Thursday, 01 March, 2001

Printable Computers

Printable computers.  This is absolutely the coolest thing I've heard of in a very long time.  Log onto the Internet, download a file, send it to your desktop fabrication machine, and then plug in the new device.  The mind fairly boggles at the possibilities.  This technology, which is probably about a decade from being available to the average user (about where CD-R was 10 years ago), could do for the electronics industry what the widespread availability of computers and software development tools has done for the software industry.  Currently, creating and distributing hardware is very difficult—there's no such thing as a "semiconductor hacker" who creates new semiconductor devices in his basement over the weekend.  It takes a $2 billion factory and weeks of work to create a chip.  But if this printable computer technology actually works, it opens up a whole new world of possibilities.  Open Source microprocessors, for example.  If a bunch of loosely-organized programmers can create an operating system like Linux or FreeBSD, imagine what a bunch of collaborating microprocessor architects can come up with.  It'll be a few years, but you can see it coming.

Although sophisticated microprocessors are still beyond its capabilities, the technology is sufficiently advanced that products based on it are now coming to market.  A company called Diceland Technologies, for example, will begin marketing disposable cell phones in May.

Hold on to your seats, folks.  Things are getting more interesting every day.