Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Thursday 13/10/2005Men and women of the future, yourattention please. Jetpacks!

Thursday 13/10/2005
Men and women of the future, your attention please. Jetpacks! Houses on Mars! Home robots! World peace! Flexible displays! Siemens is promising only one of the above, and yeah, it's the runt of the litter. But as the press release says, "At the Plastics Electronics trade fair in Frankfurt, Siemens developers exhibited extremely thin, miniature color displays that can be printed onto paper or foil. And the displays can be produced at very low cost compared to LCD panels."

This has caused a lot of excitement among the younger set. The greybeards are less easily swayed, and many can be seen frowning slightly. "What's up, Gramps?" asked one whippersnapper. "This means TV on cornflake boxes, movies on posters and portraits just like the ones in Harry Potter". "If it did, innocenti," said the more patient of the wrinklies, "then it would be bad news indeed. But look at that press release in more detail."

"What, the bit about the videogames and the packaging with interactive instructions? Cool!" And the kid picked up a discarded postcard, held it like a Sony PSP and drummed his thumbs on the picture of Blackpool while making "Psssssh! Neeeeow! BANG!" noises.

"No," sighed Methuselah. "Look at the rest. 'Due in 2007. 'Is already working on.' 'Are optimising.' Anything like this which isn't promised in under three months -- well, you might as well make the downpayment for that country cottage on the slopes of Olympus Mons."

"You're just cynical, you know that? Can't keep up with technologies"

"Ten years ago, I was sitting in a lab near a university, and an enthusiastic young man -- not much older than you -- was showing me his latest invention. Plastic that glowed when you put volts through it. You could mix it up in an ordinary beaker, and off it went. Exciting new possibilities. Thin, miniature colour displays that could be printed on paper at pennies per sheet. It worked too -- I saw it. Two years, he said. Two years, and it would be everywhere. Just a few small production details to finalise. Contamination and compound breakdown, but those were just a matter of cleaning stuff up. Today, the stuff's in a few gadgets, but you'd never know it wasn't just an LCD. Does the press release mention what few small production details have to be finished?"

The kid wasn't listening. He'd already gone back to his Web browser. "Coo! Look at this, Gramps. An iPod that plays video! Moving pictures in your pocket. How cool is that?"

Gramps sighed and went back to his eBay auction. Ten minutes to go on the Sinclair Microvision, and it was looking good…