Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting


The Display Continuum

What If You Could Have?…

What if you could have a laptop computer that was ready to use the moment you turned it on?  What if this laptop used so little power that it could operate for several days with no recharging?  What if this laptop had a display that you could easily read outdoors in full sunlight?  And what if you could buy such a product for around $150?  

And what if all this wasn’t just idle speculation?  What if such a product was within a month or two of reality?  Now, do I have your attention?  Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? 

At this year’s SID Business Conference, I had invited Mary Lou Jepsen to present the luncheon talk.  She is the Chief Technology Officer at One Laptop per Child in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The goal of this organization is to develop computer-aided education for parts of the world where there are few financial resources for purchasing currently available high technology devices.  This is a wonderful goal and deserves the support from all of us.  However, as I listened to her luncheon talk at the Business Conference, the thought kept popping into my head that the laptop she was describing would be a very nice electronic appliance to have for my own use.  At the time that seemed like a rather selfish way of thinking, but isn’t it even more wonderful that those in greater need are not being relegated to something that is of less value than the rest of us would wish to have?   

Since then I have had occasion to follow up on how this product is coming along and my convictions are growing that there is something here that goes beyond the admirable goal of supporting the economically less fortunate children of the world.  And for the very selfish reasons stated above, I want one of these laptop computers all for myself.  I’ll even buy two and send one to a needy person if I can keep the other one for my own use. 

Frankly, I am tired and frustrated of having to sit on an airplane or in a gate area while waiting many minutes for my laptop to get itself ready to do something useful.  And then of course having to wait for another several minutes at shutdown.   I’m tired of having to rush to finish what I am doing when the low-battery light begins to flash -- invariably while I am in the middle of a really important thought that I want to capture before it evaporates.  That happens after less than two hours of operation on my current top-brand-name computer.   The LC display that I have on this machine is really not all that bad, but it is still not adequate for use in most outdoor environments. 

Then today, in our local paper, I read what I consider to be the “last straw” in all of this unhelpful complexity that has beset our computers.  This article quoted a representative from Dell who stated that the upgrade to the new Windows Vista would most likely require more that the one Gigabyte of memory that is currently being recommended.  His conclusion was that Vista could require as much as two Gigabytes to operate properly.  And I thought that 512 Megabytes was a whole bunch!  And that is just for the operating system! 

Is all this complexity necessary for the simple tasks that I typically do such as reading e-mails, searching the Internet, writing word documents, and occasionally preparing a presentation?  What is happening here?  Why do I need an operating system requiring two Gigabytes of memory to do these straightforward tasks?  I could do almost all of them in the “good old days” using DOS.  And even if I do more involved projects such as image manipulation shouldn’t those be a controlled by whatever software I am using?  Isn’t my operating system supposed to just let me load programs and execute them when I wish to do so?  And what effect will this extra complexity have on how long it takes my computer to boot up?  Will I now have to wait for more than ten minutes?  

This unbounded rush to add ever more features and complexity clearly needs a balancing influence.   Perhaps that is why I am so enthusiastic and supportive of the One Laptop per Child effort.  It will help all the really needy children of the world but it may also give the rest of us not-so-poor and not-so-childlike users something that will be as exciting and become as popular as cell phones and iPods.   I for one am going to keep close watch on the development of this product.  I want to be among the first in line to buy one if and when that becomes possible.  

If you would like to enlighten me on your own wishes and predictions for the next generation of laptop computers -- and the displays they will have -- you may contact me directly from this site, by e-mail at, by telephone at 425-898-9117, or by fax at 425-898-1727.