sounds like a really cool idea. To wit:
> Someday everyone may know Comiskey and Albert, the principal scientists
> at E Ink. This Cambridge, Mass., startup is out to create multipurpose
> screens that are as thin, readable, reflective, flat, and flexible as
> paper. E Ink's electronic paper could find its way into everything from
> computer screens to books, newspapers, advertising, television, and all
> kinds of consumer packaging.
Multipurpose screens as flexible as paper? Bring em on, baby! And if
we can embed a universal Web client and Web server in them and have them
understand HTT... oh, nevermind.
Full text follows....
Magazine Issue: July 6, 1998
Cool Companies 1998
hq: cambridge, mass.
stock: privately held
web address: http://www.eink.com/
Barrett Comiskey and J.D. Albert look like slightly malicious brothers
who dyed their hair yellow to tick off Dad. The elders they're trying to
annoy are traditional manufacturers of screens and displays, the
companies like Sharp, Toshiba, and Sanyo that made up the bulk of the
attendees at last month's conference on display technology in Anaheim,
"We just decided it would be cool to be sort of the freaks of the
conference," says Albert, 23, of their decision to dye their hair yellow
the night before the shindig. "And it totally worked. People knew
exactly who we were and could find us really easily."
Someday everyone may know Comiskey and Albert, the principal scientists
at E Ink. This Cambridge, Mass., startup is out to create multipurpose
screens that are as thin, readable, reflective, flat, and flexible as
paper. E Ink's electronic paper could find its way into everything from
computer screens to books, newspapers, advertising, television, and all
kinds of consumer packaging.
The idea came from Joe Jacobson, an assistant professor at MIT's Media
Lab. He decided he'd love to have a single book that could morph into
another book, with hundreds of reprogrammable pages. Jacobson, now on E
Ink's board, signed up Comiskey and Albert, then promising undergrads,
to build his E-book a page at a time.
The E Ink page works a bit like those images you see created at halftime
at the Super Bowl, when tens of thousands of fans hold up and flip
placards from one colored side to another to spell out words or create
an image. On the E ink page, millions of dot-sized microcapsules play
the role of the placards. Each capsule contains colored ink and white
paint particles. Electrical charges from a circuit embedded in a filmy
background behind attract or repel the white chips, bringing either the
white or the ink to the surface of the microcapsule.
The product's still nascent. If you visit E Ink's Cambridge labs,
they'll show you a flexible page on which the letter "E," say, goes from
blue on a white background to white on a blue background. But some big
names believe there's real promise here: Hearst Corp., Motorola, ad
agency holding company Interpublic, and some venture capitalists have
backed E Ink with $15.8 million.
In 1999 the company expects to roll out its first product: store signs,
which will become embedded with pagers. That way a retail chain, say,
could beam a signal from headquarters and simultaneously update all the
prices or marketing displays in its shoe departments. J.C. Penney
marketing exec Edward Sample thinks electronic signs will help keep
prices uniform nationwide.
The signs, which feature large type sizes, are a modest start. Getting
smaller print to work is tougher. Reusable fax and printer paper may
come next. Instead of blasting ink onto paper, printers would simply tap
charges onto a sheet of microcapsules. Eventually, Comiskey and Albert
want E-paper to work for displays on cell phones and watches, and as
hidden signs on household appliances: the signs would stay black until
they have an event to describe (like "I'm empty").
E Ink's yellow-haired boys aren't setting a date yet on electronic
newspapers and magazines and, ultimately, Jacobson's electronic book.
Embedded with a radio receiver, an E-page could be updated constantly
with news. E Ink doesn't regard the electronic-book companies as
competition. Rather, E Ink thinks its pages could serve as the display
to which the book companies deliver content. And that, finally, would
come close to creating Jacobson's original vision--an ever-changing,
ever renewable pocket book.
.sig conspiracy theory superplay! Take THIS, alt.warlords...
Mark Crispin Miller (New York University, US), makes the following
points: 1) Seven media giants control the diversity of television:
Tele-Communications Inc., Time-Warner, Disney, Rupert Murdoch's News
Corporation, General Electric, Viacom, and CBS. 2) Whereas 20 years ago
TV production was the work of many non-affiliated entities, today
approximately 90 per cent of what is seen on the 6 networks during prime
time belongs to General Electric, Time-Warner, Disney, News Corporation,
Viacom, CBS, Sony, and Universal. 3) Miller predicts that in the future
"our entertainment will become at once more violent and more boring,
with all the hits of yesteryear, or yesterday, recycled, only now with
desperate crudity: lots of skin and rape and torture -- anything to keep
the audience from moving on or passing out." Miller proposes "radical
reform: to free the media through new antitrust laws, a stringent public
service code, and ample public funding (based on corporate revenues) of
a national and local broadcast system that would really serve the
people." Miller does not address the question of who will decide what
will "really serve the people", or the larger question of whether any
such decision can ever be made without the wielding of dangerous
political power by a self- consecrated elite. QY: Mark Crispin Miller,
New York University 212-998-4500 (The Nation 8 Jun 98) (The Monday
Review 15 Jun 98)