wristwatch
In a test project to design the smallest possible Linux operating system
kernel, IBM announced that its engineers have built a prototype Linux-based
wristwatch that also receives pages and some e-mail. The 1.5-ounce device was
designed to communicate wirelessly with PCs, cellphones and other
wireless-enabled devices. The “smart watch” will have the ability to
view condensed e-mail messages and directly receive pager-like messages.

IBM has no plans to bring a Linux watch to the market. It
said that this was just a research prototype, “to show Linux is capable of
doing this.”


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