Monday, July 14, 2008

The Future of Digital Reading? The Scroll!

Henri watched the video from last week and then came across this story in the New York Times:

One new mobile device, the Readius, designed mainly for reading books, magazines, newspapers and mail, is the size of a standard cellphone. Flip it open, though, and a screen tucked within the housing opens to a 5-inch diagonal display. The screen looks just like a liquid crystal display, but can bend so flexibly that it can wrap around a finger.

That started him thinking!

Scrolls and scholars and scribes, oh my! The world of books is starting to wend its way back into the future. Pre paper and even pre printing press most of the books in the world were written by hand on sheets of something, typically vellum made from lambskin, that rolled up easily and stored well called a scroll.
The world of computing has a notebook that can use a voice based interface or can be written on directly by a stylus. The next generation will have screens that roll up into the small device which holds their memory and communications technologies. The Scroll is on the way back. One big difference is that the whole library at Alexandria would fit into the chip that will store all of the data residing on the device.

Older people, like me, can hardly comprehend a world in which my personal digital assistant can read to me, take dictation and manage all of myreading and writing needs. Gigi tells me that it can be done.

By the time I catch up, I am sure that the roll-up screen will be more ubiquitous than massive CRT monitors once were. You remember them, they used to reside on our desks and dispense data and eyestrain with their big ugly screens, green letters and not an image in sight! Well maybe you don't remember them; you are probably a lot younger than I. But I remember them all too well.

Several types of new roll-able technologies are vying for a piece of the thin roll-up screen market. This will be a piece of the next e-reader revolution that will eventually resonate throughout the whole computing market.

eInk, OLED, (organic light emitting diodes printed on plastic) and other technical solutions will all be tried. What will eventually emerge looks like it might be an interesting variation on the original book, the scroll.

Whatever it turns out to be, it will not very likely resemble any prior solution to reading needs. It will, no doubt, be infinitely better than the current tiny screens with their even tinier keyboards found on our cell phones.

The wonder of it all! Soon our computing and communication needs will be met by devices that are the size of a large pen. With the advent of that technology one can only hope that the interface that connects directly to the human brain will not be far behind.

Otherwise our public places will be full of people talking not to one another but to their PDA's and other devices. That might be too annoying to be bourn even by a technology addict like my wife.

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