Computing Applications

News Track

  1. Merger Marriages
  2. Call for Security
  3. Gigahertz and beyond
  4. Morphing Robotoys for X-mas
  5. Plasma Display
  6. Domain Name Stakes Upped
  7. Olfactory Opt In
  8. China's Email Shanghaid
  9. Author
  10. Tables

Bank mergers dominated 1998; 1999 was the year of the telecommunications merger. And this could be the year of Internet mergers. Experts expect the record-setting $166 billion merger of AOL and Time Warner may be the beginning of a wave of Net mergers and acquisitions. Analyst Jim Breyer of Accel Partners, Palo Alto, says the AOL–Time Warner deal only adds fuel to the merger frenzy. On the short list of big companies poised for a merger or an acquisition, other analysts say, are Walt Disney Co., Yahoo, and News Corp., all seen as needing either more media content or more Net capability to compete with AOL–Time Warner.

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Call for Security

In the wake of February’s crippling hacker attacks on popular Web sites, among them, eBay, Yahoo,, and E*Trade, President Clinton convened a meeting of computer executives and academics and endorsed a $9 million proposal to create a high-tech security institute. Companies represented included AOL, AT&T, Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Intel, MCI Worldcom, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, 3Com. Two other high-profile participants attended: Mudge, a member of both hacker group L0pht Heavy Industries, based in Massachusetts, and at@Stake, a “think tank” of hackers who perform security consulting; and Whitfield Diffie, co-inventor of public key cryptography.

“If I could talk with the people carrying out these disruptions, I’d tell them that their actions just aren’t the cool thing to do.”
—Kevin Mitnick, who spent 59 months in federal prison after being convicted of causing millions of dollars in damage by hacking company computer systems.

bullet.gif  IF THE NSA CAN’T DO IT …

National Security Agency confirmed it had a “serious computer problem” in mid-January that affected its ability to handle intelligence information. The Agency reported systems were down for 72 hours, contingency plans were immediately put into effect, and no significant information was lost.

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Gigahertz and beyond

The gigahertz chip era has arrived, faster than Gordon Moore could have predicted, reports the New York Times. Both Intel and IBM will introduce production chips in the second half of the year operating at gigahertz speeds. Though computers running at 100MHz are adequate for spreadsheets and word processing applications, demand from Internet and e-commerce applications ensures a voracious market for all the speed and performance chip makers can deliver. The first big market for gigahertz processors will likely be Web servers. Manufacturers say a processor operating in the gigahertz range will deliver truly interactive voice recognition and video. Intel says it will spend $5 billion on facilities and $3.8 billion on research and development this year. “It takes gigabucks to do gigahertz,” says Albert Yu, Intel’s senior vice president.

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Morphing Robotoys for X-mas

A few of the latest high-tech toys available before the 2000 holiday season:

Computer Sound Morpher (Intel Play, $44, ages 6 and up). PC-based microphone lets children record sounds, then morph and mix them with preset sounds and filters.

Digital Movie Creator (Intel Play, $100, ages 8 and up). Kids direct, film, star in, and edit their own movies on screen.

MindStorms Vision Command System (Lego, $100, ages 12 and up). Camera technology allows kids to build and design robots that respond to motion, light, and color.

Robotic Dog (Fisher-Price, $100, ages 3 and up.) Responds to childrens’ voices.

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Plasma Display

A new, tiny plasma display lit by a self-illuminating semiconductor chip promises future inexpensive electronic devices, from laptop computers to video conferencing to virtual reality eyepieces. The technology, developed by Martin P. Lepselter of BTL Fellows, Summit, N.J., involves inserting more than a million microscopic fluorescent tubes, each grouped into triads of red, green, and blue, with each triad acting like a tiny color pixel shining through the cover of a chip’s package. According to Lepselter, the technology could work on a laptop consisting of little more than a keyboard and an eyepiece, allowing the user to see the equivalent of a large screen, because the eye “becomes part of the optical circuit.” Laptops could sell for as little as $100, claims Lepselter.

Table. Who Gets the Most Email per Day

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Domain Name Stakes Upped

A Silicon Valley computer consultant sold the Internet domain name for $3 million in cash, continuing to raise the stakes for popular Web addresses. The price is the second highest paid for a domain name. The name was sold to Ecompanies of Santa Monica, Calif., for $7.5 million in 1999.

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Olfactory Opt In

A new digital language for recording, re-creating, and transmitting fragrances has been developed, dedicated to bringing smells to computer games, Web pages, and even movies. Digiscents of Oakland, Calif., also plans to sell a small computer peripheral, called iSmell, that would act as a personal scent synthesizer. Users would be able to activate different combinations of chemicals on a scent palette to produce various scents. Each palette would contain more than 100 fragrances, each about as strong as an air freshener. Digiscent officials say just about any digital medium can be fragrance enhanced in this manner. The company is also building a registry of thousands of scents developers can license. Recent olfactory research, combined with work on the international Human Genome Project, has found that of the more than 1,000 genes in human DNA, about 1,000 have something to do with the nose.

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China’s Email Shanghaid

Only 10 million people—less than 1% of China’s population—are online. But off-liners have an option: the post office. Letters can be brought to a post office, where they are scanned and emailed anywhere in the world. Customers who are wired but want to write someone who isn’t can email their missive to the post office where postal workers print it out, put it in an envelope, and deliver it with the regular express mail, which goes out twice daily via motorcycle or van. However, recipients balk at the $2 service charge, and the post office advertises mainly online, targeting people who need the service least.

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UT1 Table. Who Gets the Most Email per Day

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