Aris Silzars Display Technology Consulting


Minor Details…December 2003

Each year, around the beginning of December, we enter that time of year – a period of about one month duration -- known as the "Serious Christmas-Shopping Season". During this time, hopeful recipients are making final additions to their lists of what they want Santa to bring them, while those who have taken on the designated Santa role are frantically seeking those exactly-right items that they hope will fulfill the most fervent fantasies of their list-makers.

Haystack Rock

In the spirit of this list making, and the giving and receiving of presents, I began to contemplate what some of our more future-oriented technologists and technology prognosticators should consider adding to their list of "presents" that they would like Santa to bring them. So should you decide to play Santa this year, here are some really interesting gift-idea opportunities for your elves to pursue.

For those technologists and prognosticators that have been predicting that computers will soon be smarter than humans, may their Christmas list be overflowing with various input and output devices to make such a result possible. Pure compute power and information storage capacity will never result in anything other than ever larger "computers," ready to process whatever data is entered into a given instruction set. And the instruction sets that try to emulate human behavior will never get it quite right – they will always come across as imitations. What it will take to make computers more human-like is the ability for the data and instruction sets to be modified by experiences with the living environment. A fire is hot -- I burned my temperature sensor – that was a dumb thing to do because it will now limit my ability to acquire new temperature data – I need to request a human to repair me – I won’t do that again – I promise.

Can these learning experiences be programmed in? Some of course can. But for a computer to become more human-like it will need the ability to continue this process, even if it is just to respond to its immediate environment. Otherwise, how does it learn the various habits and desires of the humans with whom it is interacting? Therefore, if Santa is unkind and does not bring all of these wished-for input and output devices, then the ever more powerful computers will just continue to do the tasks they do today – only just imperceptibly faster than our already I/O limited machines.

For my next group of Christmas-list makers and present recipients, I have chosen all those technologists and prognosticators who have been telling us how MEMS devices and nano-robots will soon take over the world. According to these prognosticators, incredibly small devices will circulate within our bodies doing all kinds of wonderful repairs, miniature dust-size nano-bots will fly through the air gathering information and perhaps attacking us like germs and viruses. For those prognosticators, may their wish list for Christmas have on it batteries or other power sources small enough and with sufficiently high energy storage capabilities to operate these nano-devices that they have so boldly envisioned. How else will these nano-devices do the marvelous tasks predicted of them? To date many of our attempts to miniaturize have been stymied be our inability to develop suitably small power sources. For example, why does your lap top computer only run for two hours on one set of batteries? What limits the size and usefulness of hearing aids? What about implantable pace makers? This is not the "wish" list we were working on, but you can see that it wouldn’t take much effort to make this one really long as well. So for all you enthusiastic "nano-bot" developers, may Santa be extra good to you and bring you the incredibly tiny and super dense power sources that you will need.

Next, let’s turn closer to home and add something to the lists of some of our display start-up companies. I know! I know! Some of you will tell me that you really don’t need anything this year. You are well funded and have 99% of your technology problems solved. Well, let me just suggest that on Christmas eve you put out your stocking asking Santa to bring you that final 1% "minor detail" of a materials problem that is "about solved anyway". It’s such a small thing to ask and how could Santa possibly turn down such a modest request? And if you promise not to bring it up, I promise not to tell him about all those past Christmases and all those now-extinct companies that decided they did not need to make such a modest request. So even if it seems that your smooth path to that first great product is assured, go ahead, add this small item to your list. Get in touch with Santa right away. He may be able to help you more that you will ever appreciate.

Finally, for all you "electronic paper" and "electronic book" developers, may Santa bring you a new and more convenient way to put information onto those electronic pages. Otherwise, with rows and columns and transistors at each pixel, your displays are beginning to look an awful lot like what we already have with today’s existing technologies. Last year, Santa must have been a real "scrooge" in this area because in 2003 we continued to see announcements for more "exciting new media", but very little about how to input the information into these media once we have created the new information-hungry pages.

As for my own list, I’m really quite happy with what I have and what is happening in the display world around me. In spite of the few dominant technologies, there are still exciting opportunities and the display community will be in a growth mode for years to come. I’m looking forward to an exciting 2004.

Should you wish to share some of the display-related items from your Christmas list with me, please contact me via this web site, directly by e-mail at Email, by phone at 425-898-9117, or by fax at 425-898-1727. Wishing you all the best during this Holiday Season, and for all of 2004.