Trends in Technology
J. Anthony Vittal
Powerful Computers in Small Packages
With components becoming ever smaller, we are finding ever greater computing power in ever smaller packages. My Palm Treo™ 650 has substantially more computational power than my first x86-based PC. Ultraportable notebooks with capabilities equal to desktop computers, but weighing less than 2 ½ pounds, now are readily available. Here are some other examples of where technology is going.
Zypad WL 1000
Nestled in a river valley just off the Autostrada Alpe-Adria in the heart of the Udine, between Trieste and the Austrian border, is the tiny Italian town of Amaro. Apart from Alpine scenery, Amaro is the home of the Eurotech Group, where Dick Tracy fantasy has leaped forward into 21st Century realization of wearable technologies representing the latest evolution in computing.
Eurotech is a leading European manufacturer of computing devices, ranging from clustered or massively parallel supercomputers to the Zypad WL 1000 wrist-wearable computer. Taking Dick Tracy's wrist-worn videophone to a new dimension, the Zypad is a fully functional PC, running either Windows CE or Linux on a 400 MHz AU1100 processor. With a touchscreen interface, 11 keys to control the display, and integrated Bluetooth, 802.11b/g WiFi, and IRDA, it easily can communicate wirelessly with other devices using Bluetooth, WiFi, or infrared interfaces. It also has USB ports for wired connection to other USB devices. Though some may view the Zypad as a toy of dubious utility, trial lawyers may welcome the freedom it offers to roam the courtroom, rather than being tied to the lawyer's PC at the lectern or counsel table in order to access trial presentation materials.
Using Li-ion batteries, a low-power operating system, and automatic standby mode when the computer is not positioned for use, the Zypad guarantees at least 8 hours of operation per battery charge. This is more than enough for a trial day. With 64 MB of RAM, up to 64 MB of nonvolatile flash memory, and a mini-SD slot (SD cards now available in up to 1 GB or more), the Zypad offers all the power and capabilities of a full-sized PC.
Weighing just over 10 ounces, the Zypad enjoys sleek design and a pleasing appearance, but is high on the geekiness scale when worn on the wrist over your clothing. Nonetheless, it offers a potentially useful solution for hands-free computing in a courtroom environment.
Supercomputer in a Breadbox
While most of us would find a powerful PC more than adequate for our needs, what of those situations where we have immense amounts of data to parse —such as several million e-mail messages, or hundreds of thousands of documents, produced (or to be reviewed for selection and production) in the course of discovery? The average PC simply is not up to the task of parsing the data and generating results in a reasonable time, and computers that would be up to the task are beyond the reach of most of us. Even if they are in reach, you need to schedule your time on them or be chained to a large “mainframe” computer or server cluster. Now, however, there is the Tyan Typhoon.
Tyan Computer Corporation, founded in 1989 by long-time Intel and IBM executive, Dr. T. Symon Chang, is headquartered in Taipei, with engineering headquarters in Fremont, California (near Silicon Valley). Tyan has developed the Typhoon—a 14" x 12.6" x 26.7" “personal” supercomputer (PSC) that will fit neatly under your desk behind the wastebasket!
The Typhoon can run up to eight dual-core Intel Pentium 4, Intel Pentium D, or AMD OpteronJ 200 series processors for parallel processing. The AMD Opteron-based system can support up to 64 gigabytes of DDR400/333 registered memory, while the Pentium D-based system will support up to 32 gigabytes of DDR2-667/533 unbuffered memory. Compare that to the typical new PC, with just one-half to one gigabyte of RAM. Each Typhoon includes eight gigabyte Ethernet ports, integrated for network expansion options, and four built-in EPS12V 350W power supplies (one per blade), which will not overtax a standard 1,500 watt electrical circuit.
Each Typhoon also will support up to four serial ATA hard disk drives (one per blade). With 750 gigabyte serial ATA drives now on the market and terabyte drives announced, this means you could have almost 3 terabytes of data—or more—online at one time and available for processing by the Typhoon. Each blade has a VGA out and two USB ports. The box comes in brushed aluminum or black, and it has wheels and handles for easy movement. On the other hand, with only 16 gigabytes of video RAM, this is not a device designed for gamers or high-resolution video, but rather one designed for heavy-duty data processing.
Notwithstanding its power, the Typhoon is relatively quiet. Tyan claims its noise output is no more than 45 db. Reports from the CeBIT show earlier this year claim that it is barely audible in a quiet room. Just imagine—your own PSC, and it's small, attractive, and quiet. With computing power like this under our desks, all of us now have the ability—for a price—to compete with anyone.
Whether a PC on your wrist or a supercomputer under your desk, cutting-edge technology is within the reach of all of us. Ever smaller, ever faster, ever better, and always more innovative. Happy computing!
J. Anthony Vittal ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is in private practice with The Vittal Law Firm based in Los Angeles, California. A former member of the ABA Standing Committee on Technology and Information Systems and a member of various technology-oriented committees of ABA Sections, he speaks and writes frequently on legal technology topics.