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News Items July, August, September 2002

AMD Says New Transistors Are Smallest Ever (9/15/02)

Mobile Phone Replaces Photo Album for Picture Storage (8/14/02)

Online Peer Reviews of Journals (8/13/02)

Cell Program Promises Supercomputer on A Chip (8/11/02)

Some Libraries Moving Away From Books (7/8/02)

Searching is Number 1 Net Activity (7/6/02)

Spintronics Shrinks Data Storage to Nanoscale (7/4/02)

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AMD Says New Transistors Are Smallest Ever

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) said it has developed the smallest double-gate transistor that uses industry-standard manufacturing processes. Transistors relay data in a binary mode as electrical currents are switched on and off, and the gate is the point on the transistor through which the current passes. Double-gate transistors can transmit twice the electrical current of a single-gate transistor. The size of the new transistor, according to AMD, could allow chips that currently hold 100 million transistors to hold as many as 1 billion. AMD said that the new transistors, which were developed in cooperation with researchers at the University of California at Berkeley and supported by the Semiconductor Research Corporation, are not yet ready for the market but that details of the research will be presented in December at the International Electron Devices Meeting. NewsFactor Network, 11 September 2002 http://www.newsfactor.com/perl/story/19370.html Pn (Edupage, September 11, 2002)

Comment: This is another example of a rate of progress that may be even faster than that predicted by Moore's Law.

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Mobile Phone Replaces Photo Album for Picture Storage

Proud parents in Japan are just as likely to whip out their mobile phones to show you pictures of their children as fumble through their wallets for school photos. The latest generation of cell phones feature tiny cameras and full-color screens, in addition to digital zoom lenses, higher-resolution displays and enough memory to store hundreds of photos, and analysts predict that these new features will prove irresistible to American and European consumers as the 3G handsets hit the global market. "It's often said that Japanese love cameras, but Europeans and Americans in particular see family photos as something special, even putting them up in their cubicles at work," says Gartner analyst Nahoko Mitsuyama. "Theirs is a culture that puts a high value on photos, and if that can be tapped into, I think there'll be demand for these products outside Japan as well." (Reuters 13 Aug 2002) http://story.news.yahoo.
20020813 /tc_nm/column_pluggedin_dc_1
(NewsScan Daily, 14 August 2002).

Comment: This is a technology that will likely be widely adopted. The students who now have cell telephones will have cell telephones that take and store pictures. This means that students and teachers will have easy access to the "front end" of this aspect of technology in education.

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Online Peer Reviews of Journals

Among the 25,000 peer-reviewed journals worldwide, an increasing number are abandoning the traditional, mail-based process for reviewing and editing articles, turning instead to electronic systems. According to Rick Johnson, enterprise director of the Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition, "Journals sink or swim based on whether they attract the top authors." The significant time savings from conducting the peer-review process electronically, he said, puts journals that make the change at a competitive advantage over those that do not. Money saved on postage can also be substantial. The Journal of the American College of Cardiology expects to save 80 percent of its postal budget, $60,000 to $70,000 per year, by switching to an electronic system. Other advantages include convenience and reduced risk of errors and lost mailings. New York Times, 12 August 2002 (registration req'd) http://www.nytimes.com/2002/08/12/technology/
12NECO.html. (Edupage, August 12, 2002)

Comment: This brief news item is interesting both because it shows increased use of Information and Communications Technology in a "traditional" surface mail environment, and because it gives the figure of 25,000 peer reviewed journals worldwide. One would have to be a really fast reader to keep up with this flow of research information!

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Cell Program Promises Supercomputer on A Chip

IBM, Toshiba, and Sony have teamed up on a project to develop a processor reportedly 100 times faster than a 2.5 GHz Pentium 4. The project, called Cell, could lead to a single processor capable of one teraflop, or one trillion calculations per second. The Cell chip has an architecture comprising several cores--effectively having multiple processors--on the same chip, allowing it to execute data-heavy communications while running high-end media. The result is a processor that is expected to significantly improve the experience for video games, DVDs, and other processor-intense applications. Analysts said the challenge will be writing applications that can take full advantage of the flexibility and power of the new chip. NewsFactor Network, 7 August 2002 http://www.newsfactor.com/perl/story/18921.html. (Edupage, August 07, 2002)

Comment: This is another example of the accumulating evidence that Moore's Law will continue to hold for at least another decade. Moore's Law suggests a doubling in the speed of a CPU chip over a period of 18 months. Seven doublings is a factor of 128, with Moore's law predicting that this will occur over a time period of 10.5 years.

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Some Libraries Moving Away From Books

Many libraries, particularly those on college campuses, increasingly face the question of whether technology will replace books as their primary means of distributing information. Some institutions such as the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities have thoroughly renovated their libraries, moving stacks to the basement and installing computer labs and other technology resources in the main areas of the building. Many colleges and universities similarly are updating their libraries with network access, multimedia facilities, and wireless technology. Critics of this trend worry that a focus on technology and tools will replace genuine learning. Many defend books as being as useful and relevant as computers and information technology. Some institutions try to address the concerns of both groups, preserving a focus on books while adding technology to their facilities. Chronicle of Higher Education, 8 July 2002 http://chronicle.com/free/v48/i44/44a03101.htm (Edupage, July 08, 2002).

Comment: The Web can be considered to be a library (a Global Library). While large parts of this library are available free to users, other parts are available only to people or groups that pay for the service. The Web (Global Library) is both larger and quite a bit different than a traditional hard copy library. At the current time, traditional libraries and the Web each have some unique advantages.

School, college, and university libraries face the challenge of deciding how to divide their resources between these two types of resources. Over the long run, it is clear that the Web will eventually become the dominant library resource. But, this "long run" is a long way off.

For example, consider the advantages of a hard copy library in one's home, classroom, and school in terms of actually getting a book in the hands of a student. Research strongly supports the value of students having good and easy access to books that are appropriate to their interests and reading level. We are a long long way from having high quality ebook readers that are readily available to all students and that provide good access to the full range of books.

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Searching is Number 1 Net Activity

Internet users increasingly are focusing their computer time on finding specific information via search engine, rather than aimlessly clicking from one site to the next, according to new statistics collected by the Pew Internet Project. More than 80% of all U.S. users have employed a search engine, and 29% of respondents turn to search engines every day to locate information online. Among Internet users who've been online for three years or more, the percentage of daily search engine users rises to 40%. The only activity more popular than searching is e-mail, which 52% said they did on a daily basis. The survey results indicate that people are learning to trust the results produced by search engines, and tend to rely on them rather than scouring the Web on their own. Google ranked No. 1 in popularity, based on the average number of minutes people spend using it per month. (BBC News 5 Jul 2002) http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/
sci/tech/newsid_2097000/2097032.stm (NewsScan Daily, 5 July 2002)

Comment: The Web can be thought of as a Global Library. It is not easy to learn to make effective use of such a huge library. It is, of course, easy to learn to learn to make use of a search engine. But, that is a very small part of learning to make effective use of the Web. Our current educational system is introducing almost all children to the Web and search engines. However, it is not doing a very good job of helping students gin the needed skills of a research librarian.

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Spintronics Shrinks Data Storage to Nanoscale

Researchers at the University at Buffalo in New York have developed a nickel-based, magnetic sensor, measuring only a few atoms in diameter, that could increase data storage capacity 1,000 times through the use of spintronics -- a field that takes advantage of electron spin as well as charge. Current technology used in data-reading sensors is based on giant magnetoresistance (GMR), where sensor resistance changes in a magnetic field. The new sensor developed at UB creates an effect called ballistic magnetoresistance (BMR), which uses an electrical conductor only a few atoms in size. Researchers say the technology could ultimately make it possible to store 50 or more DVDs on a hard drive the size of a credit card, or enable military personnel to carry supercomputers the size of a wristwatch into the field. (NewsFactor 1 Jul 2002) http://www.newsfactor.com/perl/story/18446.html (NewsScan Daily, 2 July 2002).

Comment: One can now buy an 80 to 120 gigabytes disk storage system for $300 to $400. Roughly speaking, a megabyte is equivalent to a book, such as a novel. One Hundred gigabytes is thus roughly equivalent to 100,000 books. A further gain by a factor of 1,000 (suggested by the brief news item) would bring this to 100 million books. Imagine being able to store the entire US Library of Congress on your hard drive! More challenging, imagine educating students for life in a world in which such library access is routine. Such huge storage systems are needed for the routine access to video. Roughly, a full length movie stored on a DVD is about 6 gigabytes in length. Thus, 100 gigabytes stores about 16 movies. Multiply that by a thousand, and you now have the ability to store about 16,000 movies on a hard drive.

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