We owe it all to the IC

Roll over, electricity.

Roll over, electricity.

IC what the future holds
There was once a time when television shows were available only in black and white, all phones were wired and a lower case “i” did not appear before the names of pocket electronics.

It was during this time, 50 years ago this month, that two engineers working independent of each other invented something they dubbed the “integrated circuit.” The world was changed forever. Before the IC, computers were bigger than a Chevy Suburban and “modern-day” electronics ran on bulky, heat emanating, electricity sucking vacuum tubes. The IC paved the way for today’s Internet, laptops, smartphones and so much more.

“[The IC] can likely be found in anything with an on-off switch,” wrote Glenn Chapman of the Agence France-Presse. The integrated circuit paved the way for the semiconductor revolution, an industry that is poised to make more than $250 billion this year. Happy birthday, li’l computer brain.

Toast with the most
Without the integrated circuit, we also wouldn’t have the Scan Toaster. Sung Bae Chang invented this sliced-bread heating peripheral that connects to your PC via USB cable. Click “print” and your image/text is “burned” on to your morning’s vittles instead of on to a slice of dead tree.

Remember that Virgin Mary toast that sold for $28,000 on eBay? Now you have the power of gods to create prophecy. Well, actually, not quite yet. Though the Scan Toaster seems fully functional, it is still a prototype. We’ll be keeping an eye on Electrolux for the marketing of this important technology.

Our day in the sun
While we wait for the Scan Toaster to come to market, one timely piece of futuristic consumer technology is available right now: the SolarRoll. No, not a new type of chichi San Francisco sushi, but a durable, flexible solar panel that can power our portable electronics via the sun.

While the Republicans try to convince you that we need to drill more holes into the earth and build pipelines, you can take a healthier step toward energy independence with this waterproof solar panel that can charge many devices at once. It comes in three sizes ranging from about $300 to $650.

Flights of fancy
With your mobile phone properly charged, you’ll be able to make your way through our congested airports a bit quicker and easier as Quantis is joining Air France and other airlines in offering cell phone-based barcode check-in. After checking in and claiming your seat online, a 2D barcode text message is sent to your smartphone, which can then be quickly scanned by airline ground support. Another step toward a paperless future.

Wonderful Web site of the Week
There are many useful sites on the Worldwide Internets, but this may not be one of them. Or perhaps it is? A graphical way to show which words are most used on a Web site or blog (one page at a time). I plugged in a couple of my own blogs and was surprised: http://wordle.net

Dear geeks of the greater Chico metropolitan area (and everyone else who has read Technobabble over the years): Thanks to you, Technobabble has regularly appeared in the Chico News & Review for more than three years, and I want to thank you and my editors, Mark Lore and Jason Cassidy, for a great run.

If this is starting to sound like a “So long, and thanks for all the fish” letter, it is. For various reasons, my journalistic endeavors are moving to other areas. It doesn’t mean I love you any less, it’s just time for change (change is good; change is inevitable). I’ll see you soon in the Matrix.