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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

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The number of European households connected to the Internet increased by 55% between March and October of 2000, and Europe now has more users than the U.S., the European Commission reported. The findings, published in "Impact and Priorities of the eEurope 2002 Initiative," cite the increasingly liberalized European telecom market for the sharp rise in users; Internet access prices fell an average of 23% over the same period in 1999 and by as much as 47% in some EU countries. Internet growth has been even faster in EU schools; 80% are now connected to the Internet for educational purposes. Although penetration is not as high as in the U.S., it is enough for EU citizens to outnumber Americans on the Net, the Commission said. The EU population totals around 375 million, compared to about 270 million in the U.S.

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In-Dash MP3

The race is on to market in-car audio systems that can store and play MP3 files, the de facto standard for digitally compressed audio, the format made popular by Napster. By offering in-car MP3 capabilities, companies large and small see cars as an overlooked market and are pushing MP3 players, which are already widely popular in Walkman-style form. Data Corp. predicts the portable segment alone will grow from the estimated 1.3 million units shipped in 2000 to 6.7 million in 2003. Among pioneering systems being offered is a $1,999 in-dash player capable of storing as much as 1,000 hours of musicenough to drive round-trip from Los Angeles to New York City more than 10 times without listening to the same song twice.


MP3 as a format is not going to go away. The whole idea of bringing digital music to the automobile is inevitable."


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Poll on the Future

Attendees at the ACM1 conference were asked about their views on the future of technology and how humans will interact with it. Here are a sampling of those views:

  • By 2006, Moore's Law will no longer be in effect
  • By 2015, computers will be smarter than humans
  • 16% expect to be immortal due to technology; 23% said their grandchildren will be immortal
  • 53% said ambient, ubiquitous, pervasive computing will improve the quality of life
  • 66% said computers will be self-replicating by 2047

Source: Computerworld

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Beam of Pain

An energy beam that inflicts pain without lasting harm has been developed by the U.S. Pentagon in Air Force research laboratories in New Mexico and Texas as part of a multi-service program run by the Marine Corps. The "nonlethal" weapon, called "active denial technology" is designed to stop people by firing millimeter-wave electromagnetic energy in a beam that quickly heats the surface of the target's skin. Within seconds, officials say, the person feels pain similar to touching a hot light bulb. However, Human Rights Watch questions whether the weapon would be safe to use against civilians caught in combat situations, citing possible effects on children, pregnant women, and the elderly or when the beam is aimed at someone's eye. The Marine Corps plans to mount the weapon on Humvees and possibly on aircraft and ships by 2009.

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Laundry Made Easier

An online laundry system is being tested at MIT, and if found viable, will be rolled out at colleges nationwide, reports the New York Times. Although laundry still has to be physically loaded in machines, travel time is more efficient via wireless technology developed by e-Vend.net, Kennett Square, PA. The idea: with a password, students log onto a Web site to see whether a machine is available in their dormitory's laundry room. Once clothes are in their washing and drying process, students receive email reminding them when washing or drying cycles are finished. The system's wireless technology uses a kind of key fob held in front of the machine, where a detector picks up its radio frequency signal. Machines are wired to a nearby hub that transmits the information to e-Vend.net's servers. Once in commercial use, the system would automatically deduct laundry charges from an account. Biggest gripe: some students would like to receive email alerting them how much time remains on their wash and dry cycles.

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Detecting Schizophrenia

A new computer program can pick up the first signs of schizophreniaeven before people start showing symptoms, reports New Scientist. An "artificial brain," developed at the University of British Columbia, is modeled on a human brain, with clusters of software processors designed to behave like brain cells. Recent evidence shows certain parts of the brain are disrupted in people suffering from schizophrenia, and comparing a patient's brain scan with the computer model can determine if the disease is present. As a test, four healthy people and nine diagnosed as having schizophrenia were scanned; the computer was able to identify those with the disease with 100% accuracy.

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Internet Earthquake Warnings

The Seattle earthquake in February was yet another incentive for scientists at Caltech and the U.S. Geological Survey to pursue an ambitious Internet-enabled earthquake early-warning system for Southern California, the first of its kind in the U.S. For the last five years Caltech and the USGS have been upgrading the region's network of quake detection stationsa system of sensors that digitally transmit the magnitude and velocity of earthquakes. When complete, the $21 million project will make Southern California the best-monitored earthquake zone in the world. Caltech is also working on software to broadcast quake warnings over the Internet to emergency workers and local authorities. "We find out that something is going on almost at the speed of light," says Jim Goltz, Caltech's manager of earthquake programs. "The delay between us knowing what's going on and the ground motion may give us time to get a warning out."

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Patron Net Saint

Pope John Paul is considering naming Saint Isidore of Seville the patron saint of Internet users and computer programmers, Vatican sources said. Saint Isidore, who lived in the seventh century, is believed by some to have written the world's first encyclopedia, the Etymologies, which included entries on medicine, mathematics, history, and theology. The Pope himself moved into cyberspace in 1998, broadcasting prayers on Sundays to the world's one billion Roman Catholics. Though Saint Isidore was nominated as the computer saint two years ago, the Pope has yet to decide on his endorsement.

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Author

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©2001 ACM  0002-0782/01/0500  $5.00

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