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OPINIONS

Electronic Paper: Trying to Improve on the Original
By: Terri Wells
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    2005-12-14

    Table of Contents:
  • Electronic Paper: Trying to Improve on the Original
  • How it Works
  • Recent Developments
  • Uses for Electronic Paper

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    Electronic Paper: Trying to Improve on the Original


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    We've been hearing about electronic paper for years; it's been mentioned in science fiction stories and company press releases as research gradually gets closer to reality. What does it do, when will we see it, and will it really improve on the original? Keep reading to find out.

    You donít have to be a Luddite to admit that paper is quite a versatile technology. Itís lightweight. Itís portable. It can be viewed from a variety of angles. You can fold it up and put it in your pocket without breaking it. You can put text and images on it with something as small as a pencil, and they stay put without requiring any power. Likewise, as long as youíre using a pencil, theyíre easy to erase, and you can overwrite the same area several times if youíre careful. Acid-free paper can last for many years.

    We have to ask, in this technological age, why hasnít someone come up with a product that truly rivals paper? Most displays are uncomfortable to use in comparison with paper; they can only be viewed from a relatively limited number of angles, and glare is much more of an issue than with paper. While devices as small as a credit card can often store more information than a comparable piece of paper, they boast interfaces that are more difficult to use. Itís true that keyboards are faster for many people than writing information longhand on paper (and incidentally, you might remember that keyboards were first created as an ďinput deviceĒ for paper), but they tend to be less portable than pen and paper. A stylus is wonderful, until you need to teach your PDA how to read your handwriting.

    Iím pleased to report that there are a number of companies working on this particularly burning issue. While your next computer display may not bear much resemblance to a poster you can hang on your wall, itís likely that computer screens will benefit from the research being done in this area. And in a few years, thanks to recent developments, electronic paper just might become surprisingly ubiquitous.

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