Molecular storage. (surface-enhanced Raman optical data storage for compact disks)
by Jill Champion
CD players with multiple-disc changers can give you several hours of screaming guitars or whispering cellos--whichever you prefer. But imagine being able to store your entire music library on a single disc with the option of days--or even weeks--of continuous play with no repetition.
It sounds amazing, but researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a technology called surface-enhanced Raman optical data storage (SERODS) with a potential for mass storage that not too long ago would have been inconceivable. A 12-inch SERODS compact disc will be able to hold in excess of 100 times more information than today's standard 12-inch CD and 1.5 million put that in more concrete terms, a single SERODS disc could hold 18,000 sets of the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Today's compact discs with read-only memory (ROM) store data in bits--a binary-digit system of 1s ("on" bits) and 0s ("off" bits) arranged sequentially into a meaningful code. The bits are formed when microscopic pits are burned into a disc using a laser, which results in the disc's surface being physically riddled with "peaks" (0s) and "valleys" (1s). The disc is read by a detector that distinguishes between laser light reflected from the peaks and light scattered by the valleys.
By comparison, a SERODS disc is based on an optical effect in which laser light shines on a molecule, and the molecule vibrates and scatters the light. The scattered light modulates at a frequency corresponding to the molecule's vibration, an effect called Raman scattering. When molecules are close to a microstructured metal surface, their Raman scattering is enhanced up to 100 million times. This phenomenon is known as surface-enhanced Raman scattering, or SERS, and it serves as the basis on which surface-enhanced Raman optical data storage operates. Because data is stored at the molecular level (no physical alteration such as burned-in pits occurs; molecules are simply manipulated), a SERODS disc dramatically outperforms ordinary discs.
Organizations in both government and private industry--including the entertainment industry--are now pursuing licensing agreements to use SERODS technology. That means you might soon be able to forget about a CD carrying case for your car's new Discman. Your entire music collection will play from one 12-inch CD. For more information, contact Oak Ridge National Laboratories Public Affairs, Attn: Darryl Armstrong, P.O. Box 2008, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831-6266; (615) 574-4160 (voice), (615) 574-0595 (fax).
TV in a PC
Picture-in-Picture television has been around for a couple of years now, but what would you think about a television picture in a window on your computer screen? If the idea sounds too futuristic--and expensive--to be true, think again. A mere $299 will buy WatchIT! TV--a video board that lets you watch your favorite television programs on your PC screen while you work in any Windows or DOS application. Sounds complicated? Assuming your VGA card has a feature connector (most VGA boards do), the board installs in your computer in minutes--with only a screwdriver.
Instead of staying at the office, you can bring home your electronic paperwork and still catch "The Simpsons" on Thursday nights--without glancing away from your computer screen. Or, if you need to stay tuned constantly to financial markets or other news sources, you'll no longer have to race back and forth between the television set and your PC.
Position the television window anywhere on your computer screen and size it to one-fourth or one-sixteenth of your screen size. Want to take a break from your work? Display the television picture on your entire screen. Furthermore, you can capture the television image at any point and save it as a still image in any of a variety of popular formats, including PCX, BMP, BMP-24, and all TGA formats.
Use the onscreen pop-up "remote control" panel to change channels; adjust volume, color, and screen size; and save screen images--all without leaving your current application. And, you can use the programmable timer to turn on the television at any time and on any channel you select. And since WatchIT!TV will connect to an antenna, cable, VCR, or video camera, you can view video from a variety of sources--even use it to monitor the baby's room.
For private listening, earphones that hook into the video board are included with WatchIT!TV, or you can plug in your own amplified speakers for regular listening. If you would like more information, contact New Media Graphics, 780 Boston Road, Billerica, Massachusetts 01821-5925; (508) 663-0666 (voice), (508) 663-6678 (fax).
Lure of the Liberated
The effects of women's lib--specifically, where equal representation is concerned--are finally trickling down to one traditionally male-dominated area of computer role-playing games: that of the villain (or in this case, the villainess). Not that any male adversary has ever been labeled a "temper," but at least in Konami's latest release, Lure of the Temptress, developed by Revolution Software, the primary antagonist, Selena, has enough dirty deeds up her spiteful sleeves to out-evil the best of her macho peers.
To make matters even more interesting, Lure of the Temptress is played in Virtual Theatre, the latest in artificial-intelligence technology, where the game world advances and develops in realtime, evolving independently of your actions. Other characters take on a life of their own, and you never know what might happen. However, instead of controlling only your own character (a peasant, in this case), you're allowed to give commands to other characters as well, a key element to the game's outcome. In the medieval village of Turnvale, where your primary mission is to defeat the nefarious Selena, your actions affect rather than dictate what happens.
The driving force behind your desire to defeat Selena? If you guessed the very cliched "to rescue a captive princess," give yourself a gold ball and chain. Perhaps the princess should take lessons from the liberated Selena.
Suggested retail price for Lure of the Temptress is $49.95. If you would like more information, contact Konami, 900 Deerfield Parkway, Buffalo Grove, Illinois 60089-4510; (708) 215-5100 (voice), (708) 215-5122 (fax).
No Mo' Modem Blues
Probably one of the most galling problems of portable computing is making peace with all the different kinds of hardware you encounter on the road. Say goodbye to the frustration of trying to connect your modem to a hotel telephone--or even to your office system. Unlimited Connections' KONEXX Konnector Model 112, a tiny, portable modem-interface device, is so simple to use you won't lose your cool when it's time to send data through your modem or fax board. The Model 112 lets you quickly and easily connect your computer's modem to almost any PBX, multiline, hotel, or motel telephone, including digital systems.
The Model 112 connects to a telephone line through your phone's handset--between the coiled handset cord and the base of the telephone--to provide an RJ-11 interface to the modem. In the office, the Model 112 eliminates the need for an expensive dedicated line. When out of the office, it operates from an internal battery, allowing you to send data from most hotel and office phones. With the included adapter, you can even connect to phones with the older hardwired handsets.
To use, you simply plug the short cord on the Model 12 into the handset-cord jack on the telephone base, plug the coiled cord from the handset into the handset jack on the KONEXX Konnector, and plug the telephone cord from the computer or fax machine into the dataport jack on the Konnector.
Powered by an internal 9-volt battery or the included AC adapter, the Model 12 Konnector features automatic voice/data switching and transfers data between 1200 and 9600 baud. Suggested retail price is $149. For more information, contact Unlimited Systems, 5555 Magnatron Boulevard, Suite J, San Diego, California 92111; (619) 277-3300 (voice), (619) 277-3305 (fax).