New Technology Offers Glimpse of Wonders to Come

What would you pay for a display with more than four times the resolution of the best HDTV on the market today? Don't even bother to answer that unless you are an official at the US Department of Energy's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, which is scheduled to receive the first such units from IBM. The new 22-inch display boasts an astounding 200 pixels per inch and a total of more than 9 million pixels on its screen. It is said to create images "as clear as an original photograph."

The displays are based on a new active matrix liquid crystal display technique that uses aluminum instead of molybdenum and tungsten. IBM claims the ultra-high–resolution displays are the result of an intense research and development effort that brought them to market ten years ahead of analysts' predictions. "The technology can change the way computers are used in a wide range of areas where extremely high-resolution images are required," said Ross Young, president of Austin, TX-based Display Search, a display market research firm. "I am impressed that IBM is able to produce such displays today." Although early versions will be used for scientific purposes, IBM intends to license the technology to other manufacturers and expects to see it incorporated into displays for laptops and desktop computers—and who knows?—perhaps eventually into big screens for home theater use.

High-rez images need storage, and TDK is addressing that problem with some new high-capacity recordable disc technology. TDK worked with chip maker Calimetrics on the projecy, and claims to have boosted the data density of ordinary 700 megabyte CD-R and CD-RW discs to two gigabytes by altering the method of burning data onto the discs. The storage capacity increase of almost three times is accompanied by an equivalent increase in download speed using a "supercharged MultiLevel powered drive." The recorded discs cannot be read by normal disc drives, but the MultiLevel drive can read all other CD media, including DVD, according to Bruce Youmans, marketing director for TDK. No price has been set for the new drives.

There's a blue laser in your future: Philips Electronics NV recently gave reporters a glimpse of the future with a tour of the company's Eindhoven, Netherlands R&D lab for the blue-laser optical disc recording system it is developing in tandem with longtime partner Sony Corporation. Short-wavelength blue lasers, originally developed and still produced by Japan's Nichia Chemical, show great promise for high-data–density optical storage—the kind that will be needed for recordable high definition videodiscs.

HD discs would require at least 20GB for a two-hour movie, as compared to the 4.7GB of MPEG-2 encoded normal DVDs. Philips hopes to cram 22.5GB onto a 5" optical disc. Sony and Pioneer recently demonstrated an experimental blue laser machine at the CEATEC technology show in Japan; Sony is said to be concentrating on blue laser digital video recorders as the next logical progression in recordable disc formats.